When a group of guys get together to plan a trip anything can, and normally, does happen. Fun, pain, trouble... sometimes all three. London based Lee and his mates wanted to plan the perfect cycling holiday, so they chose the Italian mountains as the landscape and set about crafting the definitive DIY cycling adventure.
Here is a snippet of their trip, which will hopefully inspire you to do the same.
To create the perfect cycling holiday, they choose to "follow a well established trend of merging two clubs into one, for this special event we are combining the style, experience and organisational prowess of Les Veloistes Gentils (LVG) with Blackheath Velo's attitude and bulk; on paper an irresistible, winning combination." They also created an impressively detailed (and highly entertaining) Route Book.
Here's a portion of one of two forewards in the Route Book;
"Gentlemen of the LVG, it’s that time of year where we throw off the shackles of the daily grind; we kiss our partners, wives, kids and boyfriends cheerio and embrace life as a young, single man, embarking on a lycra-clad, cheese and ham baguette fuelled adventure into the unknown." You get the idea of where this is heading...
But before the serious stuff can get under way, everyone needs to read and understand... 'The Rules'
Each day’s ride starts at 9am … that’s when we leave, not when we start to think about pumping up tyres or filling bidons
One ride jersey will be provided for each rider. This jersey must be worn on the first and last days … on days 2,3 and 4 riders can choose, although they are advised not to ride in the colours of teams they have never represented or championships they are yet to win
A Ride Captain will be appointed for each day. The Ride Captain, is the ultimate and ONLY arbiter of any discussions about the route, will choose and communicate coffee and lunch stops and will endeavour to keep the peloton together (in other words if you are planning to ride off the front (or the back) all day, don’t volunteer)
Sprinting for town signs is actively encouraged. Victors should expect to be lauded and mocked in unequal measure
Likewise being the first rider up the mountains matters to some more than others
We try to stay together on the flat. You’re not expected to do a turn (it may, however, be noted), but you are expected to try to hold a wheel. We’re a decent sized group – so it should be easier and it will be fun
We will split up on the hills … both going up and going down. Stop at the top. Stop at the bottom. Regroup
A free-for-all will be declared with 5km to go … in other words this is your moment to go for Tony Martin glory. Stage wins are impressive (see rule #4)
Rule #8 does NOT apply on the final day … the people of Venice expect a parade lap from the full-peloton
We respect our support teams. However, there will be plenty of opportunity to spend time with Howie and Vaidas in the evenings, at lunch etc. In other words there is no need to join them in the van for an hour during the day, or to hang onto a wing mirror for a ‘bit of chat’ during one of the hillier sections (we’ve seen it all before)
Taxis will only be used to travel to and from the airports
The King “always gets it right”
Above all please ride carefully, considerately … and with panache
The route and the training
The guys' trip would cover 593km and include 13,369m of elevation across five days... EPIC by anyone's standards.
Training plans and preparation are always going to differ from person to person. Depending on other commitments, i.e. children and work, you simply may not have the time to log massive kms. You may also be looking at your trip as a chance to ride your bike in stunning locations and less about putting everyone around you in the hurt locker. Location may also be a hindrance or a help. If you live close to mountains then tick, but if you leave in a pancake flat area, getting out to do regular vertical rides might be much more difficult. As Lee says, "no distance was a bad distance" when it came to preparing for this adventure. So as long as you are on your bike, you are winning.
So how did some of the riders prepare for this serious time in the saddle?
100km rides with a few hills 3 or 4 times in the 3 months prior
120-140km longer rides trying to ride a bit faster (over the prior few months again)
A couple of monster rides, so about 220-250km starting pre-dawn
Base fitness through average 200km a week Mon to Fri (commuting) all year round
Regular weekend ride (80 – 100km) average of three times a month all year round
Extended one day commute of 90km once a week 2 months out from the trip
One or two 200km plus rides within the last 2 months before the trip
Two 60 min indoor cycle sessions a week
Regular weekend ride (80-100km) all year round
One or two weekend rides (80-100km) a month
Commute (25km round trip) one a week
Weekly 60 min turbo trainer session (low gear, high resistance)
As you can see all of these riders had very different preparations, based on their goals and available time. All of these riders successfully completed the trip, which goes to show there's no one set way of doing things.
Here are some of Lee's top tips (some serious and others not so much) for creating your own EPIC cycling adventure.
Be open minded – impossible to train locally for mountain terrain, so just face that fact and don’t be daunted by it
Don’t take it too seriously, because it isn't (and everyone else will laugh at you anyway)
Make sure you are comfortable descending on the drops
Have a ‘team meeting’ each morning. Agree on a few basic principles for the day and call out the type of riding that people can expect. Go through any safety issues from the day before
Pack usual kit plus layers in case of really bad weather. A really good waterproof jacket and overshoes are essential
Always have a smaller hill in your mind when climbing a pass and enjoy fun mental arithmetic calculating how many you have left until the summit
Enjoy it. You’re very lucky to be doing something so epic with such amazing scenery – never forget that!
Don’t go bonkers with energy gels/bars if you don’t train with them
Make sure you call out unsafe riding
Getting cold and wet before a descent is a big issue. Make sure you have a change of clothes in your day bag and stop to get dry/warm before descending
Have at least one glass of red wine a night to relax
Be clear on where you’re stopping for lunch etc... Make sure everyone has a route card for each day
Put everyone’s mobile number on one contact sheet that is shared with everyone (and make sure it includes emergency contacts at home)
Get good travel insurance
Thanks Sam Bevans for the incredible photos
Hopefully this has motivated you to explore your own perfect riding holiday. All you need are some good mates, a plan of attack and the ability to do everything with panache.