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Industry Insider: Chechu Rubiera

A Spanish cycling legend, UCI ProTour veteran and former US Postal domestique, Chechu Rubiera’s palmarès include a pair of Top 10 finishes at the Vuelta a España and multiple Giro d’Italia stage victories. But beyond his strength on a bike, it is his easy laughter and perfect manners for which he earned respect in the peloton and a spot on our trip.

Meet pro cyclist Chechu Rubiera on Trek Travel's Vuelta race vacation

Your full name is Jose Luis Rubiera Vigil. Where did the nickname Chechu originate?
When I was little, my mother used to listen to a soap opera on the radio. One of the characters was named Chechu. That’s where my name came from; no one calls me Jose Luis.

What sets the Vuelta a España apart from the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia?
I think a big difference between La Vuelta and the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia is that, with a few exceptions, during La Vuelta the riders, teams, mechanics and masseurs work with less pressure than in the other two races.

It’s also a race at the end of season, and major goals have already passed for most of the cyclists (Spring Classics, the Tour, the Giro…). Some even participate in preparation for the world championship, without pushing themselves at 200%.

This makes La Vuelta – especially from the spectator’s point of view – more accessible to meet riders in hotels, or at the starts and finishes. The riders leave the buses earlier than at the other races, like at the Tour for example, to go to the village and enjoy it without the pressure that’s usually present at the most important races. At the Tour de France they use all the time prior to departure for team meetings on the bus and to build their concentration. At La Vuelta, you can even see the cyclists after dinner, going out for a little walk around the hotel. Why? Because they are just more relaxed. They are professionals and the next race day they will give it everything, but they’re not under so much pressure from the sponsors and directors as they are at the other races. I think this way the essence of cycling is recovered a little bit, since nowadays it has been professionalized to extremes from which the audience does not always benefit.

Trek Travel Vuelta a Espana Cycling Vacation

The Category 1 climb, Puerto de Cotobello, is better known as Cima Chechu Rubiera. Tell us the story behind that climb.
It was a road used exclusively as a service road for a local mine. When the hill was opened to traffic, it was still unknown. My friends encouraged me to climb the hill on my bike. I loved it: no traffic, beautiful views and constant climbing without being extreme or inhuman. I proposed it to La Vuelta’s organizers for a final stage of 2010 Vuelta and they liked it, and included it to the race. The local government and my cycling friends proposed to name it after me, and I got the privilege and honor that it’s known as the Chechu Rubiera climb.

You were born in northern Spain and still live there today. What makes this a great travel destination?
From the cycling perspective, it is a wonderful area for its scenery, mountains, forests and ports, which cyclists can enjoy at the right speed. Gastronomically is a perfect place for the cyclists to enjoy food, but I would highlight especially the countless examples of art and culture surrounding any route that can be seen from the saddle; the traces of people who inhabited these lands before us, ranging from prehistoric times to the Romans, through the Muslim and Christian kings.

What is your best memory from your days competing in Vuelta a España?
There are many. Team victories, several classifications among the Top 15, and especially the memory of seeing my parents cheering me on proudly from the side of the road in many different places in Spain.

Trek Travel Vuelta a Espana Bike Tour with Chechu Rubiera

RIDE WITH CHECHU RUBIERA ON TREK TRAVEL’S VUELTA A ESPAÑA VACATION»

Industry Insider: Chris Winter

From a young age, passion for the outdoors has been the driving force in the life Big Mountain Bike Adventures owner Chris Winter. And whether it’s professional freeskiing or founding a charity, Chris pursues every endeavor with the same fervor. It is this thirst for world-class adventures and focus on incredible experiences which makes us excited to call Big Mountain Bike Adventures an inspiration in the industry. With this level of energy and enthusiasm behind us, there’s no telling what the future holds.

 
Meet Chris Winter, Founder and President of Big Mountain Bike Adventures
 
 
Briefly, tell us your story.
I was born into a cycling family, and my parents began running European cycling trips in 1972. Their trips were more like journeys that lasted three weeks to a month and covered impressive swaths of the European continent. In 1992 I moved to Whistler, British Columbia and joined its passionate, forward-thinking mountain bike community. In the late 90’s I co-founded “Joyride” mountain bike event that evolved into Crankworx, the world’s largest mountain bike festival. Then, in 2001 I started Big Mountain Bike Adventures. I’m also a professional freeskier and founder of a Whistler-based charity, Zero Ceiling Society, that provides transformative mountain-based adventure for at-risk youth and young adults.
 
 
Big Mountain Bike Adventures Founder Chris Winter
 
 
What inspired you to start Big Mountain Bike Adventures?
Big Mountain Bike Adventures melds my favorite things in life: mountain biking, travel, adventure and sharing amazing experiences with fellow riders. Since the first trip to the Swiss Alps in 2001, I’ve travelled and explored the world extensively with my mountain bike. It’s my dream job!

We believe the world is best seen from the seat of a bike. Tell us about your best view from a bike seat.
Of all the locations I’ve ridden, Iceland trumps them all for best views. It really is like nowhere else; around each corner you’re presented with yet another other-worldly view of lava fields, spectacular glaciers, gushing geysers, ice-covered volcanoes and earthy colors like you’ve never seen. Bring an extra memory card if you go to Iceland, because you’ll be pulling out your camera every five minutes!
 
 
Trek Travel Iceland Mountain Bike Tour with Big Mountain Bike Adventures
 
 
Whistler, Switzerland, Iceland or Peru. Pick one and tell us why.
Whistler. Yes, it’s where we’re based so I’m partial. But after having spent a lifetime exploring the world on my mountain bike, every time I return home to our backyard trails I am reminded that it’s one of the best places to ride. Besides a seemingly endless network of super-fun trails in the region, it also boasts pristine lakes, a super-passionate riding community, and diverse experiences from vibrant Whistler Village to the remote South Chilcotins…and so much more.
 
