As traveling staff members schedule their out-of-office replies and guests call in to finalize their trips to the Tour de France, I sit here wanting to go with. Then I realize I have little idea what is about to even happen.
I’m the new intern here at Trek Travel. So when people around the office start talking about the tour, I can’t begin to imagine everything that goes into it from Trek Travel’s point of view. I know that it is a huge collective of hours and hours of work put in to make the trips happen flawlessly. But along with the hard work comes a trip of a lifetime. I want to be in their shoes, experience the tour, be surrounded by cycling-fanatics and take in the biggest cycling event in the world from stunning views. Until then, I’ll listen to their stories and daydream. Read about the Tour de France from the eyes of the Travel Travel team here in Madison.
Featured in this story:
Meagan Coates, Trip Design Manager
Brie Willey, Guide Manager
Mark Thomsen, Marketing Manager
Briefly, describe how Trek Travel is involved in the Tour?
Meagan: Trek Travel offers the premier trips in the industry at the Tour de France, hands down. From trips that allow guests to ride the routes on the same day as the pros, to trips and spectator vacations with Official Tour Operator VIP passes and Trek-Segafredo team access to Paris finish packages, and even supported trips at the Etape du Tour, we have something for every fan of the race. We put a lot of effort up to a year or more in advance to the race being announced to source the prime locations for on course viewings and hotels and overall we have a team of designers working on Tour de France year round.
What would you say is one of the “I can’t believe this” moments for a Trek Travel guest?
Meagan: This is very personal for everyone and depends on the drama that unfolds throughout the race. But I think nearly all guests have a moment during their trip–perhaps while sipping a glass of champagne at a perfectly-situated on-course viewing spot looking out over the French Alps–and they realize they are actually there in person and not watching the Tour footage from the helicopters as broadcast on tv.
What’s going through your mind on your way to the tour?
Mark: Typically trying to learn as much as I can about the areas of France the Tour will visit for that year. I like to find fun facts that are not obvious. Also I like to have a solid understanding of the top cyclists that could podium or win a green jersey. Guests love talking shop, so I have to keep up.
Brie: Study! It is imperative to study maps, regional highlights, trip materials, pro riders and more. You want to be as prepared as you possibly can be heading into any trip. The TDF takes it to the next level. All guides have to be firing on all pistons to make these trips successful and awesome! Other thoughts always include daily back-up plans and what ifs! Our job is to deliver a Trip of a Lifetime, in order to do that, we have to be prepared for absolutely anything. A saying we use often: “It is the Tour. Anything can happen. Always have a Plan B!” Roads close earlier than they are supposed to, thunderstorms roll into the mountains in a matter of minutes, bridges give out weeks before a stage causing a complete reroute. You name it, it can happen at the Tour. “Fun and Flexible” is the name of the game and Trek Travel guides are the masters!
How many times have you been on this trip, and how does it change year by year for you?
Mark: I’ve guided it four years’ worth. Personally I always looked forward to the mountain stages as I love to climb. I loved the variability of the Tour as well, always having to think on your feet was fun to me. Road closures, crazy fans, our incredible viewing sites halfway up mountains. It’s always hectic, but I tend to thrive on that. I also always love going into Paris at the end. It’s a great party at the Automobile Club where all the guides and guest come together for one last big party. It’s the perfect way to wrap up three weeks of crazy Tour de France trips.
Brie: My first year guiding at the Tour de France was in 2012 in the Alps. I’ve guided TDF trips every year since and head to France in a few short days for the Etape this time around. Each year the route changes throughout the beautiful Alps and Pyrenees mountain ranges but always ends in Paris. From the most challenging days on a bike to the utmost breathtaking views I’ve ever laid eyes on, the Tour de France has been a real pleasure to experience with Trek Travel over the years!
How do you prepare for the tour?
Mark: Ride, Ride and Ride. See above, love to climb. Also we do a lot of pre-trip research as guides. We’ll go out for a couple weeks prior to our first group, to review all routes, hotels, meeting locations, etc. As guides we like to know as much as possible before any guests arrive.
What’s going through your mind on your way home?
Mark: Can’t wait to sleep in my own bed!
Brie: Guides are pretty exhausted at the end. I typically sleep the entire plane ride home. From take-off to landing, no joke. Tour de France trips run at a high level mentally, physically and emotionally. When headed home there is often the feeling of, “I survived…that was the craziest trip ever…I CAN’T wait to do it again next year!” That was how I felt in 2012, it hasn’t changed since.
Favorite TDF moment?
Mark: The first time I climbed Alpe d’Huez the day the pros did. It was my first year guiding and only second trip guiding ever. You get to the base and it just looms overhead…21 switchbacks to the top. The crazy thing was that all the fans were already lining the route. They cheered us on as though we were pros. And the Dutch corner was a sea of orange. Truly an incredible experience and one I can’t wait to get back to some day.
Brie: There are many! Paris is always a favorite. I love seeing the pure joy on guest’s faces—they are loving life and thrilled to experience the tour finale in such a stunning city. As of late, I have also really enjoyed seeing the happiness and relief on my guide’s faces in Paris. Once you reach Paris, it’s a home-free feeling for guides. You have the opportunity to relax a bit, drink champagne with colleagues and have a grand ol’ time in the City of Lights. Other memorable moments include helicoptering guests off the top of Alpe d’Huez at the end of a mountain top finish to their luxury hotel on Lake Annecy. A VIP experience they never forget.