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The Italy Cycling Holidays Group
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 23rd July 2014


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Looking to book yourself an overseas break with some swim / bike / run action?

How about Italy? David Pearce paid a visit to the five hotels in the Italy Cycling Holidays (www.italycyclingholidays.com) group, having initially chatted to them at the Triathlon Show.

As well as coming back a lot fitter for his Ironman race, he also had a great experience and would highly recommend them, This is his report from his trip, including details of the hotels he visited.

With the proliferation of cheap flights to Europe, it has become increasingly easy to take a cycling trip abroad. Even a three day training block can yield vastly increased fitness levels after focussed and solid sessions. Although we all want to get faster on the bike there has always been the obstacle of where to hire a bike and possibly getting the blessing of your family. This is especially true during Spring, we all know the pros go away to train so why not us as well to prepare for the season ahead?

With an Ironman race coming up I was pleased that I visited the www.italycyclingholidays.com stand at the Triathlon Show at Sandown Park last year. Having chatted to them it became clear that both of the potential issues were in fact non issues.

Italy Cycling Holidays is a group of five independent hotels that specialise in catering for cyclists. Each has a fleet of bikes for hire including high end carbon models from top manufacturers such as Bianchi, Pinnarello, Scott and BMC. If your partner does not ride then the hotels all offer at least a hot tub, sauna and pool up to luxurious spa facilities for families to enjoy and relax whilst you are riding. It all sounded perfect, especially as I prefer the culture, food and scenery in Italy to that of say Mallorca or Lanzarote.

I was fortunate to be invited on a three week tour of all five hotels earlier this year for some pre-season training and to report on my experience to various media outlets (I do love my job!). I have to say that I was overwhelmed by the whole experience. As a triathlete it was perfect as not only was I able to run but also swim at each hotel and even in the sea without a wetsuit which was a real bonus in April.

Italy Cycling Holidays

Apart from the benefit of being able to hire a bike the main feature of all these hotels are the guides that accompany you each day. Each hotel has between one and five that ride at various paces and distances so you can be sure to find a suitable group whatever your abilities. The beauty of the guides is that you have pre-planned routes and do not have to rely on your Garmin for navigation. If you want to go hard then you can, and perhaps choose an easier option the following day. They know all the best routes away from traffic on the best roads, the finest cafe stops and if there is a problem they are of course Italian so native speaking. Do not be fooled into thinking these are tourist rides – they are far from it. People from all over the world visit and are dedicated cyclists so unless you are an Elite athlete, there will be a group for you.

Italy Cycling Holidays

Going cycling in Italy where all cyclists naturally look very cool I wanted to make an effort, especially coming into Spring. My first point of call was www.stolengoat.com who I had discovered at the bike show at London Excel. I ordered some beautiful retro Jura Merino wool jerseys that the Italians loved (and even wanted to borrow!), along with some Salice sunglasses and matching helmet. I have always gone for fairly inexpensive sunnies before as I am prone to scratching the lenses and have not seen the point in spending so much money on expensive ones. Salice have provided me the perfect solution though – sensible pricing, Italian design and manufacture plus replaceable lenses. They were simply fantastic. Previously on short climbs in the UK my glasses have steamed up but not these – they performed flawlessly and with two sets of lenses gave great clarity whatever the conditions where like.

The riding from each hotel is exceptional and can be as challenging as you wish it to be. There are a few common denominators across all the hotels such as the option to ride on relatively flat roads or to go and play in the hills or even mountains. I found a 18km climb at 6% to a snow covered ski station, which being the first time I have climbed more than 5km was a real personal accomplishment. What you cannot fail to miss when cycling from the hotels is the sheer beauty of Italy. The blue skies help no end but what makes it so special is the panoramic views from almost every vantage point on any climb (and you can easily climb all day if you wish from one hill to another). Each hill top community seems to have a beautiful church, castle, square and wonderful cafe if needed.

