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What TDF means to Trek Travel

As traveling staff members schedule their out-of-office replies and guests call in to finalize their trips to the Tour de France, I sit here wanting to go with. Then I realize I have little idea what is about to even happen.

I’m the new intern here at Trek Travel. So when people around the office start talking about the tour, I can’t begin to imagine everything that goes into it from Trek Travel’s point of view. I know that it is a huge collective of hours and hours of work put in to make the trips happen flawlessly. But along with the hard work comes a trip of a lifetime. I want to be in their shoes, experience the tour, be surrounded by cycling-fanatics and take in the biggest cycling event in the world from stunning views. Until then, I’ll listen to their stories and daydream. Read about the Tour de France from the eyes of the Travel Travel team here in Madison.

Featured in this story:

Meagan Coates, Trip Design Manager
Brie Willey, Guide Manager
Mark Thomsen, Marketing Manager

Briefly, describe how Trek Travel is involved in the Tour?

Meagan: Trek Travel offers the premier trips in the industry at the Tour de France, hands down. From trips that allow guests to ride the routes on the same day as the pros, to trips and spectator vacations with Official Tour Operator VIP passes and Trek-Segafredo team access to Paris finish packages, and even supported trips at the Etape du Tour, we have something for every fan of the race. We put a lot of effort up to a year or more in advance to the race being announced to source the prime locations for on course viewings and hotels and overall we have a team of designers working on Tour de France year round.

What would you say is one of the “I can’t believe this” moments for a Trek Travel guest?

Meagan: This is very personal for everyone and depends on the drama that unfolds throughout the race. But I think nearly all guests have a moment during their trip–perhaps while sipping a glass of champagne at a perfectly-situated on-course viewing spot looking out over the French Alps–and they realize they are actually there in person and not watching the Tour footage from the helicopters as broadcast on tv.

Trek Travel Tour de France Paris Finish Photos

What’s going through your mind on your way to the tour?

Mark: Typically trying to learn as much as I can about the areas of France the Tour will visit for that year. I like to find fun facts that are not obvious. Also I like to have a solid understanding of the top cyclists that could podium or win a green jersey. Guests love talking shop, so I have to keep up.

Brie: Study! It is imperative to study maps, regional highlights, trip materials, pro riders and more. You want to be as prepared as you possibly can be heading into any trip. The TDF takes it to the next level. All guides have to be firing on all pistons to make these trips successful and awesome! Other thoughts always include daily back-up plans and what ifs! Our job is to deliver a Trip of a Lifetime, in order to do that, we have to be prepared for absolutely anything. A saying we use often: “It is the Tour. Anything can happen. Always have a Plan B!” Roads close earlier than they are supposed to, thunderstorms roll into the mountains in a matter of minutes, bridges give out weeks before a stage causing a complete reroute. You name it, it can happen at the Tour. “Fun and Flexible” is the name of the game and Trek Travel guides are the masters!

How many times have you been on this trip, and how does it change year by year for you?

Mark: I’ve guided it four years’ worth. Personally I always looked forward to the mountain stages as I love to climb. I loved the variability of the Tour as well, always having to think on your feet was fun to me. Road closures, crazy fans, our incredible viewing sites halfway up mountains. It’s always hectic, but I tend to thrive on that. I also always love going into Paris at the end. It’s a great party at the Automobile Club where all the guides and guest come together for one last big party. It’s the perfect way to wrap up three weeks of crazy Tour de France trips.

Brie: My first year guiding at the Tour de France was in 2012 in the Alps. I’ve guided TDF trips every year since and head to France in a few short days for the Etape this time around. Each year the route changes throughout the beautiful Alps and Pyrenees mountain ranges but always ends in Paris. From the most challenging days on a bike to the utmost breathtaking views I’ve ever laid eyes on, the Tour de France has been a real pleasure to experience with Trek Travel over the years!

How do you prepare for the tour?

Mark: Ride, Ride and Ride. See above, love to climb. Also we do a lot of pre-trip research as guides. We’ll go out for a couple weeks prior to our first group, to review all routes, hotels, meeting locations, etc. As guides we like to know as much as possible before any guests arrive.

What’s going through your mind on your way home?

Mark: Can’t wait to sleep in my own bed!

Brie: Guides are pretty exhausted at the end. I typically sleep the entire plane ride home. From take-off to landing, no joke. Tour de France trips run at a high level mentally, physically and emotionally. When headed home there is often the feeling of, “I survived…that was the craziest trip ever…I CAN’T wait to do it again next year!” That was how I felt in 2012, it hasn’t changed since.

Favorite TDF moment?

Mark: The first time I climbed Alpe d’Huez the day the pros did. It was my first year guiding and only second trip guiding ever. You get to the base and it just looms overhead…21 switchbacks to the top. The crazy thing was that all the fans were already lining the route. They cheered us on as though we were pros. And the Dutch corner was a sea of orange. Truly an incredible experience and one I can’t wait to get back to some day.