 
Trek Travel Whistler Mountain Bike Tour

Featured Travel Agent: Codie Richards

A travel enthusiast with a passion for the outdoors, Codie Richards has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Africa and the Caribbean. Determined to work in a field that would fuel her passion, Codie recently joined Elm Grove Travel in May 2014. This year she will be joining us in Zion as she continues exploring the world.

1.Tell us a bit about your background. What made you want to become a travel agent?
I have had a passion for traveling for as long as I can remember. To me, it is so important to learn about the various areas of the world as well as the different cultures within those areas. I was excited to find a job that allows me to encourage others to break out of their comfort zone and see what the world holds outside of their hometown.

What’s the most rewarding part about your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is when a client returns from a trip and tells me about their life changing travel experience. In that moment, I feel so grateful that I was able to assist in the planning of that experience.

Favorite place you’ve ever traveled and what excites you most about this part of the world?
The toughest question of all! I have so many favorite areas, but one of the best is Cape Town, South Africa. It is an area packed full of history and culture. It is such a diverse area with city, mountains and ocean. Really has something for everyone. I love going to areas where I can learn something new, and I left Cape Town knowing so much more than when I first arrived.
 
 
Featured Travel Agent Codie Richards in South Africa
 
 
What are the five must-do’s while traveling in Cape Town?
When you go to Cape Town, you must hike up Lion’s Head in the evening and watch the sunset from the top! You should also go to Robben Island, visit one of the many incredible wineries, go on a safari, and hike to the top of Table Mountain.

Tell us about your craziest travel adventure.
I took a travel course in Costa Rica, and we stayed in a biological station in the rain forest. We were in the company of howler monkeys, cock roaches, iguanas, fire ants, and many other exotic species! One day we did a long hike that involved crossing more than twenty rivers, encountering a Fer-De-Lance (poisonous snake), and scaling steep hills that required a rope. It was definitely an adventure and the trip of a lifetime.

Which Trek Travel trip is top on your bucket list and why?
I’m so excited to go on the Zion Long Weekend trip this year! After that, I would love to go to Spain. I have always wanted to go to there to teach English as a second language, and I think getting to know the area by bike first would be incredible!
 
 
05UT
 
 
How long have you been riding bikes?
I’ve been riding bikes since I was a little girl, but competitively since I was 15.

Tell us about your best day on a bicycle.
My mom and I love biking together, so the best days are always with her by my side. A few summers ago we both had the day off and took a long ride through Kettle Moraine State Forest. The views were gorgeous, and we stopped at a nearby lake for a picnic and swim. We didn’t have anywhere else to be that day, so we could truly enjoy the ride at whatever pace we wanted.

Do you have an especially memorable travel story you find yourself telling time and time again?
My family and I used to go to Canada every year and stay on an island to fish and enjoy the outdoors. Canada has the most beautiful scenery. One evening all five of us were out in the boat when it started to rain. Instead of going inside, we huddled under the umbrellas and kept fishing. When the clouds cleared, there was the most stunning double rainbow. It is a simple memory, but a special one.
 
 

Featured Travel Agent Codie Richards

 
 

Industry Insider: Chris Fortune

Twenty-seven years ago, on a mission to keep manufacturing in Wisconsin, Chris Fortune bought a 15-year-old rack company known as Graber Products. And although the name has changed (now Saris Cycling Group), the company’s well-respected Saris Racks are still made right here in bicycle-crazed Madison, Wisconsin and shipped worldwide. A home-grown success story, we caught up with Chris to learn more about his passion for manufacturing and bicycle advocacy.

Briefly, tell us your story. What inspired your passion for bikes and how did you get into the cycling industry?

I grew a deep respect for the bike through my first job as a paperboy. I made my deliveries by bike and started off with a love/hate relationship. Growing up in Chicago, the winters were snowy, icy and treacherous. I cursed my bike on the worst days! Nonetheless, it served as a great tool for me at a very young age.

As I thought about my future, I dreamed of owning my own manufacturing business and building product in the US. I moved forward on this life-long goal when my wife and I bought the business and moved to Madison in 1989. A few years later we reached a true milestone and a day I’ll never forget. We shipped our first container to Japan and I could not have been more proud. Today, 30% of our business is outside the US and we ship to over 60 countries.

My passion grew for cycling as I became more immersed in the industry and learned all the benefits the bike could provide. I found that cycling could not only serve as a tool to help people with health issues but that it slows down life to a pace where you can see everything going on around you.
 
 
Saris bike racks manufactured in the USA
 
 
Where did the name “Saris” originate and what does it mean to you?

Twenty-seven years ago my wife Sara and I bought the business, then Graber Products. After an exhaustive effort to come up with a new name to represent us, she remembered a product her dad’s business launched that was named after the owner’s initials. She began crafting name combinations but options like Chrisass weren’t a fit. The best blend of Sara + Chris = Saris.

Having your name tied to the business, there’s a sense of pride in ownership to keep up the reputation. We built the business on the foundation of “doing the right thing” for customers, employees and suppliers, and we stand firmly behind that.
 

What is your favorite Saris product and why?

Picking a favorite product is like picking a favorite child. Impossible. Saris Cycling Group has a collection of brands that includes CycleOps, PowerTap and Saris. Our hottest new product that we introduced to the market is the PowerTap Pedal. We spent 1,000s of hours engineering the P1 pedal to be the most simple, intelligent and best design out there. PowerTap is known for unparalleled accuracy and reliability making the P1 something cyclists were really hungry for.

