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When Reality is Better Than Your Dreams: Vuelta 2017

As a guest of Trek Travel’s Vuelta a España race trip, Jordan Sher knew this year’s race was going to be special to him. But he couldn’t have predicted just how how special.

I’ve waited my entire life to see a Grand Tour in person. And this year was the dream, realized. As you can imagine, I had both hopes of what it would be like, and expectations of what was to come. But then came the reality of this year’s race, and it almost literally blew my mind. Where to begin? Let’s itemize it out:

Trek Travel Vuelta Cycling Vacation

The Race Route

WHAT I EXPECTED: I knew that we were going to climb two biggies: Los Manchucos, outside the town of Bustablado, with 28% ramps across 8km and the Angliru, often referred to as Europe’s most feared climb. Would they really be as bad as advertised?

WHAT I HOPED FOR: The Vuelta was always known for tremendous, hidden climbs that laid in wait for bike racers across Cantabrico, Spain. These weren’t the famous Alps, nor were they the high Dolomites in Italy. They were unique climbs with a special bite. I hoped we would be introduced to the teeth of Spain in a big way.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Oh man. The steeps were some of the steepest rides I’ve ever seen. I tipped over twice on Los Manchucos, in the rain, as Vuelta crowds cheered me on. I ground out the ride of a lifetime across the Angliru’s worst section, Cueña les Cabres, as crowds cheered me on. It was so pro. So Euro. So historic. I had never seen roads like these, and I may never see them again.

What’s even crazier? I rode them literally an hour before the pros rode them, and watched them do it. Their pain had never been more real.

A post shared by Jordan Sher (@the_jordo) on

A post shared by Jordan Sher (@the_jordo) on

The Race Itself

WHAT I EXPECTED: I knew Contador was a Spanish legend – but would I get wrapped up in it with the rest of the fans? I’d always liked his racing style, but never felt emotional about it. Maybe I’d finally be able to connect.

WHAT I HOPED FOR: I knew this was historic already. Chris Froome was lining up to win the Vuelta and the Tour in one season. All the heavies were there, including Roman Bardet, Vincenzo Nibali, and of course, Alberto Contador. It was Contador’s last race. Would I feel the gravitas?

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Unimaginable happiness. It started when we met Contador the night before the Angliru, and his storied ascent and win of the stage. He was gracious, friendly and personable. He took time on the biggest night of his life to be with us. How could I not be a fan for life?

Then, we got wrapped up in the rest of the race due to our sheer access to the big moments. We were there for Contador’s triumph. We were at the finish for his attack on Manchucos. And we found ourselves with ‘super’ VIP access at the last stage, where Contador was celebrated, Froome was awarded, and all the big hitters were giving their interviews. I was as close to the biggest names in cycling as you are to your computer screen right now.

I didn’t just get to watch this race. I got to be a part of it.

A post shared by Jordan Sher (@the_jordo) on

A post shared by Jordan Sher (@the_jordo) on

The Total Experience

WHAT I EXPECTED: There’s a certain level of excellence to any Trek Travel vacation, so my expectations on food, rides, service and hotels were pretty in line with my hopes. Trek Travel just has a way of delivering what you both expect and wish for.

WHAT I HOPED FOR: I had been on a Trek Travel vacation before and knew what to I was in for. But I definitely hoped for something special. They always had great guides, but I hoped these were amazing. We always did great food, but would this be amazing? Would the rides be better than advertised?

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: It’s tough to even list out how everything was better than I could imagine, but let’s try anyway:

• I stayed in the greatest hotel of my life: Stay at Hotel Castillo del Bosque
• I rode with Chechu Rubeira, former Discovery pro
• I ate dinner at a magical gem of a restaurant in Oviedo that I’ll never forget
• I toured the Trek bus and met several other members of the team (including Giro winner Ivan Basso!)
• I got a group selfie with Contador himself
• I could reach out and touch Chris Froome’s race bike
• I stood on the Vuelta podium
• Our guides got us past both the velvet rope and the rope beyond the velvet rope on several occasions with a little ingenuity
• And I rode every last peak, valley and country road I’ve ever wanted to through northern Spain

Let’s just say this is one rare time when reality GREATLY surpassed both my hopes and expectations.

As I mentioned at the start of this adventure, I’m no casual fan of bike racing. I could watch races, talk about races, and read about races for the rest of my life. But honestly? If the 2017 Vuelta a Espana is the first and last Grand Tour I ever get the privilege to attend, I can say, with confidence, that I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted.

