The Tour de France trip of a lifetime – courtesy of Bike Weekender

Back in June we gave one lucky customer the chance to win an unforgettable ‘Watch and Ride’ Tour de France cycling holiday courtesy of Bike Weekender. Here our winner Patsy tells us all about her trip of a lifetime, riding some of the toughest and most beautiful routes in Europe, and getting to watch from within touching distance as the best riders in the world battled it out for the Yellow Jersey.

>>Read about 5 of the best Cols in the Annecy-Aravis Mountain region here<<

The Prize

I was very surprised to find out I had won the Evans Cycles ‘Watch and Ride’ holiday with Bike Weekender, like many other people I had never won anything before in my life. After checking it was not a hoax (sorry) I was very excited to say the least, then when I read the finer details I realised we had less than two weeks to get everything sorted out. After a few days of mad panic – arranging annual leave, booking flights, and sorting bike boxes – everything was in place.

Bike Weekender had already provided us with a very detailed itinerary so on arriving at Geneva Airport we knew to look out for Teak (our guide) holding a Bike Weekender board and offering us a warm welcome. After collecting two other guests we headed off to our destination.

On route Teak gave lots of details about the plans for the riding – and climbing – in the week ahead and both myself and my partner thought ‘what have we let ourselves in for’.

Patsy and her partner Phil climbing in the Annecy-Aravis mountain range

The lodge was very comfortable and catered for all our needs. When we were settled in Teak suggested that we go for a ride to warm our climbing legs up – coming from the fens this was a daunting task – but we thought why not. Teak suggested a gentle climb up Col de la Colombiere – a climb of 11.7km with 690m of elevation gained! – so off we went. We both managed the climb and really enjoyed the ride.

 

The Riding

During the week Teak would meet us every morning for a pre-ride chat about what we would like to do, always providing options on the duration of the ride. He also chalked on the road at any junctions to let us know which way to go and was always there to meet us at the agreed spot. The support bus was thankfully well stocked with drinks, food and energy bars so we never went hungry or thirsty.

Teak possessed a wealth of experience and knowledge so no question went unanswered. Throughout the week we ascended and descended through some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. I completed climbs that I would never have attempted alone, or even thought were within my capability. If needed Teak would offer tips on how to improve your riding, and if anyone had a mechanical issue everyone mucked in to help. The routes were carefully planned so that each day ramped up slightly – literally and figuratively – and the challenge became a little harder.

Patsy and the rest of the group after conquering the Col de la Croix Fry

There were seven of us in our group of mixed ability and we all got along amazingly. The other riders were great company and of great support if needed. The food at the Aravis Hotel was excellent, and they catered for all dietary needs. The beds were comfortable, and the rooms came with an ensuite shower.

 

Tour de France Day

This for me was a day to treasure! Teak had found a great spot halfway up a climb, so we had an amazing view of the peloton approaching on the switchback and then ascending the mountain. I was inches away from the riders led by the Team Sky train. I was able to get some great photos and the memories I have of that day will last forever. After the road opened we cycled to the finish line to see the winners arrive and walk among the riders after the race had finished. We were able to get more great shots of Team Sky, Mark Cavendish and many others. To be that close was amazing.

Geraint Thomas of Team Sky and eventual GC winner warming down after the stage

I could rant on and on but for me with my love of cycling this was the perfect holiday, I don’t think I stopped smiling all week – except maybe on the climbs where it became a grimace. Teak somehow managed to fill me with confidence in my ability to complete the rides, which kept me pushing over some of the hardest terrain I’ve ever ridden.

 

So just one more thing to say and that is a huge THANK YOU to EVANS CYCLES and BIKE WEEKENDER for helping me to have just the best time ever!

 

Patsy Merrett

 

>>Find out more about cycling holidays with Bike Weekender here<<

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