Brie: There are many! Paris is always a favorite. I love seeing the pure joy on guest’s faces—they are loving life and thrilled to experience the tour finale in such a stunning city. As of late, I have also really enjoyed seeing the happiness and relief on my guide’s faces in Paris. Once you reach Paris, it’s a home-free feeling for guides. You have the opportunity to relax a bit, drink champagne with colleagues and have a grand ol’ time in the City of Lights. Other memorable moments include helicoptering guests off the top of Alpe d’Huez at the end of a mountain top finish to their luxury hotel on Lake Annecy. A VIP experience they never forget.

“I survived…that was the craziest trip ever…I CAN’T wait to do it again next year!” That was how I felt in 2012 and that feeling hasn’t changed since.

Race Access on Trek Travel's Tour de France Cycling Vacation

Ride the best climbs in France on a fully support Trek Travel bike tour

Read more about our team.

La Course: First Women’s Tour de France Race 27th July 2014

As the clock strikes noon on the final day of the Tour de France, July 27, 2014, twenty teams of six riders will race around the Champs-Elysees circuit a total of thirteen times to complete an iconic photo finish.

Silque_AR5Q6689AThe inaugural La Course female race is sure to be a day to remember as the event promises to bring together the crème de la crème of women’s cycling as the top ten women’s teams are invited along with the top five national teams and five invited wild-card teams.

The women’s peloton will race on a 90km course leading into a historic finish in Paris and where it is likely to end in a sprint finish. Prizes will include intermediate sprints for the best sprinter’s classification on each of the first eleven laps and a prize for the best young rider under 25-years-of-age in addition to the honor of standing on the podium as the first ever queens of the Tour to be crowned by male blackboard official and kissed by podium boys.

In addition to the 100 cyclists in the female peloton, policewomen from the Paris Police Prefecture will be responsible for watching over La Course, which will also have a 100% female jury. Tour de FranceThe winner of La Course will collect a prize of €22,500, the same sum awarded to the men’s Tour stage winners. For cyclists the world over, especially females, this day will be one for the record books.

Join Trek Travel with front row seats at an exclusive viewing of the finish of both La Course and Le Tour behind the security lines at the prestigious Automobile Club de France in Paris. In this elegant venue on the magnificent Place de la Concorde, guests will savor a celebratory glass of champagne and a lavish buffet while watching each race unfold. Enjoy the fanfare and excitement of the 1st La Course and the 101st edition of the Tour de France finish as well. Visit Trek Travel’s website for details.

Anticipating the 2014 Tour de France

In just 93 days the 2014 Tour de France will kick off in the English city of Leeds for what is sure to be another thrilling three weeks of racing on the sport’s biggest stage.

Last year’s Tour de France undoubtedly lived up to the ‘100th edition’ hype and exceeded fans’ expectations. A double ascent of Alpe d’Huez. Chris Froome’s unprecedented three stage wins and definitive climb up Mount Ventoux. Nairo Quintana’s podium sweep that included 2nd place in the general classification along with king of the mountains and best young rider jerseys. A heated rivalry between cycling’s fastest men, Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish. We were left wanting more after riders circled the Arc de Triomphe at twilight during the final stage in Paris. Then again, doesn’t cycling’s biggest race always create unparalleled excitement?

At Trek Travel, our highlight reel of last years Tour de France looks slightly different. The best part of Alpe d’Huez came after the day’s second ascent, when guests were lifted off the mountain and brought back to their hotel via helicopter. On Mount Ventoux, our guests were provided with first class views of Chris Froome’s solo ride to victory, but a wave from Jens Voigt was the cherry on top. 13TDF5716 Cover PhotoRiding a stage from start to finish with Trek Travel’s Etape trip provided guests with an entirely new appreciation for the strength and courage that professional cyclists must have in order to emerge triumphant after 21 days of suffering. Finally, Paris was highlighted by our annual VIP viewing party at the beautiful and historical Automobile Club of France. With that, we raised our glasses to the maillot jaune and toasted another memorable year.

Tour de FranceFor 2014, the ASO has crafted yet another unique route and thereby ensured that this year’s race will be better than the last. Setting the stage for a race full of surprises, breakaways, climbs, and sprints is what the race designers do best. This year’s 101st edition of the Tour de France will bring out the history buff in us all, with stages that visit Buckingham Palace and pay tribute to towns and countryside once devastated by World War I. The riders are in for another action-packed race and a strong climber is likely to emerge victorious. Six mountain stages and five summit finishes are sure to get viewers screaming “Allez” as Jens Voigt launches more legendary attacks to make the neo-pros’ legs scream during his last Tour de France. All eyes will be on Stage 5 as it features the unpredictable and punishing cobbles that make Paris-Roubaix so famous. A sole time trail at the end of the race means that no one is safe until Paris. Excitement is guaranteed until the bitter end.