And that’s truly a dream come true. Thanks, Trek Travel.

Trek Travel Vuelta Cycling Vacation

See more photos or follow Jordan on Instagram here

In case you missed it: Venga, Venga, Vuelta

Read On

Michael Valenti: Return from Le Tour

This July, Michael Valenti embarked on the journey of a lifetime following and drawing all 21 days of the Tour de France with his two friends and a motorhome by his side. We caught up with him at the start of his journey and were fortunate enough to speak with him again now that it’s over. The verdict? “I’m doing it again, the game is definitely on!”

Trek Travel Cycling Vacations Michael Valenti Return from Le Tour

So welcome back, it’s great to talk to you again. It’s probably a tough question, but if you had to choose, what was the best part of this whole thing?
The people I met. I met people from all over the world and it was easy to talk to them, it was easy to communicate whether we spoke the same language or not. It had a lot to do with everyone had the same passion for the Tour.

What was the most unexpected part?
It was easier than I thought it was going to be because we planned it well. That was unexpected. It went smoothly. As much as there was planning, there was some luck involved as well. You had to have the perfect mix of planning, stamina and luck.

Did all your training pay off?
Without a doubt. I will definitely do that again. I have not had that backpack on since I’ve been back though. Just say no to the 25lb pack.

Trek Travel Cycling Vacations Michael Valenti Return from Le Tour

What expectation did you have going into the trip that did or didn’t pan out how you thought?
The big realization I had after was that I did not see as much cycling and racing as I thought I would or could. It was difficult to follow, because of my phone’s geographical restrictions I couldn’t see parts of the tour in English. I had this vision of we’ll watch it every day like we do back home, I had all the packages and we couldn’t use any of them! And we definitely did not spend enough time in bars. Because at each stop, as soon as I finished working, it was time to leave and move on to the next city. It was time to go. I think I would linger longer next time.

What are your plans for the future?
Do it again, get smarter about sharing with more people, I might do it a little differently. I may not chase the route so closely each day, I might do something where I hit the highlights for longer. Look for three or four places where I invest three days and take a deeper dive into the area and capture a more full experience. And it would do two things for me: I would be able to take an actual bicycle ride, and I’d be able to go to that bar or wherever and watch it on TV. It would afford me more freedom.

There’s another crazy concept on the table as well, but you’ll have to wait until next year to find out if that one works out.

Trek Travel Cycling Vacations Michael Valenti Return from Le Tour

Until next Tour, Michael. Be sure to follow along with his adventures in the meantime here and on Instagram @Veloist

In case you missed it: Michael Valenti’s 21 Days of Cycling Art

Read On

Top 5 Trips: Race Fans

Ride the stages, watch the big attacks, meet the pros and drink in the drama. TV just can’t capture the electricity of a race. Here are our top 5 trips for a VIP experience at cycling’s biggest races.

Trek Travel Spring Classics Cycling Vacation

Spring Classics

Join us in Belgium and Northern France to ride the famed cobbles, sip coveted Trappist beer, and enjoy a VIP race experience. Tackle Flanders’ fearful sections of pavé like Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg in the Ronde van Vlaanderen Cyclo, then watch the pros battle on the same steep climbs and teeth-chattering roads. If you’re up for the test, more cobbles and treachery await at the Paris-Roubaix Challenge. This incredible 11-day experience culminates at Paris-Roubaix, with VIP seats inside the velodrome to watch as another “Hell of the North” competitor crosses the line victorious.

Trek Travel Giro d'Italia Cycling Vacation

Giro d’Italia

There’s a reason why Italy is cycling’s birthplace. There’s something different here, from a culture practically born and raised on two wheels, to a terrain purpose-built for cyclists who love steep climbs, sweeping views and unbeatable roads. Maybe that’s why the Giro is so special – it’s a race crossing all of Italy’s classic climbs with a soundtrack of cheers at every turn. You’ll feel the passion of fans screaming as you climb iconic stretches of road just hours before pros battle it out in pursuit of the pink jersey. You’ll also enjoy special behind-the-scenes access to talk strategy with the Trek-Segafredo team, tour the team bus, and check-out Trek’s cutting-edge bikes and equipment.