What I’m most excited about with CycleOps is the PowerSync Trainer. This electronic trainer brings the outside ride indoors and integrates with our CycleOps Virtual Training (CVT) allowing you to virtually ride anywhere in the world! The technology behind smart trainers along with our CVT software is really amazing. I don’t think riding inside has ever been so fun.

Our most well-known, iconic rack, is the Saris Bones. Innovation has always been really important to me and to the business. That’s why we partnered with designer Fabio Pedrini, based in Bologna, Italy, just a few years after buying the business. Fabio came up with the arc shaped design for this rack over 20 years ago and it remains one of most popular bike racks out there. With over a million sold you’ve likely seen them on friends, family or neighbor’s trunks. We were recently awarded a configuration trademark for this distinctive design. Configuration trademarks are rare in the bicycle industry so it was really an honor to receive this. We’ve recently launched the SuperBones, taking this product to the next level. It’s the best product ever built in this category. This trunk rack allows you to adjust the straps and arms more easily than ever before so it’s simple to load and unload and you can spend more time out riding your bike.
 
 
Saris cycling group Saris Bones rack
 
 
Saris Bones vehcile bike rack
 
 
In your opinion, what makes the Midwest a great location for bike companies?

My favorite thing about having a company in the Midwest is the people. We have some of the most down to earth, hardworking, passionate and smart people around. On top of that, Wisconsin has become one of the best states for biking because of the excellent network of paved roads. Being a dairy state, we needed the rural roads in Wisconsin to be smooth and well connected so dairy farmers could transport milk to market without risk of curdling. Today, cyclists love riding these scenic, paved roads throughout the state.
 
 
Cycling in rural wisconsin
 
 
You have seen much of the world from the seat of a bicycle. What is your favorite travel destination and why?

In 2010 I helped lead a Bicycle Infrastructure Study where a group of us went over to Europe to learn more about what state of the art bicycling looked like in the Netherlands. Since then, People for Bikes, a national bicycle advocacy organization, has run this program, the Green Lane Project, through several European cities. I joined a Green Lanes trip to Copenhagen and couldn’t believe how well this city integrates cycling. Sara and I fell in love with the ease of bicycle use in Copenhagen and the way people live their life by bike. We’re celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary this June and are thrilled to bring our three daughters and their spouses to experience Copenhagen by bike and celebrate in this special city.
 
 
Green Lanes Project
 
 
You do a lot of advocacy work to improve the quality of bicycling in America. In your opinion, what are the three keys to getting more people on bikes?

Creating a safe environment for people to ride their bike from age 8 – 80 is key. We’ve worked to help support this on the local, state and national level. Twelve years ago we started the Saris Gala. It began as a small pizza party in the back of our plant to raise money for the Wisconsin Bike Fed. Now it’s grown to be the largest single night bicycle advocacy fundraiser in the country, having generated over 1 million dollars for the Bike Fed.

We’ve also sponsored the National 5th Grade Poster contest for the last five years to inspire and create the next generation of bicycle enthusiasts. The contest gives fifth graders across the country, many in areas that are not considered bike-friendly, the opportunity to learn about the numerous inherent benefits of the bicycle and encourage them to embrace and promote those benefits in their local communities.
 
 
National 5th Grade Poster Contest
 
 
National 5th Grade Poster Contest
 
 

10 Best Restaurant Meals Of 2015

I write on culinary topics for many publications, and as the door closes on 2015, it is time for annual reflection on my standout restaurant meals from the past 12 months. This is a tradition I started with my “10 Most Memorable Restaurant Meals of 2011,” and continued in 2012, in 2013 and 2014. Those years are still worth checking out, as most, if not all, of the eateries are still very relevant to travelers. As part of this year end recap series I also wrote yesterday about the 10 Best Hotels of 2015.

Words by Larry Olmsted | December 31, 2015

 
From Forbes, Larry Olmsted's 10 Best Meals of 2015
 
 
One reason my lists are especially useful for travelers is because, unlike most publications, I don’t confuse “new” with good. If I ate someplace this year for the fifth time, that’s because the place is great (like St. Elmo in Indianapolis). If it has been open for a hundred years but I just ate there for the first time and loved it, you will find it here (Denver’s Buckhorn Exchange). Also, my picks tend to be in actual travel destinations some of you will be visiting for business or vacation anyway, so unlike most food magazines, my choices are not all in Brooklyn or the Hudson Valley. Hype or trendiness doesn’t make a restaurant better or worse – what matters to me is the food.

As the Great American Bites restaurant columnist for USAToday, the nation’s largest newspaper, I scour the country looking for the best regional and standout foods in every corner of the U.S. My other food media outlets take me all over the world, and as a result I spend a lot of time in restaurants. A rough calculus would suggest I eat out at least 250 times a year. Unfortunately, many of these meals are forgettable, or merely “fine.” The following are the coveted exceptions, my ten very best taste memories of 2015.
 

Larry Olmsted's 10 Best Restaurant Meals of 2015

 
Meal of the Year – Assirto, Moneglia, Italy: This one is a bit of an exception to my rule above, because it is off the beaten path and in a seaside town very few American tourists are likely to find themselves. But I included it here because it was simply the most unbelievable, fantastic and memorable meal of my entire year, with one of the best dishes I have ever tasted, and well worth a several hour long trip from almost anywhere in the region, which basically means Rome, Florence, Milan, Genoa, Bologna, Turin or even over the border in Nice. Moneglia is a small beach town on the Ligurian Coast just north of the much more visited Cinque Terre, for which it serves as a lower cost bedroom community, a short train ride away. I have found that the best restaurants are run by passionate visionaries, and Luca, the omnipresent proprietor, fits the bill. He has caused a bit of local controversy, though no international publication I have seen has ever taken note of the place, through his researched focus on historical Mediterranean cuisine. For this he goes way back to the region’s roots, and thus puts a big emphasis on things like salt cod that was received in trade with Portugal and Scandinavia, as well as the famous anchovies swimming just outside his door, a geographically protected IGP product.

