With Le Tour just around the corner, we're taking a closer look at cycling and we have an interview with Felix Lowe who is a successful cycling blogger for Eurosport and an author who's first book 'Climbs and Punishment' chronicles his time on the Ride Hannibal's Trail experience that was inspired by the Grand Tours of cycling
Although this isn't the first time 'Le Tour' has come to the UK (that was 1974), this does have a certain 'break out' feel to it coming off an ever growing apex of popularity for the sport. From Mark Cavendish - the Manx Missile - taking the Green Jersey in 2011, Wiggo winning the 99th Tour in 2012 (that eponymous sporting year) and Chris Froome winning the 100th edition last year, the exposure of Le Tour has gone from strength to strength at the same time that the UK seem to have a hold on the iconic yellow jersey (for the time being).
Unlike the Olympics that makes athletics popular every four years, Cycling has the benefit of there being three Grand Tours that captures the imagination of the public - the Vuelta in Spain, the Giro in Italy and Le Tour in France - that happen annually.
As cycling gets more popular and prevalent on both the TV and on the road as a result of British success (that arguably began it's current renaissance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics), people will inevitably be looking to copy the routes they have seen Wiggo, Froome, Cavendish et al complete. One way to do this is on the Ride Hannibal's Trail experience that takes in the mythical climbs and routes of the three Grand Tours. Think Froome made too much of a meal of Alp D'Huez last year? Then give it a go on this cycling experience. Want to see if you can follow the Giro whilst still indulging in Italian delicacies? On this unique European travel experience you can give it a shot.
One man who did this exact cycling experience and can shed some light on the effort needed is Felix Lowe. Not only is he a writer for Eurosport but he has also just written his first book 'Climbs and Punishment' on the whole ride!
Ever Thought of Trying caught up with Felix to discuss the whole ride to give you all a better understanding of it all.
If you think you need to be a professional amateur and physically resembling Ronaldo, then you will be glad to hear this isn't the case. Felix was the youngest by far with everyone else on the whole experience being of the elder generation and this experience is catered for all. "You should train as much as you can and ride everywhere as the terrain is varied" but don't be put off if you can't. On his ride there were no 'Pro-Am' riders, himself included! Indeed he only took up cycling a few months before...
Routes of geographical beauty and historical splendour
"Cycling can sometimes be a distraction from the history and culture you're surrounded by". What makes this experience special is you are following an epic historical route and you will get talks about the historic links throughout the stages. It is simply more than a bike ride. You will need passion to ride, but the bike is just half the story.
There is a route, there is a destination you will always be aiming for (and guided towards with the Garmin's you will be provided with), but you will have absolute freedom on this bike ride through Europe. You can do what Felix did and clock 100KM a day as well as a double climb of Alp d'Huez, or you can simply do the days journey and explore the towns.
"The food never becomes just functional and never becomes boring. It's always a pleasure"
You can't speak of going through Spain, France and Italy without mentioning the food...It is certainly a passion for Felix as the glint in the eye proved! "The food gets better and better...fresh pasta, regional food, fresh truffles..." If you're going to choose three European countries to travel for their food, these three would undoubtedly be top of the list. As you are burning 1,000's of calories a day, there's no guilt attached either (kind of!). As long as you keep pedaling, you can keep eating!
One of the things that people are worried about with undertaking this experience is the packing. But for Felix it was simple, "Pack as much as you can". Throughout this experience you will be followed on your journey by the support van where your luggage gets brought from A to B each day so you do not need to worry about bringing your clothes around yourself in panniers! There are some washing facilities available on the stages and you are able to hand wash your kits if needed upon arrival at your accommodation ready for the next day - just make sure you have as reasonable a roommate as he did, Terry, who if you read the book, was half of an warming bromance! One thing he was glad he brought was rain gear and arm/leg warmers - although it will be hot and sunny whilst riding through stunning scenery, going up the Alps and mountain stages can be icy!
The best thing about this cycling experience? "There are no real worries and you can forget everything when it's just you, the bike and the road. Your office is the great outdoors and your desk is your bike. There is no stress, your life becomes simple again." If you have a stressful job that keep you tied behind the computer, then this experience is more than enough to shake the cobwebs out. Can't do the whole month? Then do a week and come back next year!
"You will appreciate nature and everything for what it is. You can forget your emails, you will have time to think. Even if you come with friends, cycling and battling the road can be solitary"
Not only will you learn more about yourself, but you will also learn about Hannibal. Even if you don't know anything about Hannibal and you are just here for the journey and experience, you will discover his story and new places from the time.
Hannibal may have gone on the same journey with 90,000 men, 12,000 calvary and 37 elephants some 2,230 years ago, but you will simply have the peloton, the bike, your pump, tubes and gels. A real mixture of riding, history, culture and food. If Hannibal did it (and he didn't have gears), couldn't you?
Follow in Felix and Hannibal's path and read more about the Ride Hannibal's Trail experience here and buy Felix's 'Climbs and Punishment' from your local bike café/shop like Look Mum No Hands! (which is an awesome café and worth a visit in its own right) and online.
Check out all our European cycling experiences here.