Trek Travel Tour de France Cycling Vacations

Tour de France

You can’t get any closer to the action of the Tour de France than this. As Official Tour Operator for both the Tour de France and the Trek-Segafredo team, Trek Travel’s ultimate VIP trip offers unparalleled behind-the-scenes access to the heart of this year’s exhilarating race. We’ll take you to the center of the action to experience the thrilling, final mountain stages, then to an exclusive race viewing at the Grand Finale in Paris.

Trek Travel Tour of California Cycling Vacation

Tour of California

Epic riding, stunning views and exciting live race action set amidst some of California’s most spectacular landscapes. We’ll ride along the Pacific coast and into the mountains above Santa Barbara and enjoy amazing behind-the-scenes access to the Trek Segafredo racing team. This trip is the ultimate celebration of American pro racing, fantastic riding and the natural beauty of the American Riviera.

Trek Travel Vuelta Cycling Vacation

Vuelta a España

You will ride the same routes as the racers, soak up the excitement of the enthusiastic Spanish fans, enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings, admire the ferocity of the pro peloton and get ready to topple some of the hardest climbs in Spain. But fear not: Get the pro’s insight from UCI ProTour veteran and former US Postal domestique Chechu Rubiera.

See our other Top 5 trip collections.

FOODIES FOR THE LOVE OF ART MULTISPORT MORE MILES

Top 25 Photos: Trek-Segafredo Tour de France 2017

There’s no other sport that allows you this close to the pros, and no other tour company that gets you this close to the races. From disqualifications to GC surprises, we’ve barely had time to breathe. But that’s the allure of the Tour de France; it’s full of passion, glory, drama and showmanship. So kick back, realx and watch the drama of this year’s tour play out right in front of you.
 

 

Get a front row seat to next year’s Tour

Reserve Your Spot

Michael Valenti: 21 Days of Cycling Art

Michael Valenti, a former ad man and now artist has decided to leave the modern comforts of his studio and set out to be the first cycling artist to follow and draw all 21 days of the Tour de France. Read on to hear about his idea and the journey that has led up to this awesome adventure.

Become a part of history and purchase a print of your own. Scroll down for special discount code.

Michael Valenti 21 Days of Cycling Art

So first up, who is Michael Valenti?
Well…I’m a husband and dad and all that. As a professional I was brought up in the world of ad agencies. I was a designer, illustrator and marketing guy you know. Now I’m an artist. After 35 years of being in the industry I never considered myself an artist, now I answer “artist” and it’s still weird for me. But I’ve always loved what I do.

When did you become fascinated with cycling?
My friends and I are still convinced we invented mountain biking, haha. We used to terrorize the neighborhood as a pack of riders in the late 60s. Just a bunch of 10-12 year olds in Stoughton, Massachusetts. I didn’t really start riding as a cyclist until my 30s when I moved to Chicago and started riding with a friend of mine who taught me the basics. I joined a few clubs, and I’ve been hooked ever since. These days I do most of my riding in the Southeastern part of Wisconsin—Kenosha, Burlington, Lake Geneva areas.

What inspired you to put cycling at the center of your art?
I found myself in any spare moment drawing what I love to do, so it was just a natural progression. I wanted to do something I could build and sustain until I decided to walk away from it.

You seem pretty involved with Avant Bicycle and Cafe, can you talk a little about that?
Yeah Tony Valenti, a friend of my son’s opened a bike shop in Delavan and I was like hey, open a shop in Lake Geneva and I’ll use it as my gallery north and bring all the art for your walls. So he did, and so became Avant and I hang original pieces there. The difference between a starving artist and a successful artist is marketing, you know?

So you did a similar project with the Giro, drawing a piece everyday. Which was your favorite?
Day 16. The Frankie drawing. I like drawing emotional pictures or pictures that have meaning more than I like drawing a picture of a guy with his arms up in the air.

Michael Valenti 21 Days of Cycling Art

How did you decide to go to the Tour?
Well work being good or bad is so subjective. The question is, “Is the person known or not known and what are they known for?” That’s how the Tour de France trip came around. I want to be the most well known cycling artist on the planet and my friend asked me, “Well, have you ever been to the Tour?” and I was like, “No, let’s go!” And that was that.