But perhaps his boldest move is his insistence that the famed cured hams of Spain, jamon serrano, pata negra and jamon Iberico de bellota, are more authentically Mediterranean than the locally beloved Italian hams, prosciutto di Parma or di San Danielle, which he calls “mountain hams.” His belief that Spain’s rival hams and pigs are tied more to the local geography and coastal climate than Italy’s is akin to being an outspoken Dallas Cowboys fan in Green Bay. But the result of all this is his signature dish, a sort of braised/grilled combo of the secreto cut of the finest acorn fed Spanish pigs. Secreto, as you might guess, means secret, and refers to a “butcher’s cut” in Spain, meaning cuts customers don’t know about that butchers love and keep to themselves, like hanger or flat iron steaks. Steven Raichlen is the world’s leading authority on cooked meat, and his BarbecueBible.com site calls secreto the “Best Kept Secret in Barbecue.” On a full grown pig it amounts to just a one and a quarter pound strip adjacent to the belly, where bacon comes from. Pork belly has become a very trendy dish because of its delicious fattiness, but imagine if you could turn the flavor and succulence of pork belly into a meatier steak, then source it from the finest pigs in the world, then cook it perfectly using a time consuming combination of styles that include a professional steam oven. The result would be what they serve at Assirto, which might be the best meat dish I have ever tasted.

I don’t usually put a lot of stock in sites like TripAdvisor, but since there is so little on this hole in the wall restaurant, that is where it has been covered the most, and a quick glance shows that it is numero uno in town, with near uniform 5-star ratings, and lots of them. Almost all fawning reviews detail the unexpected food that is hyper local and very different from preconceived notions of “Italian,” the friendly staff, the hands-on owner helping to choose dishes, the value, and Luca’s intimate knowledge of obscure Ligurian wines. All in all, this causal enoteca set in a historic building in a small alley is a winner on every front, but it is the pork the rocked my world, simply the best “other white meat” I have ever tasted, and as a barbecue nut, I have tasted a lot. As a visitor from Sweden wrote, “the grilled iberico, forever in our minds as the best meat we ever ate. Today in cold Sweden I still dream of this culinary experience and think that another visit to Liguria would be worth it just if we could come back to this jewel.” Amen. Assirto reminds me a lot of my visit to Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena before Bottura became as much of a household foodie name as the top chef in Italy. Admittedly his restaurant was already acclaimed, but Assirto shares that same sense of discovering something really special and different, a more passionate, more historically informed take on Italian culinary tradition. Unforgettable.

Read More of Larry’s Top 10 Meals of 2015»

Experience Assirto on Trek Travel’s Cinque Terre Bike Tour»

Industry Insider: Gary Fisher

A pinstripe suit, fedora hat and handlebar mustache are not what most people expect when they first meet one of the founding fathers of mountain biking. But for Gary Fisher, this bold style is matched by his larger-than-life personality, and it is his unwavering passion for bikes, not his attire, that catches our eye.

 
Gary Fisher on a Trek Travel Cycling Vacation
 
Briefly, tell us your story. What inspired your passion for bikes?

I started riding and racing when I was just 12 years old. I found the sport on my own. I met some 16 year olds who road raced at the bike shop where my father bought me a 10-speed, and they told me I was too young and too little (89 lbs.). This only furthered my resolve and I refused to turn around. That first ride was better than 20 miles. I was accepted! I soon fell in love with the endless roads, the strategy of racing, and the science and art of the world’s most efficient transport.
 
 
Gary Fisher as a young bike racer
 
From the time you and your partners founded the company “MountainBikes” in 1979 until today, what do you believe has been the single most important development in the bicycle industry?

Bikes in the ’70s were like a regulation piece of sporting equipment. They were essentially the same from year to year. The old steel bikes were works of art, but the new technology in bikes is the way to go if you want a fast, comfortable ride. In one word, it is: carbon. What you want is a carbon designer and maker with a lot of experience. I am happy to work with that group, and it has been all about creating real bikes we only dreamt of, and making a lot of people very happy.
 
 
Gary Fisher Mountain Bikes
 
You once said, “Anyone who rides a bike is a friend of mine.” In your opinion, what are the three keys to getting more people on bikes?

1. Education: How to ride a bike, starting young. How to drive a car around a bike. How riding a bike can be key to solving your health issues. How riding a bike can make you happier. Why it makes sense for cities to invest in biking and walking.

2. Law: Protecting venerable users. Those that control the massive power rolling down the street have a greater responsibility. Many countries have or are adopting these laws. More of these laws need to come to the United States.

3. Infrastructure: Bike routes are sort of a new thing. But they have proven to work really well and be really good for cities financially. We have built them and the people have come. Next up will be making real investment. Making bike routes that are really fast, safe and even fun. Creating places that invite people to walk, ride a bike and interact with each other. The “five-minute community”, where you can walk or ride to do most (or all) of your daily errands in five minutes or less, have shown lower health costs. Cities are changing fast and the younger generation wants to move back. 100 years ago, families of wealth and power would raise their children in the city, where culture was. Raise your kids in the city? Yes, that’s just where city leaders want to go. Exciting times.

You have seen much of the world from the seat of a bicycle. What is your favorite travel destination and why?