Witness the Tour de France with Trek TravelSo instead of listening to Phil and Paul tell you what it’s like, join us for the spectacle. Meet the racers that put on the show. Wear a complementary Trek Factory Racing jersey and ride the same bikes as the team. Test your legs on the roads that get devoured by the peloton. The Schleck brothers won’t be the only VIPs at the race, because you’ll be there too. We can’t promise you who will wear yellow, but as an official tour operator and hospitality partner of the Trek Factory Racing team you better believe there will be hundreds of highlights that you’ll miss if you watch it from your couch. Excitement this big simply can’t be experienced second hand. So let us know your thoughts about who will be on the podium, the route, the teams, and the race in general…then join us to watch the magic unfold!

Longing for a little Tour excitement

The past couple of years have been different for me with regards to the Tour de France. I am watching this exciting race from the comforts of my own home. I can pause it, rewind, slow down the spectacular crashes, and fast forward to the bunch sprint at the end. It is undeniable awesome! Not to mention I have endless coffee and can multitask and get some work done during the 200km plus stages. Really, can it get much better?

Well…I think so. See I have been a guide for Trek Travel for the past 6ish years and recently became our full time marketing manager, so I don’t get out guiding much anymore. I have guided the Tour 3 times over the years and loved it every time. But it’s insane, from a guide perspective.

Let me explain a little about the 3 weeks at the Tour from a guide perspective.  Bump the hours worked any given day to about 15 or so. Make sure you have your headlamp to work on bikes each night after all the guests have gone to sleep after our Michelin starred meal and exquisite wine tasting. And just hope it hasn’t rained that day because then your doing a hefty amount of cleaning as well;) Now right about midnight or so when you are about to wash your hands of the grease, your logistics team calls your cell and says the road you were planning on riding with the group the next morning at 10am, is now closing at 7 am. Time to wake up every guest with a phone call and explain we have to catch our shuttle to the ride start at 6am and breakfast will be at 5am. Then call the shuttle company, the breakfast staff, and check out that night. Perfect, now go to bed at 1am, and wake up at 4am so you can get the bikes loaded up. You get the idea. That’s a pretty normal experience at the Tour. Probably have at least one of these days each week of the race.

The funny thing about all the stress a guide faces is it’s addicting. We get to ride epic mountain stages in some of the most stunning mountains in the world. We get to have dinner with our guests and have Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen stop and say hi. We get to drive our vans up Galiber while the Etape du Tour is cycling on all around us. We get to visit incredibly old Chateaux’s that I now watch helicopters fly by on TV. And of course we get to experience the indescribable feeling of watching 200 professional cyclists pedal past at over 30 miles per hour, with thousands of hungry cycling fans from all over the world. It’s something I just can’t replicate from the confines of my home. It gives me a little pang of sadness when I see the craziness now from my screen. But it also gives me motivation to get back there, to feel the stress that we might not get our guests to the top of a mountain pass, even though I’m sure we will figure it out in the end. I can’t wait to share the streets with my fellow cycling crazed fans.

So enjoy the Tour on TV this year. But if you can, find a way to go there in person and see it for your own eyes. You won’t regret it.

A Message From Penny, Our Tour de France Trip Designer!

Announcement Day today as I with so many other race fans wait to finally learn the routes and towns chosen to host the Tour de France 2012.

Notwithstanding a “leak” a week ago which many believed did allow an unscheduled sneak preview, today we will have confirmation of the overall structure and flow of the race which is set to offer many thrills for riders and fans alike.

Rumors of fewer mountain stages and more flat riding the tour seems set to favor all-rounders rather than the mountainous stages of the past couple of years which have benefitted pure climbers and as a result it may turn out to be a faster race overall with more suspense, explosive finishes and opportunities for the bold and the brave to shine..


Johan Bruyneel Sits Down With Trek Travel

As Team RadioShack takes part in both the Vuelta a España and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado this week, we are lucky to have Team RadioShack Manager Johan Bruyneel answer some questions about cycling, racing, and how bikes can change the world.

Johan is currently lending a hand to World Bicycle Relief’s Grand Slam for Zambia. Their goal: 1,000 bikes. 1,000 lives changed. For every donation, you’ll help provide a bike for a child in Zambia.  Children who receive a bike are able to get to school quicker and safer; a journey that often takes up to 4 hours by foot!  In addition to helping Zambian children, you’ll also be entered to win all sorts of great prizes like a SRAM Red Gruppo, a Trek Madone, a Trek Travel Trip, and more!

