PEZ Sez: I met Giant Tours director Javier Sбnchez-Beaskoetxea in 2005 at the Tour in Germany. Although we’d never met before, he was well known to Giant Bicycles from his work as a Spanish cycling magazine editor, and one of a handful of journos invited to ride alongside Abraham Olano at 10 stage cyclosportif event.
Recognize anyone here? Join Giant Tours and you’ll be riding with Abraham Olano (front left.)
At the time, Abraham Olano didn’t speak much (ie: any) English, so he and I conversed in Italian, (with Javier translating as needed). His demeanor was so relaxed and approachable, that I’d never know he was World Road Champion, and a time trialing ace – at least until I tried sitting on his wheel… (his engine is still HUGE…)
The 5 days I spent with the crew was the stuff of legend (in my mind at least), but given his obvious passion for cycling and Spanish heritage, it’s no surprise that Javier is leading Giant Tours and offering guests a chance to ride some lesser known , but equally epic- and spectacular – climbs in the Pyrenees of northern Spain.
1. Giant Tours is a new company – what inspired you to get started?
Javier: Yes, we are a new company, but all of us come from the bike world, and Giant in Spain has promoted the company. The idea emerged in the dinner before L’Etape du Tour past July. We were with a group of people from Giant, and we start talking about the possibility to organize something like a Training Camp in the Basque Country. After summer we went with the idea and Giant Tours was born.
2. For now you offer two trips – your signature vacation cycling from the Mediterranean across the Pyrenees to the Atlantic Ocean – and your Giant VIP Tour. The Transpyrenean features many of the famous climbs of the Tour de France, but seems geared to very serious cyclists.
Javier: As you say, one of our trips is the Transpyrenean, riding along the Pyrenees from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean, climbing the most famous Cols of the Tour de France, like the Aubisque and Tourmalet. It’s true that cyclists who want to do it must be fit, but anyone who rides normally along the season could do this trip without problem. It isn’t a competition, everyone ride as fast as he wants.
The other trip we organize, and we think is the most attractive for the American cyclist, is the Giant Vip Tour. We have prepared three different dates. This trip consists of an unsurpassable combination of cycling and enjoying life in northern Spain. We think this is a trip for those persons who want to ride in marvelous places, and then enjoy tasting excellent local cuisine, seeing the local cultural, and more.
In our Giant Vip Tour you can visit the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, taste an excellent wine in an incredible cellar in La Rioja, eat in some of the best restaurants in the Basque Country, see one of the most popular places in France like the village of Gavarnie, and also ride on the historical and mythical road of the Tourmalet with the company of ex-pros like Abraham Olano or Roberto Heras. What more could anyone ask for?
“Le Cirque du Gavarnie”, a marvelous place in the Pyrenees.
3. Although cycling fans are likely aware of the Basque passion for cycling, it’s not been as popular a travel destination as France or Italy. What makes cycling in the Basque region special, and why should riders consider going there?
Javier: In Euskadi (Basque Country in basque) we have a great passion for cycling. A lot of great cyclist like Miguel Indurain, Abraham Olano, Marino Lejarreta, Igor Astarloa, Joseba Beloki,… are basques. But it’s true that there is not a travel destination as popular as France or Italy. But in the last years, thanks partly to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Basque Country, as a tourist destination, has been increased a lot. And, in our opinion, the Basque Country is a perfect place to spend some days of holidays riding. It is a must see destination in Europe. Our landscapes are very impressive, we have some of the best gastronomy in the world, La Rioja with very famous wines, and we have the Pyrenees beside us… So, all these things are saying: “Hey cyclists, come to the Basque Country!”
“Le Cirque du Litor” in the way to Col d’Aubisque.
We know that our venture is difficult. But we think that, by the moment, there are no almost competitors in our area. And we are convinced that our cocktail of cycling and gastronomy and tourism will be a success. Moreover, we will provide our clients in the Giant Vip Tour with a professional bike, a Giant full carbon, and in one day they will ride on a Time Trial bike, and we think this separates us from the other cycling holidays. Moreover, we will do all the necessary to provide our clients with the best treatment, we think all they deserve the best: food, hotels, the best bike. Our Giant VIP Tour is not another trip, we are working to offer an exclusive product with the best quality.
4. With so many choices in Europe, how do you select your places to stay?
Javier: In the Giant Vip Tour we have chosen the best hotels in the area, and with good situation to arrive from the airport and in a quiet place to leave riding on bike. In the Transpyrenean we are more limited by the size of the group, and by the itinerary, but we think here also all the Hotels are very good for cyclists.
Great wines in “Marquйs de Riscal” cellar, in La Rioja.
5. Spanish food is known to be both tasty and healthy… tell us more about how you feed guests – do you prepare special menus at your hotels or select hotels based on their culinary offerings?
Well, we are sure that one of the most important aspects in our trips is the basque gastronomy. All menus in the hotels will be good, but especially in the Giant Vip Tour, where we will have two dinners in gastronomical restaurants.
6. Although each day of a vacation holds its own treasures, tell us what guests can expect on a ‘typical’ day.
Javier: In the Giant Vip Tour in the morning we’ll ride on bike visiting nice places. After lunch we’ll go by bus to visit some touristic places like Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, or a wine cellar in La Rioja. The days in French Pyrennes are dedicated to climb the Tourmalet and Aubisque, and we’ll go to visit Gavarnie.
In the Transpyrenean after breakfast we ride along the stage. After finishing the stage of every day, we will enjoy dinner in the Hotel.
Guests will enjoy a visit to the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
7. Former World Champ Abraham Olano will be joining you on some Tours… not many people get to ride in such esteemed company…
Javier: Depending of his agenda we’re planning for Abraham to be with us at least two days, including climbing the Tourmalet. But not only Abraham will join us, because Roberto Heras and others champions will join us also.
The Pez met both Javier and Olano at the Giant Tour in 2005. Here Abraham gives us advice on how to ride the big ring over 30km into a headwind.
8. When guests return home – what do you want them to remember about Giant Tours?
Javier: Our only goal is that every person who joins us remembers: “This week has been one of the best week of my life.”
• Get more info, and book your trip at Giant-Tours.com