Tour de force

Bradley Wiggins’ success in the Tour de France has caused a boom in cycling breaks abroad. Jeremy Gates reports.

The brilliance of Bradley Wiggins and the Sky Team which triumphed in the Tour de France has worked its magic on holiday plans for 2013, as tour operators report booming sales of cycling holidays in Europe and around the world.

Ashley Toft, managing director for adventure operator Explore, says: “Cycling holidays have been steadily increasing in popularity over the last couple of years, but we have seen a sharp rise in bookings correlating directly with the London Olympics.

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“It seems to have opened people’s eyes to the great attractions of this sport: cycling holidays are sociable, active and a great way to explore undiscovered areas that most visitors never get to see, and they also represent fantastic value for money.”

At Discover Adventure, managing director Jonathan Bryan, confirms the cycling holiday boom.

“Thanks to incredible British success in the Tour de France and the Olympics, cycling holidays have never been so popular,” he says. “We predict this interest will continue to rise, with the Tour de France celebrating its 100th edition in 2013.”

Discover Adventure is for serious cyclists ready to tackle 100 miles a day, and runs training courses covering fitness and bicycle maintenance; its introductory challenge is a five day London-Paris ride, with return by Eurostar, from £790.

At Inntravel, a tour operator specialising in great places to stay and eat for walkers and cyclists alike, the surge in demand for cycling holidays began last summer before the Olympics had ended.

The company’s Simon Wrench 
says: “In the weeks after the Olympic road race, bookings for cycle holidays shot up by around 250 per cent compared with normal. Our most popular package this year has been Bavarian Castles and Villages, explored by a cycle ride along the Romantic Strasse looking at churches, castles and beautiful villages, including Oberammergau.”

Inntravel, which operates a luggage collection service to ensure cyclists always travel light, also has an extensive cycling programme to the Loire valley, the Catalunya region of Spain and the Balearic islands (Majorca and Menorca).

Wrench says cyclists are also keen to explore Denmark, following the success of Scandinavian thrillers on TV like The Killing, and the Czech Republic, so geared up for visiting cyclists that hotels hand out bike repair kits as standard.

“The use of bikes is growing so fast, particularly in mainland Europe. I was in the Belgian town of Ghent recently, and I was amazed by the number of bikes in the centre when I got off the tram.”

While Inntravel customers are often older people attracted by “green” holidays and regular exercise, Explore also targets serious cyclists keen to challenge themselves. Explore’s Cycling Adventures programme for 2013/14 includes 10 new tours, with new destinations including the Baltic States, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina and Bhutan, and tours to suit all ability and fitness levels.