In honour of Britain’s new Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, Skyscanner’s very own champion cyclist Rachel Evatt hand-picks her eight favourite cycle routes, suitable for varying abilities, from beginners to winners.
Easy rider: bike routes for casual cyclists
1. Loire Valley, France – bike and wine tour
For the casual cyclist wanting to soak up the sun and enjoy the finer things in life, a French wine tour is a must. Aside of tastings, you can incorporate visits to châteaux and breeze through quaint small towns. There are many companies who will guide you all the way, offering support vehicles to carry your belongings and leading you on a carefully crafted route between wineries. DiscoverFrance.com is a great starting point for these easy rides, which balance two-wheel adventures and wine tasting in perfect harmony.
2. Windermere, Lake District, UK
With the right weather there are few places that can beat the beauty of the Lake District, and what better way to enjoy it than on two wheels, with the breeze in your hair and the sparkle of sunshine on the lakeside? It’s true Swallows and Amazons stuff. The terrain is undulating, and I’d recommend this 28 mile loop which includes views of Rydal Beck, and Loughrigg. Park up at Brockhole National Park Centre, and enjoy a well-deserved cuppa and a slice of homemade cake afterwards.
Intermediate rides: you love two wheels, but you ain’t no
Lance Armstrong Chris Froome
3. Majorca, Spain
Majorca is fast becoming a road cyclist’s paradise, with the lycra-clad brigade beginning to overtake the package holiday-makers on flights out. It’s ideal cycling terrain with a good mix of flats and hills, and plenty of coffee shops and restaurants offering bike spares as well as refreshments for the hungry two-wheelers. Beware the wind can blow and the sun is strong so spring or autumn is the ideal time for biking. If you’re a super keen cyclist then Stuart Hall can give you a tailor made trip and guide you on the rides, staying and starting out from Puerto Pollensa.
4. Isle of Wight, UK
Depending on how keen you are, this 62-mile cycle can be done in a day, or over several days with stops at the beautiful fishing villages such as Yarmouth and Benbridge in between. You can lap up sea views and fresh salty air all the way, spotting birds and other wildlife as you go. Beware, even though it’s flat there is rarely a day when the wind doesn’t blow! And it’s the UK, so pack a rain jacket. If you want two-wheeled company, there is an official Isle of Wight ride each year which anybody can join.
5. Spa, Belgium
Who said Belgium was flat? The southern area near Spa and Luxembourg, namely the Ardennes, has rolling hills and some steep descents (reaching 25%) and the tourist office has a range of cycle routes documented. Spa is the original town of well-being and massage breaks, and what better way to earn your relaxation than a circuit around the surrounding hills, leafy forests and winding lanes?
If you are feeling more adventurous, try La Flèche de Wallonie sportive (four distances from 81km to 219km), held every May. The town has hosted a stage of the Tour de France three times, and the Mountain Bike World Cup several years in a row. Stay in the city itself and spend an afternoon in the public spa, which is clean, well maintained and affordable.
Pedal pushers: bike routes for hardened cyclists
6. Alpe d’Huez, France
This iconic climb is a collector’s item for every road cyclist. It’s famous for its corkscrew ascent with 21 smoothly surfaced bends, with stunning views of the Oisans valley below. On every day of the year you will find some nutter time-trialling up the entire 13.8 kilometres, and many casual riders simply aiming to get to the top and resting where necessary. The good news is there are plenty of good eateries at the summit town. Steak and chips, or a good old omelette and salad with a crisp French lager will sort you out before the exhilarating descent.
7. Novi Colli, Italy
Home to the famous cyclist and legendary hill-climber Marco Pantani, the town of Cesenatico on the Adriatic coast lives and breathes cycling. The famous Novi Colli (literally Nine Hills) ‘gran fondo’ sportive leaves the town every year and is open to professionals and amateurs alike, with two distances of 130km or 200km. Almost 11,000 cyclists take part every year and crowds gather to watch the cyclists pass, cheering on and passing cake from the side lines. The majority of the route is hilly, but there are no serious mountains and the views are truly picturesque. Enjoy a gelato and a dip in the sea afterwards.
8. Passo dello Stelvio, The Dolomites, Italy
At its highest point of 2,758m, this 22km mountain climb is one of the toughest in Europe, particularly if you start out from Bormio when the ascent tops 12% (it feels harder than it sounds at high altitude). There is a hotel named the Piccolo Tibet (Little Tibet) on the pass itself, which gives you an idea of the terrain and landscapes. The brave will be rewarded as the summit vista is awe-inspiring with sights such as the majestic snow-clad Ortler mountain and the distant Zillertal Alps. Beware the decent, which includes 48 hairpin bends, darkened tunnels and sharp chasms, within a stone’s throw of glacier scenery.
Rachel Evatt is Skyscanner’s Product Director and a keen competitive cyclist. She holds the women’s title for the 2012 Tour ta’ Malta.