The general format is that you follow the guide but when going up hill you go at your own pace and wait at the top for the rest of the group to arrive. If you are in one of the fast groups then the chances are you will all be of a similar ability anyway, so ride hard all the way. Some of the tours take in multiple cafe stops or a stop for lunch at a wonderful restaurant. Alternatively you may stop and have a wine tasting at a vineyard but these are all optional.

Italy Cycling Holidays

I found that after a few days I was getting tired but when out on the bike the magic happened – I could feel myself being stronger and more powerful. It was as if my legs knew what they had to do and just did it. I was stronger at the end of rides and far better at climbing which is my worst discipline by far. I was putting in the same effort but going faster which is exactly what I wanted to achieve from the trip. I literally went from being a non climber who struggled to a rider who has now climbed the Stelvio Pass and the Mortirolo Pass (which Lance Armstrong stated was the hardest climb in Europe even though he might have had pharmaceutical help at the time!). I really have no fear of any hills now at all. In fact since my return I keep getting Strava PR's on regular routes and not just by a few seconds. On one local hill that is 0.7 miles long at an average of 6% I was 42 seconds faster. And that was on my TT bike and not my superlight, superstiff road bike. To me that is all the proof that I need that these trips are so valuable. Although I went for three weeks, this was in two stages with the last one being just for four days.

Before I left I was aware that I would be laying down the watts over more miles than I have since last summer. The last thing I wanted was saddle sores so investigated some options and discovered www.secret-training.cc products and their anti-chaffing cream. I actually opted for their Race Day Personal Care kit which also had sun screen, micro oil, post race wash, micro fibres and five other goodies which was perfect. It proved invaluable to me and I suffered no issues through all my trip. The post race wash and wipes were a real god send after I had a puncture and managed to get covered in oil. As I was carrying my camera in a ruck sack I also had these packed and used them in-situ meaning my white bar tape stayed relatively clean.

I really cannot recommend the hotels enough as they catered for every need of a cyclist – safe bike storage, maintenance facilities, post-ride lunch, experienced and knowledgeable guides (included in the price of your room), great and plentiful food, friendly staff and exceptional riding. Each hotel has its own charm which I have provided a synopsis of below (all have spa facilities, stunning scenery and endless hill top communities to explore as standard).

Hotel Lo Scoiattolo

Located near Turin this hotel is perfect for wine lovers with Barolo and Barberesco very easily reachable. Here you can ride to wineries for tastings over the rolling hills of Piedmont and Langhe with the endless vista of vineyards. The hills range from moderate to challenging and there are lovely gardens to relax in after your ride.

Silva Bike Hotel

Located 80km from Rome at the bottom of the medieval town of Fiuggi this hotel offers relatively flat riding to proper mountain climbs to ski stations at 2000 meters. It is a modern hotel with a spa that ranked in the top five in Italy recently. There is also a weekly ride on mountain bikes to Rome that takes in numerous ruins en-route.

Hotel Lungomare

Perfect for families as the hotel is situated right on the beach near Cessecnatico with its picturesque harbour designed by Leonardo di Vinci. You can ride on the flat here all day or venture into the hills that Marco Pantani trained on. Needless to say, they are quite challenging in places but throughly enjoyable.

Italy Cycling Holidays

Garda Bike Hotel

Located in Peschiera del Garda on Lake Garda you can ride a relatively flat route along the lakes edge or venture high up into the hills with some serious gradients. One is 20% for 10 miles but this is totally optional. You can ride through the wine region of Valpolicello and various fruit orchards providing many locations to stop and take in the panoramic views.

Italy Cycling Holidays

Hotel Funivia

Located in the ski resort of Bormio this is perfect for those seeking the high mountains made famous in the Giro each year. From the Stelvio, to the Gavia to Mortirolo it is a climbers paradise and situated at the base of the world cup skiing finish line.

Italy Cycling Holidays

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, non cycling partners will not be short of things to occupy themselves whilst you are out cycling. Local towns and cities are easily accessible and there is always the Spa facilities to enjoy. All the hotels attract a broad mix of cyclists and many ladies who come to train.

 

 
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