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Your Own Tour de France

I’m fascinated every time I watch the Tour de France — and no, I’m not just talking men in cycling gear (although that is a bonus!). This is probably the sporting event that inspires me to travel the most. France and biking just seem to go together, and the scenery is just so stunning that it’s hard not to think about going to France on your next trip. Watching the cyclists as they pass over the Vosges Mountains in Eastern France, over the Pyrenees in the Southwest; or as they race past some of the world’s top vineyards and historic towns always reminds me just how diverse and beautiful France is.

I can’t help but wonder; what effect does world’s most famous cycling race have on cycling tourism, especially in France? It must be huge. And, no matter where you travel, and especially in wine country regions, it seems like there are cyclists everywhere. Cycling tourism is apparently booming. In the UK, the industry is valued at £635 million per year, with a forecast of £14 billion per year within the next 20 years across Europe.* In countries such as Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland and The Netherlands, cycling is an important part of tourism.** No matter which country you look at, activity-based tourism is one of the hottest sectors of the travel industry. So, if you’re thinking about a cycling trip, you’re not alone.

For those of you that cringe when you hear the sound of “group tour,” you can breathe a sigh of relief. Group cycling trips maintain an independent feel, and are fun for even for the most “tour-adverse” of us. You’ll be able to go at your own pace, and meet up with your tour mates for those vineyard picnics and dinners. Most good tour companies will design the tour in such a way that you’re not cycling for too long, and will ensure that there are great stops along the way with excellent meals. For busy city types, a trip like this will reprogram you to go a slower pace, very quickly.

So if you’re thinking about treating yourself in May to our trip to Burgundy, then here are a few recommendations:

Take sunscreen: Always a good idea as you will be exposed to the sun all day when you’re on the bike.

Wraps: For the ladies, I recommend you put a wrap and/or wrap skirt in your backpack. You never know when you’ll be heading into a church or a winery. Both of these are easy to carry and act as a quick solution when you’re wearing biking gear.

Biking shorts: A definite must for any cycling over a few hours. You will be much more comfortable.

Get good sunglasses: Your eyes will thank you for it.

Snacks: Have your favorite snack bars and plenty of water with you.

Bike helmet: Ask your tour company if they will provide one or bring your own.

Get in shape: A few quick trips to the gym or cycling on weekends will help immensely. Most cycling tours aren’t meant to be too intensive, but after a few days of will begin to feel it. It’s a good idea to do a little prep work.

If you haven’t taken a cycling trip by June next year, I encourage you to watch “Le Tour” as a little added motivation. Happy travels!

*Julie Fraietta, Tourism Research Analyst, May 2004.

**European Cycle Tourism: Tool For Sustainable Regional Rural Development? Eke Eijgelaar1, Paul Peeters1 And Pieter Piket1, Centre For Sustainable Tourism And Transport

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