Can you give us a quick run down of this project?”
I will follow each stage of the 2017 Tour de France and draw what I see, feel and experience. I couldn’t be more excited; I couldn’t be more frightened! How can such a simple thing be so overwhelming and awesome at the same time? For a first time Tour follower I’m really jumping in with both feet here. Three of us are spending 21 days on the road in a little motor home together. The first of us, me and Keith, conceived this trip on a whim. Keith is my friend that lives here in Wisconsin, he’s just a regular guy, a cycling enthusiast, an experienced camper, he’s great with logistics, he loves wine and he takes good photographs. But the third guy, Harm Job has the most interesting story. Harm Job lives in the Netherlands outside of Amsterdam. I’ve known him since 2007, but we’ve never met in person! We first met on social media, he was an early adopter of the Veloist. We would email back and forth, send pictures, jerseys, we were pen pals. He is by trade a court reporter but by passion reports for cycling races. He speaks 5 languages, has traveled extensively in France, is an over achiever in social media and a completely passionate cycling nut. His chief job will be translating, navigation and social media.

How are you preparing for your trip?
I’ve been riding around with a 20lb backpack on. Hills are hard. I’m also walking with the same pack for three miles every other day. It’s my art pack, so I’ll take it somewhere, unpack it, draw something, pack it back up and ride home. I go through this process a few times to make sure I have everything I need, it makes me feel like a traveling art fair. And I can’t even tell you how many pens I’ve been trying! When I work in the studio I use a quill and ink but in the field that won’t really work so I’ve had to rethink my process a bit. I also like to draw big, but for this trip I’m using 12×18 paper, it feels like a post-it note!

What are you looking forward to most about following the Tour through France?
I have never done a project this big. Like a really focused effort where at the end of three weeks I will have a body of work that I’ve never had before. And I’m really looking forward to seeing what it looks like. There will be good days and bad days I’m sure, and I’m excited to see what days will be magic moments. One good idea in a day is a gift.

Which pro would you most love to have a drink with?
Well I’d love to have a pint with Sean Kelly. He has a connection to the history and would be a ton of fun in a pub. I would have a whiskey with Peter Sagan. You know who I’d like to just sit down and talk to because I think he’s normal? Christian Vande Velde. He’s grounded, he’s had a great career, heir apparent as an announcer and so smart and interesting. I bet he has some great stories.

Tell us about your favorite ride…
In 2000 I did the AIDS ride in Alaska from Fairbanks to Anchorage and that was the hardest ride and the most amazing ride. It’s funny how there’s a sliver of space between the most euphoric thing you’ve ever done and an excruciating amount of pain.

Dream bike?
I know you want me to say Trek but I’m a steel guy. I now ride a custom Waterford. Any bike would be an older Colnago steel bike.

Dream Trek Travel Trip?
This is the easiest question to answer, Tuscany. I would go to Italy in a heartbeat.


In honor of his one-of-a-kind trip, Michael has created a special Tour de France print and is offering it as well as other Open Edition prints to Trek Travel fans and guests at 30% off. It’s your chance to own a piece of art history, simply use the code TT30TDF at check out before August 31st.

And be sure to follow along with 21 Days of Cycling Art project here and on Instagram @Veloist

Michael Valenti 21 Days of Cycling Art

Top 5 Reasons to See This Year’s Vuelta

Watching a pro cycling race on TV is one thing, seeing it live in person and feeling the experience is a whole different ball game. Especially when it’s in the beautiful destination of Spain. As an Official Tour Operator, our guests get the VIP treatment and experience the race closer than they could ever imagine. This year’s Vuelta a España trip takes place in Northern Spain from Oviedo to Santander. Expect amazing food and wine, breathtaking landscapes, exciting stages and incredible race access. If that’s not enough, here are the top 5 reasons why you should book your ticket to Spain and join us.

See the full trip»

Indulge in the best of Spain with Trek Travel

1. Experience ten mountaintop finishes.

The impressive list includes an assault on the Spanish giant, the Alto de l’Angrilu, known as the hardest climb in Spain. You’ll also get the chance to take on Lagos de Covadonga, Cima Chechu Rubiera, Peña Cabarga, Puerto de Alisas and more. If you don’t want to climb everything, you can always hop in the Trek Travel van and shuttle up the mountain.

2. Get exclusive front row seats and Stage 10 VIP access.

Witness the Stage 10 summit finish at Lagos de Covadonga and ride on the race course. Afterwards, experience a live viewing of Stage 11, both with VIP passes for unrivaled access.