I think Italy has to be my favorite place to go ride a bike because there are so many different roads, paths and trails. You get to be in the postcard. The bike riders are not only fun to ride with, but they are also properly emotional and never boring. The events are classic but verging on insane. And you know about the food. Need I say more?
 
 
The story behind Gary Fisher's Style
 
What is the influence behind your very distinct style?

My family.

My grandfather worked for Warner Bros in Hollywood for 50 years. He created the job “Script Director” and would bring home big actors. He also took me out on the set. He taught me how to speak, and how to hold myself in front of a camera.

My father had a very successful architecture firm in Downtown San Francisco, right on top of Tadich Grill. We always had art in the house. When he started his new firm, he made the furniture in our little apartment in the Sunset district of San Francisco. He later bought many classic iconic pieces for the house. I sit in an Eames chair he bought me when I was 14 years old. My father also did Abstract Impressionism, and one of his paintings from the ’50s is on our wall. We even had a darkroom. He did some remarkable black and white photos of the very best road racing in the USA in the mid-sixties.

Ultimately, my mother taught me how dress and be social. She went to Beverly Hills High School.
 
 
Meet the Founder of Mountain Biking, Gary Fisher
 
Tell us about your most memorable day on a bike.

I have spent so many great days on a bike! I did more than 300 rides in 2015! I could never narrow it down to any one day. I continue to be pleasantly surprised that I still have many great places to go and great people to share these times with. I am completely grateful that I can ride a bike.
 
 
Gary Fisher Mountain Biking in Utah
 
 
Trek Travel Interviews Mountain Bike Founder Gary Fisher
 
 

Industry Insider: Graham Watson

You’ve seen the photos. Riders throwing their hands in the air as they cross the finish line. The dust covered peloton crushing the cobbles of Roubaix. But have you ever wondered who’s lucky enough to experience all the biggest moments from the best vantage point? Graham Watson has spent three decades documenting the sport and capturing races from the back of a motorbike. The pain, the glory, the determination and the heartbreak — nothing is safe from lens of cycling’s most famous photographer.

Graham Watson Tour of Flanders Fabian

Tell us your story. What inspired you to pursue a career in photography? How did you get started in the cycling industry?

To be honest, I was so uninterested in studying at high school in London that by the time it came to leave at age 16, in 1972, most ‘normal’ careers were beyond my reach — and photography seemed like a nicer way to make a living anyway. I took a job in a ‘high-end’ portrait studio in central London, then bought a bicycle for the commute as I was only getting paid about $15 a week and couldn’t afford the train fare. I became a club racing-cyclist because of the daily mileage, then discovered the Tour de France on a visit to Paris in 1977. The rest is history. I sensed the adventures to be had by becoming a cycling photographer.

What is the most challenging aspect of photographing cycling?

I think it is the expense and logistics of travel. Cycling is most definitely a worldwide sport and you have to be in it 100-percent or you are wasting your time, hence a lot of traveling and little or no contact with family and friends for months on end. These days, you need a lot of clients to fund your travel, as few magazines or agencies have the cash to pay expenses. More clients means more income, and it can snowball even bigger too. But in turn there’s a long workflow each and every day. Such challenges, however, are more than compensated by achieving a lifestyle like no other.

What is your favorite race to photograph and why?

Paris-Roubaix is my favorite one-day race. It’s the maddest, fastest, most crazy day of the year. A race where good photography is guaranteed. I like a stage-race like the Tour de Romandie, or the Giro d’Italia – both are much quieter than the Tour de France and take place when there’s snow on the mountains, plenty of greenery in the valleys, and many fresh legs in the peloton too.

Graham Watson Professional Cycling Photographer Paris Roubaix

Graham Watson Professional Cycling Photographer Paris Roubaix

Graham Watson Professional Cycling Photographer Giro d'Italia

Tell us about your typical day at the Tour de France.

Depending on how much wine one drank the evening before, and therefore how much caffeine is needed to recover over breakfast, I’ll try to be at the start about two hours early to settle down and discuss the coming stage with my moto-driver. I’ll study the ‘race manual’ to identify scenic locations, and to anticipate the racing to-come – both aspects influence how I’ll photograph the stage. I like to leave behind the peloton unless there’s a definite chance of an early scenery shot. Leaving in the wake of the peloton allows me to get some early action shots of cyclists fiddling with their bikes or their clothing, and to see the race unwind too. You can predict a lot about what might happen later because of the early action. And you get to see if any of the big names are still as strong, as each day goes by – or are they getting weaker? Anticipation is everything in a sport and environment that is so beyond one’s control – anything can happen and often does, and being behind the peloton is the best place to observe. Once the racing unfolds, and once an escape has gotten clear, I make a decision as to when we pass the peloton, when we get far ahead in the search of that perfect scenery shot, and also when I need to start shooting the escape or the front of the peloton. Because a client like Trek needs 6-8 action shots of its riders each day, I have to guess the best way of doing this – to stop on a corner or on a descent, or just try to do some passing shots when we are crossing the peloton. It is quite hard to pick out individual riders from a 200-man peloton, but by the time the Tour starts I will already have photographed the team for the past six months, so I can see them from a long way off. In the Tour, the racing really starts in the last 90-minutes, and by this point I have to give up scenery and individual action shots and just photograph the race. It is the quickest 90-minutes I’ll ever experience! Before one knows it, the stage is over, the podium has taken place, and photographers like me are buried in their post-stage workflow. Three hours work is a minimum period post-stage, and by then it’s off to the hotel and trying to beat the annoyingly French tradition of closing the restaurants at 9pm. Behind the glamour of working the Tour and the supposed flirtation with French gastronomy is a reality that sees most of us eating in a fast-food outlet at least twice a week.