And now some Q&A with Johan Bruyneel (JB):

What major race do you think is the most fun to watch from a fan perspective?
JB: I think every cycling fan dreams of going to the Tour de France.  It’s the race that gets the most worldwide coverage and it’s the most prestigious race to win.  A lot of people go to the Grand Depart or Paris, but to get the real experience, I also suggest taking in the climbs.  If you go to Alpe d’Huez, fans arrive 2-3 days before the race actually passes and it becomes a massive outdoor party on a mountain.  I’m not sure if there’s anything like that in all of sports.

The Giro d’Italia is another race that is great.  Italy is a beautiful country and the route is often harder than the Tour which makes for some exciting racing.  If you ride a bike, then it’s definitely a country to check out.

And then I may be biased since I’m Belgian, but the races in Belgium are great, especially Flanders.  The Belgians are so passionate about cycling.  It’s so chaotic with fans trying to see the riders at various points during the race.  The cobbles, the climbs … It’s totally different than the Giro and Tour so it’s hard to compare, but it’s definitely something I would also suggest.

How often do you get out yourself to ride during the season?
JB:  Unfortunately, not very often.  For starters, I have a bad back so it’s hard for me to do a real training program.  Then with managing a cycling team, traveling to races and trying to squeeze in as much time with my family, it’s not easy to find 2 or 3 hours in a day.  I do like to go out for casual rides with Victoria and Eva. We’ll strap my son Christian to my bike and we’ll do a nice leisurely ride in Hyde Park.  A nice family outing.  But my racing days are over.

Who do you think is one of the most exciting up and coming professional racers and why?
JB:  Tough to name just one.  Peter Sagan from Liquigas is definitely one.  He’s already won some races, but is still young and will get even better.

There’s a rider on our Trek U23 squad by the name of Lawson Craddock.  He’s definitely someone to watch out for.  Actually, there’s a lot of up and coming Americans who will be able to carry the torch –

Ben King, Matthew Busche, Brent Bookwalter, Teejay Van Garderen and Taylor Phinney to name just a few.

With cycling becoming more globalized, there’s more exposure in historically non-traditional cycling countries, which mainly means outside of Europe.  Australia is a country that sticks out in my mind.  There’s already a nice talent pool, but with Cadel winning the Tour and the start of GreenEdge, I think we’ll see that cycling will continue to grow in Australia.

I also have my eye on China.  I was there for a few days in 2008 prior to the Olympics.  Nike was hosting a Hall of Coaches event and I had the opportunity to share some of my philosophies and knowledge with Chinese cycling coaches.  With a population over 1 billion, there are definitely people who are or can be talented cyclists.  It’s just a matter of finding them and developing their skills and talents!

If you could go on any Trek Travel vacation which one would it be? You would have to relax though!
JB:  Hmmm.  I would pick any of the Tuscany Luxury trips.  Nice riding routes, beautiful scenery, great food and of course the vino.  Definitely the perfect combination of everything I like!

What’s the best or funniest question a Trek Travel guest has ever asked you?
JB:  I remember a few years ago at the Tour, I was getting a bunch of questions from the Trek Travel guests about the race strategy, what it was like to have Lance and Alberto on the same team  and so on.  A guy raises his hand and asks: “How do you go to the bathroom?”  Of course he was referring to during the race, but he didn’t say that ,nor was anyone, including myself, expecting that question.  Everyone started laughing so I responded to his question “No differently than you, unless you know something I don’t.”  I don’t think he lived that down for the rest of the trip!

How did you originally get involved with World Bicycle Relief and when?
JB:  Well when I was with Astana, I signed SRAM for components.  One of the founders of SRAM, FK Day, came to my house one day.  He didn’t mention anything about professional racing.  All he wanted to tell me was about World Bicycle Relief, why and how he founded it.  He asked if I wanted to help him with the mission, which is to provide access to independence and livelihood through the power of bicycles.  He showed me pictures and videos, and how a bicycle can change a life forever.  Personally, I owe everything in my life to the bike so right then I knew I had to be part of this organization.  I’m proud to serve on the Board and carry out the mission of WBR in any way possible.

Why do you think the bicycle has the power to change the world?
JB:  I don’t think. I know.  I went last year to Zambia and witnessed the power of bicycles.  My job as Team Manager has me around the most expensive bikes in the world.  But truthfully, the most valuable bikes are $134 WBR bikes.  A Zambian child normally has to walk up to 4 hours to and from school on dangerous roads.  Because of this, dropout rates are high.  Now when you give a bike, that child can reach school quicker and safer.  He or she graduates, gets a job and can support him or herself, as well as other family and community members.  Because of the bicycle, that person becomes economically independent.  We also see that with an education, the rate of contracting HIV/AIDS decreases and women have fewer children.  So there are a lot of health and economic benefits that can be attained.  WBR has the goal of distributing 50,000 bikes.  The impact I’ve seen is amazing and I’m confident that when we reach this goal, you’ll see a different Zambia!


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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).

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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).

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

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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).

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