Witness a mountain top finish of a pro cycling race

3. Ride with a UCI pro tour veteran and former US Postal domestique.

Meet Chechu Rubiera and gain insight to La Vuelta and its magical subtleties from a former pro. Together you’ll climb the Alto de l’Angliru, the hardest climb in Spain. L’Angliru was last featured in the 2013 Vuelta, when Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Horner battled each other into the clouds, with Horner emerging from the mist as the stage victor. Learn more in our recent interview with Chechu»

Ride with former pro cyclist Chechu Rubiera on Trek Travel's Vuelta a Espana race vacation

4. Be the ultimate super fan.

Only with Trek Travel can you spend an evening at the Trek-Segafredo pro team hotel to tour the official team bus, meet the mechanics, and have a photo session with team officials and riders. Access to the riders at the Vuelta is unparalleled—they are far more relaxed than at the Giro d’Italia or Tour de France but they are still in top racing form.

Meet the new Trek-Segafredo team on a Trek Travel bike tour

5. Indulge in the best of Spain.

Traverse the greenest countryside in Spain, sample the finest northern Spanish cuisine, and catch the race action in the remarkably beautiful regions of Asturias and Cantabria. We’ll make our way through Basque Country, one of the most celebrated areas for epicureans in Spain. The Spanish Grand Tour has its own unique story and it is best discovered by bike. Join us!

Dine on local cuisine in Spain

Sip on the Spanish wines on your Trek Travel trip to Spain

Are you ready for the Vuelta?

Reserve your spot

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»

Why I Ride: Laura Massey

For a group that set out to become the world’s most professional women’s amateur team in the peloton, signing a deal with Laura Massey was a no brainer. In doing so, not only did Drops Cycling Team add an accomplished cyclist–and current British Masters Champion–to their roster, but they also added an incredible leader to their team.

Briefly, tell us your story. How did your cycling career begin?
Well, my main sport used to be rowing. I rowed for my college and university (everyone in Cambridge rows!) and after several years of being relatively average, I decided it was time for a change of sport! I borrowed a road bike from a friend and did about 12 miles around the local lanes–I was knackered but I was addicted! I bought a basic aluminum road bike and started riding with the local Cambridge club. Looking back, I was a total liability–getting dropped on every slight lump and blowing up miles from home, having to be pushed back. But I loved it and kept persevering, doing the mid-week chain-gangs and time trials, and I finally developed some “cycling legs”. I began road racing in 2011/2012 and have been obsessed ever since.
 
 
Trek Travel interviews Drops Women's UCI Cycling Team member Laura Massey
 
What excites you most about the opportunity to race with Drops in 2016?
Being a UCI team means we have the opportunity to race on a world-stage in some pretty iconic races. This is a special opportunity. So special, in fact, that I decided to take a six month sabbatical from work (I am a management consultant in the pharmaceutical industry) to really allow myself to make the most of this opportunity. I am two months into the sabbatical and it is the best decision I ever made. I had to pinch myself on the start-line for the Tour of Flanders! I will be pinching myself again when we line up for the Tour of California next month. I am massively grateful to Bob Varney and everyone at Drops for giving me this opportunity.

Last year you won the British Masters Championship. What are your biggest goals for the upcoming season?
It sounds cheesy but my goal this year is just to enjoy my sabbatical and make the most of this amazing opportunity that I have been given by Drops. I want to get the most out of myself and see what I can achieve and how good a bike rider I can be without the stresses of work. Unlike the last few years (focused on UK racing), this year I don’t have a particular target race or result as this is a whole new level. I’m just going to give it my best shot each time I line up, suffer and see what happens. Last week this attitude got me a Top 20 at the Euskal Emakumeen Bira UCI 2.1 stage race in the Basque country so fingers crossed I can keep improving with more experience.
 
 
Drops Women's Road Cyclist Laura Massey Racing in Europe
 
Who inspires you the most?
It has to be Lizzie Armitstead! Have you seen her legs?! It is inspiring to have a British World Champion who is currently so dominant.

Favorite place you’ve ever ridden and why?
For training, Denia in Spain (near Alicante) is my number one place–perfectly smooth rolling roads, nobody around, sunshine and a unique feel about it. The descent from the Montgo into Denia is magical. I also love the stretch of coastal road between Dartmouth and Kingsbridge in South Devon with its stunning sea/cliff views and aggressive ups and downs.

For racing, the Ardeche in Southern France was the most epic and beautiful race I have done.
 
 
Drops UCI Womens Cycling Team
 
 

Saanich cyclist on the ride of his life

While most of the South Island paid little attention to the recently announced routes of the 2016 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, Saanich cyclist Jordan Landolt did the same.