Graham Watson professional cycling photographer for Trek Factory Racing

Graham Watson Professional Cycling Photographer for Trek Factory Racing

Describe your favorite moment that you’ve captured on camera.

After a 35-year-career, I think it came in this year’s Giro d’Italia! Richie Porte suffered a flat tire on Stage 10 and a rival teammate stopped to give him his front wheel. Such assistance was unheard of, and certainly something I’d never seen, let alone photographed. My images showed a true act of sportsmanship, which moved me greatly. Yet Simon Clarke and Richie had unknowingly broken the rules, and my images went around the world on Twitter and helped get them both fined and penalized on-time. We all had a good laugh a few days later, but I’ll remember those images for a long time to come.

Graham Watson cycling photographer Giro d'Italia

Graham Watson professional cycling photographer at the Giro

What tips would you give aspiring photographers?

It’s hard to give advice without knowing the photographer or knowing the extent of his or her equipment. So I always suggest to keep things simple at first, using one camera body with one lens until their experience grows. It’s important and advantageous to know as much about your sport as is possible – this gives you a huge advantage over other non-cycling specialists. Always see the sport as a bigger thing than just sport. Cycling is a beautiful vocation, so make sure you also show the beauty of the sport as well as capturing those crisp action shots. Finally, a major issue in this day and age, take care not to get in the way of the cyclists. Keep in to the curb as much as you can, because a Tour peloton uses every inch of the road and they don’t take prisoners.

You have traveled the globe for work. Do you have a favorite vacation destination? What excites you most about this part of the world?

Switzerland is a place I can go back to time and time again. Its lakes and mountains make it the most beautiful country in Europe I think. And it is also a fantastic adventure playground. For all the same reasons, I love New Zealand too – a version of Switzerland in the southern hemisphere. But to be honest, I love all the places my ‘business’ takes me to – from Flanders to the Dolomites to Paris to central Spain to the Netherlands to Tuscany to Provence – and I always want to go back when there’s no work to be done.

Graham Watson Professional Race Cycling Photographer

Graham Watson Professional Cycling Photographer Tour de Suisse

Industry Insider: Doug Margerum

In Santa Barbara winemaking circles, Doug Margerum is indeed a celebrity. He’s been credited with singlehandedly launching the local wine scene, and his restaurant, Wine Cask, is the place for collectors to find coveted single-vineyard Santa Barbara wines. A legend in his own right, Doug sat down to with us to share his passion for red wine and the American Riviera.

Eat and drink at the Wine Cask on Trek Travel's Santa Barbara bike tour

Tell us your story. What spurred your passion for food and wine?
I began my wine and food exploration at a young age, tasting wine in France and eating in France and Italy with my parents at 13 years of age. I worked in restaurants as a cook and server throughout my high school and college years. After graduating from University of California – Santa Barbara with a degree in business economics, my family purchased Wine Cask (an existing wine store, wine making & beer making supply store) in 1981. What began as a retail wine store expanded to include an adjacent bistro. The restaurant expanded again to the Gold Room in Santa Barbara’s legendary El Paseo building in 1981, and the adjacent Intermezzo cafe opened in 1996. The two restaurants and the wine store have become a destination of choice in Santa Barbara among food and wine cognoscenti locally and throughout the world.

Tell us about your handcrafted and personalized wine production.
Margerum Wine Company is committed to creating handcrafted wines using only the highest quality grapes so that we can make wines that are indicative of the place where they are grown. We strive to make wines naturally, to make wines that have individual characteristics, and to make wines with personality. The scale of production is kept at a level where we can touch and know the wine as it is raised to the bottle – the antithesis of mass production. The standards of quality are measured by our criteria, not by external sources. We make wines we personally enjoy – some to drink young, all for the table, and others for long aging in cool cellars for our children to enjoy.

Taste Margerum Wine Company vintages on Trek Travel's Santa Barbara California bike tour

Can you give our readers any wine tasting tips?
1. Taste as many different wines as possible: taste the unknown to experience new flavors, discover new styles, new varietals from new lands and continue to learn more about wine.
2. Wine makes food taste better: It is healthy, improves your digestion, and makes conversation easier and sometimes more profound.
3. Be patient and age wines: Wines properly stored–at a constant 55 degrees, free of vibration, and free of light–improve with age.
4. Serve wine in proper stemware and at the proper temperature: Reds at 60 to 65 degrees and whites at 40 to 45 degrees.
5. True wine critics are the practiced: They are those who taste wine with food, meet winemakers, travel, study, learn and know wine. They are the sommeliers and wine merchants of the world. Trust these people. They know and love wine and are our best source of knowledge.

Taste a handcrafted vintage at Santa Barbara's Wine Cask on Trek Travel bike tour

What is your favorite vintage or vineyard and what makes it unique?
I love red Rhône varietals. The red wines made from Rhône varietals produce wines that are diverse and have an array of styles. They share the common characteristics of fresh red and black cherries, strawberry, kirsch, black pepper, black raspberry, spice, earth and herbs. The textures can be lush, rich and mouthwatering when young and then become silky and complex with age. While these wines are delicious young, they have the ability to age and develop for 5 to 15 years. My favorite wine is the Margerum M5. This is a Chateauneuf-du-Pape style blend using five grape varieties from the highest quality vineyards in Santa Barbara County. The “M” is for Margerum and “5” for the five grapes we use: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Counoise, and Cinsault. M5 is all about Grenache and, as it is every year, the trick is to balance the crimson, aromatic, lean, bright, tight Grenache, Counoise, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault based components with the bombastic, dark, black, plum, tannic, bold, intense, full-bodied Syrah we make. M5 is wine created from a thought–a blend that is an amalgamation of memories, both distant and recent, of wines we’ve tasted and loved the past thirty-three years.

