PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : Meet Wild Rock Travel

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Meet Wild Rock Travel
Wild Rock Travel has been hosting and guiding some pretty nice trips around Europe’s best roads for almost 25 years, and while other tour operators have grown their businesses based on reaching global clients, Wild Rock’s success has thrived by looking after Canadians.  But with their trips all priced in Canadian bucks, they make sense for anyone who loves riding, eating and drinking in Europe – no matter what country you’re from.

 

When I talked with company founder Scott Murison, I quickly saw a story here that would appeal to PEZ Readers everywhere.

 

Pez: How’d you get started in the cycling travel business?

Scott: Wild Rock has been in business for almost 25 years. The first decade we spent in business was heavily slanted to climbing and mountaineering. Thus we ended up selling a lot of climbing gear, running lessons and some climbing trips. Over the last 15 years our store has matured to reflect our original roots and become more cycling focused. 15 years ago we started organizing our own European cycling trips and now for the last decade we have concentrated on offering our fellow Canadians quality cycling trips in the best cycling locations easily reached from Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.

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Pez: Why travel – what sets you apart from other travel operators?

Scott: We are focused on Canadians. Our trip dates take advantage of the Canadian National Holiday schedule and school breaks. Our trips are priced in Canadian dollars. Most of our locations are chosen to minimize stop overs and maximize direct flights from major Canadian destinations. Kieran and I, the two principles in the company, are present on the trips. This combined with our long term staff means our clients get guides with a vested interest in their long term happiness.

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Pez: What kind of rides to you like offer guests and what level of cyclist gets the most from your trips?

Scott: We have trips that cater to many levels of riders. At the high end we offer trips like our Trans Dolomite (last year Pyrenees) and Girona that are for experienced roadies who relish in a bit of suffering. 1000km with 75,000+ climbing over week.

Trips like Mallorca or Tuscany are attractive to a variety of people. We have multiple groups on the road so a couple or a group of friends with varied interests and abilities will be happy. One group might ride 40km of flat terrain while another group knocks off multiple climbs on their 100+km sojourn.

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Pez: You offer 8 different trips – how did you choose these trips?

Scott: We choose trips based on the quality of the riding, expertise in the area, weather and accessibility from major Canadian airports. All of these logistics aside we choose areas because they are areas that Kieran and/or I have great affection for. Barbados is a good example of a trip that you can get direct flights from Toronto, the riding is decent, the weather is impeccable and the culture is warm and welcoming to cyclists.

 

Pez: The Women’s trip – you must me one of the few trips of this kind. How’d it get started and how popular is it?

Scott: This one was asked for by our repeat clients. The concept was that some women found riding with a bunch of guys mildly intimidating and thought it would be nice to ride with a group of women. We have to confess that some of the support staff is male but the guests don’t seem to mind having males on-board in this capacity.

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Pez: Food is a key ingredient on most people’s holidays – and obviously a big part of the culture in the countries and regions you visit. What’s your philosophy on eating as part of your trips an how does food fit into the overall experience you want your guests to have?

Scott: Food and ambience is essential. There is plenty of good riding in North America but we take our clients to places that are memorable for a lot more than the riding. Whether it is the Finca Monnaber Nou that we stay at on our Luxury Majorca Trip or Castelvecchi in Tuscany, the architecture and ambience has no parallel in North America. These places are steeped in history and returning to the hotel at the end of a ride another highlight. Cap off a great day of riding in this environment with a quality drink and splendid meal and you have great memories that last a lifetime.

 

Pez: Hotels are another of the most memorable parts of guest’ vacations. Europe has so many exotic locales and unique hotels – but cyclists also have some specific needs too. How do you choose your hotels and what makes you return to a certain hotels year after year?

Scott: We and our guests are attracted to return to hotels who understand cyclists. We insure the hotels have good storage garages or rooms for bikes, have great post ride meeting areas and are supportive of a lycra clad crew. We have used some hotels for almost a decade and are on a first name basis with much of the staff. This really adds to the experience.

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Pez: Guides are another really important part of any cycling trip – they can make it or break it. Tell us a little about your guides – who are they & where do they come from? What traits do you look for in your guides?

Scott: The key to guiding is to create a wow experience without taking centre stage yourself. We look for and have guides who can read a group and its members. When you see a client struggling you just need to magically appear next to them and get dropped together. Suddenly they’re not alone, they are just riding in another group at their pace. Similarly you see someone chomping at the bit as they are being held back. You need a guide who will casually tell them that this is a good time to give it some stick. Most of our guides have come from our shop and as such they are first and foremost customer service professionals. Some have moved on to other careers but are always willing to come back to guide.

Pez: Your trips run Spring & Fall – why not summer when more people have holidays and weather is often better?

Scott: In our neck of the woods the cycling is superb in summer so our clients don’t seem to demand as many trips in the summer. There are some higher elevation areas like the Dolomites, Alps and Pyrenees that are best run in the summer so our epics take place in the July or August. The additional thing we do not promote very well but do more and more of every year are custom trips. We consistently have repeat customers who come back to us with a date they want and a destination in mind. We look after the rest.

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Pez: Anything else you want readers to know?

Scott: The other thing coming down the pipe are direct flights to closer destinations from the Peterborough Airport. This season we have three 4 day long weekend getaways. You arrive 1 hour before departure, enjoy free parking, snacks and beverages and fly direct. What could be better? This year we offer Quebec City for the Grand Prix, Charleston South Carolina and for something very different St. John’s Newfoundland!

• Learn more about their trips to Italy, France, Spain & Barbados at Wildrock.net/cycling-trips
• PS – You don’t have to be Canadian to travel with Wild Rock, eh!

 

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