Words by Travis Paterson | January 26, 2016
Originally published in the Saanich News

 
Trek Travel guide Jordan Landolt
 
 
The difference is that Landolt will actually be on some of those routes this summer. The 28-year-old spends the summer and fall season every year guiding “cyclist guests” through the scenic stages of all three Grand Tours (Italy, France and Spain) as a seasonal bike tour guide for Trek Travel.

“We are known as tour guides but are also luggage sherpas, language translators, shuttle drivers, wine connoisseurs, local historians, cycling partners, motivational speakers, bike mechanics, bartenders, problem solvers and just smiling faces making folks comfortable on their bike in a foreign place,” says Landolt, who just finished his fourth year as a guide.

It means ignoring the burn of his own legs and lungs and encouraging his physically exhausted guests (paying customers) to complete the final two kilometres of the gruelling summits of a Grand Tour.

Of course Landolt already loved tour cycling when he applied for the job in 2012. The former Saanich Braves junior player had moved on from hockey after a few pro seasons in Switzerland and, still in his early 20s, found long-distance cycling during a three-month trek through the U.S.

On a whim he applied to Trek Travel and beat out dozens of contestants in a survivor-type job application scheme.

“I flew to Wisconsin with 25 other hopefuls and after a rigorous full-day interview of team-building activities, public speaking, bike mechanics, picnic prep and role playing, they narrowed it down to 10 of us,” he said.

The rest of the week was spent learning and training, and by the end of the week, seven had jobs, including Landolt.
 
 
Trek Travel guide Jordan Landolt
 
 
“Five days later I flew to Italy to guide my first trip in the Dolomites at the Giro D’italia. That year, Ryder Hesjedal won and I had no idea who he was.”

By 2013, Landolt was heavy into guiding – doing it 10 months of the year – and was beginning to take cycling seriously enough that he might consider racing. It happened during an impromptu ride during a day off in Mallorca, Spain in 2013.

“I was riding with another guide and through a mutual friend, we ended up meeting with Gerald Ciolek and Linus Gerdemann, then of African pro team MTN-Quebeka. Not household names here, but the German Ciolek wasn’t popular in Italy when he won the historic 2013 Milan San Remo (a race won seven times by cycling great Eddy Merckx).”

In cycling speak, Ciolek and Gerdemann were in world class form when, according to the code of cycling, Landolt jumped to the front of the group to “take some of the wind for the fellas.”

“It was a windy day and on a long flat stretch. As we turned the corner and out of the wind, [Ciolek] looked me up and down from my beat-up touring shoes to my second-hand ‘80s sunglasses and said, ‘You’ve got an engine…..lose some weight and you could probably be a strong time trials guy.’”

When he came back to Canada, Landolt sought coaching and found Houshang Amiri of the Pacific Cycling Centre and the Accent Inn/Russ Hays team. Then in 2014, Landolt won the 2014 B.C. elite time trial cycling championship.

Not bad for recreational tour guide.

“Amiri provided the necessary fine tuning and training [that led to] winning the B.C. time trial,” Landolt said.

Even if Landolt never wins another race, he can’t downplay a fateful moment like that. Later that summer Curtis Dearden of the Accent Inn/Russ Hays team won the Canadian national time trial championship. Landolt had the motivation and the service of coach and mentor Houshang Amiri (Pacific Cycling Centre).

Although tour guiding is mostly at a recreational pace, it also can provide some good impromptu training intervals, Landolt said, such as chasing down a lost guest who missed a turn or pushing a physically and mentally depleted guest the last two kilometres of Italy’s Stelvio (a climb so gruelling it’s only been in the Giro d’Italia four times).

Climbing the Stelvio, for those unaware, isn’t a Sunday ride. It’s the highest summit of all the Grand Tour.

“[Our] experience gets you so close you feel like you are part of it… cycling through the flocks of fans en route to the finish line just hours before the pro peleton.”

From there, the guests take a turn standing on the official podium before grabbing a cold beer and watching the nail-biting final kilometres on TV before the stage winners cross the line just meters away.

“Working as a guide with Trek Travel has taught me the foundations of cycling…” Landolt said. “More than anything it has taught me to challenge myself and to do things that scare me and feel the satisfaction of completing them or at least having the courage to try them. The 2014 B.C. ITT was a memorable and satisfying day for me, but first, or last, I would have been just as proud and content at the fact that I was there and gave it a shot.”

Learn more about our guide team»
 
 
Trek Travel cycling guide Jordan Landolt in Tuscany
 
 

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

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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.

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

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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).

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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