What makes Santa Barbara a great wine-producing region?
The unique, transverse nature of the valleys of Santa Barbara Wine Country provides a patchwork quilt of microclimates and terrains, resulting in one of the most diverse grape growing regions in the country. The valleys in the Pacific coastline actually run east-west rather than north-south, and both the coastal Santa Ynez Mountain range and the more interior San Rafael range are transverse too. Because of this geologic oddity, the ocean breezes sweep eastward, channeled by the hills and mountains that ring the region. Heading east into the foothills, the temperatures are warm during the day and very cool during the night, whereas the vineyards that lie westward toward the ocean enjoy a mild and moderate climate. Coupled with soils that run the gamut from ancient beach and diatomaceous earth to chirt and limestone, there is a near-perfect place for a wide variety of wine grape varietals.

There are currently five federally-sanctioned American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) within Santa Barbara County: Ballard Canyon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Ynez Valley. As grape growers continue to advance their understanding of the best places to plant particular wine grape varietals, the Los Alamos region, the Los Olivos District, and the Santa Maria Bench are also showing distinct characteristics that may one day lead to AVA status. The Los Alamos Valley area between Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley also hosts several vineyards, although the area is not officially recognized.

Visit the Wine Cask on Trek Travel's Santa Barbara bike tour

What are the five must-dos while traveling in Santa Barbara?
1. Wine Tasting: Urban Wine Trail, Wine Collection of El Paseo, and the Presidio Neighborhood.
2. Sterns Wharf: I love walking out on Sterns Wharf to get a fish taco, watch the boats, and get a unique perspective on Santa Barbara.
3. The Zoo: I love our zoo!
4. Eating: My favorite places are Wine Cask (of course) and Intermezzo for casual dining and great wines by the glass. Bouchon is incredible for fine dining. Arigato for sushi. Lucky’s for great steak and awesome atmosphere. El Encanto for cocktails with a view. And finally, Pane e Vino for Italian.
5. Museums: Our Natural History Museum is definitely worth a visit.

Fresh food from the farmer's market at the Wine Cask on Trek Travel's Santa Barbara vacation

TASTE A HANDCRAFTED VINTAGE ON TREK TRAVEL’S SANTA BARBARA BIKE TOUR»

Industry Insider: Emily Maye

In the years since her first assignment at the 2011 Tour of California, Emily Maye has made a name for herself photographing the pain and glory of professional cycling. By capturing the drama of a race and the faces behind the scenes she brings the sport to life, telling a timeless story that cannot be seen on television.
 

Get behind the scenes of professional cycling with photographer Emily Maye

Tell us your story. What inspired you to pursue a career in photography?

I have been interested in storytelling as long as I can remember. I grew up in my mother’s ballet school in Santa Barbara and spent my whole childhood involved in ballet. At around 13, I fell in love with cinema and ultimately I went to USC Film School & Colombia University to study film and screenwriting. Photography was something I gravitated towards to tell visual stories and in time that became my primary focus. I love every part of the process and I am really happy with where I ended up.

What is the most rewarding part about your job?

I love photographing people and I find that the most rewarding. It’s a real challenge to capture something authentic in people and bring that out in a photograph. I gravitate towards the quieter moments and it’s so satisfying when you can capture something that may not have been obvious at first glance. I also like that in my job photographing the Trek Factory Racing Team, I get to react to a lot of different environments and race situations.
 
 
Get behind the scenes at the Tour de France with Trek Travel and Emily Maye
 
 
Get to know profession photographer Emily Maye
 
 
What is the most challenging aspect of photographing world-class athletes?

It is wonderful to photograph people that are at the top of their field. They perform with intensity and have the proper form and movement that makes my job much easier. The travel has been the most challenging part for me personally. It’s a lot of days away from home and in hotels. Everyone on the Trek Factory Racing Team is very comfortable with my presence so they make my job easier in that way. It’s been three seasons now with this team and no one is surprised to find me in a corner somewhere taking photos of them.

Tell us about your most unexpectedly adventurous day of work.

I think Tim Vanderjeugd alluded to it in his interview, but we went to Colombia for 48 hours as part of the new Behind The Stripes series that we did this year. We didn’t find out we were going to get to go until right before and all of the sudden we were in Colombia (I had never been to South America) and starting a project that we weren’t even sure how we would shape at that time. Everything I saw there was an adventure. I wish I could have stayed much longer!
 
 
Cycling photographer Emily Maye goes behind the stripes with the Trek Factory Racing team
 
 
Meet Julian Arredondo as captured by cycling photographer Emily Maye
 
 
What tips can you give our readers who are interested in improving their travel photography?

Look for nice light! There is no better way to show your friends and family the beautiful places you have been than through nice light. I also suggest trying to find things that resonate with you in the way that they reveal the tone and culture of place beyond just the famous monuments. Try to convey the sounds and smells, not just the sight.

Do you have a personal favorite photograph that you can share with our readers?

There’s a photo of Fabian from last year on the bus with his headphones on and it was the morning he ended up winning Flanders. I really love that photo because it feels like a calm stolen moment. You don’t really imagine that I am there taking the photo in that picture and to me that is when I have done my job most successfully. But it’s really hard to pick just one. It’s been an amazing adventure to spend that much time inside of the team these past three years.
 
 
Professional Photographer Emily Maye captures Fabian Cancellara before the Tour of Flanders
 
 
VIEW MORE EMIlY MAYE PHOTOGRAPHY»

Irish Storytelling

Cradled in the heart of Kenmare Bay, between the famous Ring of Kerry and the unspoiled Ring of Beara, the picturesque town of Kenmare is steeped in legends and rich in archaeological history. Renowned for Kenmare lace, respected for gourmet food and revered for breathtaking scenery, it is no wonder Kenmare has become a popular tourist destination.

As all places in Ireland do, this heritage town has both an Irish and English name. Neidín, meaning “Little Nest”, is the Irish name of the town which nestles between the MacGillicuddy Reeks to the north, the Caha mountains to the south, the rivers Roughty and Sheen to the east, and the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to the west. But in the late 18th century, after word quickly spread that this was a little town of thieves and liars, landlord William Petty Fitzmaurice chose to rename the precious land that was gifted to him by Oliver Cromwell for painstakingly completing the mapping of Ireland.

There are two sides to every story. In Ireland, however, a new rendition is told with every pint. While locals will tell you the name Kenmare was chosen in honor of Lord Kenmare of the Brown family from Killarney, historians in favor of etymology make a connection to Ceann Mara, which translates to “Head of the Sea” in English. While there’s no saying which interpretation is accurate, one thing is for certain–the tradition of Irish folklore is alive and well.
 
 

Visit the heritage town of Kenmare on Trek Travel's Ireland Bike Tour
Meet an Irish seanchaí on Trek Travel's Ireland bicycle tour

 
 
A seanchaí (pronounced “shan-a-key”) is a knowledgeable person, usually a man, who has the gift of entertaining his listeners by relating stories with a captivating tone of voice, the use of colorful language, and with a most interesting turn of phrase. The story content is of any topic whatsoever but most often has an element of fun.

Long before the advent of television and radio, it was common in rural Ireland to visit one’s neighbors for a chat when the day’s work was done. This tradition was called “ag scoraíocht”(skur-eekt). One house in particular always emerged as the most popular to visit, and it became known as the “rambling house”. Encouraged by the gathering, it was to the rambling house that the seanchaí invariably came to draw them into the wonder of his story.
 
 

Enjoy a walking tour of Kenmare on Trek Travel's Ireland Cycling Vacation
Meet a local Irish storyteller on Trek Travel's Ireland Bike Tour

 
 
Despite the onslaught of modern social media, the use of the spoken word has been and still is cherished by the Irish. According to Donal Sleator, a retired primary school teacher, principal, storyteller and Kenmare native, language must be appealing and entertaining in order for others to learn. “We feel compelled to share our stories because of the deep, rich heritage of which we are aware. Whereas in the past stories were communicated through the medium of the Irish language, we now share a common language (English) with most visitors to our shores. Our stories today perhaps have less emphasis on fairies, leprechauns and the little people. Through pride of place, they dwell more on our history and on who we are.”
 
 

Private

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Looking to travel with a small group or looking for a custom date?
Call our trip consultants at 866-464-8735

What is the Difference?

Ultimate Luxury:

Savor some of the most spectacular, 5-star properties in the world. Exuding luxury and elegance, these one-of-a-kind accommodations offer the chance to rejuvenate at award-winning spas, dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, and more.

Luxury:

Enjoy luxurious accommodations handpicked for a refined experience. From signature spa treatments to delicious local cuisine, you’ll be more than provided for; you’ll be pampered.

Explorer:

These handpicked hotels provide relaxation and fun in a casual and comfortable environment. Delicious cuisine and great service mix perfectly for a memorable stay.

Combined:

On select cycling vacations, you’ll stay at a mix of Explorer and Luxury hotels. Rest assured, no matter which hotel level you’re at, our trip designers carefully select every accommodation.

Activity Level

Level 1:

Road: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 25 mi (40 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Gravel: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 20 mi (35 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 1-3 hours of hiking. Up to 5 mi (8 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Level 2:

Road: 2-4 hours of riding. 20-35 mi (35-60 km). Up to 2,500 ft (750 m).

Gravel: 2-4 hours of riding. 15-30 mi (25-45 km). Up to 2,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 2-4 hours of hiking. 4-8 mi (6-12 km). Up to 1,500 ft (450 m).

Level 3:

Road: 3-5 hours of riding. 25-55 mi (40-85 km). Up to 4,500 ft (1,500 m).

Gravel: 3-5 hours of riding. 20-40 mi (35-60 km). Up to 3,000 ft (900 m).

Hiking: 3-5 hours of hiking. 6-10 mi (9-16 km). Up to 2,000 ft (600 m).

Level 4:

Road: 4+ hours of riding. 40-70 mi (60-110 km). Up to 8,000 ft (2,400 m).

Gravel: 4+ hours of riding. 30-50 mi (45-80 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

Hiking: 4+ hours of hiking. 7-15 mi (11-24 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

What are your trip styles?

Classic - Reserve:

Savor the finer things as you relax in luxurious 5-star accommodations and wine, dine, and ride in some of the most unforgettable destinations around the world.

Classic - Signature:

Explore beautiful destinations by bike, enjoy extra inclusions, savor delicious local cuisine, and enjoy the perfect mix of accommodations.

Classic - Discover:

Enjoy a casual cycling vacation with fantastic routes and comfortable accommodations.

Ride Camp:

Train like the pros in some of their favorite riding destinations.

Pro Race:

See the pros in action at the biggest cycling events of the year.

Cross Country:

Tackle an epic adventure that takes you point-to-point across mountains, countryside, and more.

Self-Guided

Enjoy a bike tour on your schedule with just your chosen travel companions.

Single Occupancy

Sometimes it’s more convenient and comfortable to have your own room while on vacation. We understand and that’s why we offer a Single Occupancy option. The additional price guarantees a private room all to yourself