While cultural identity is becoming an increasingly sensitive subject throughout the U.S. and abroad, New York City based Velo Classic Toursmaintains the focus of their European cycling tours to transcend these boundaries by means of the bicycle.
With the firm belief that a trip into the heart of a foreign culture can be a life-enhancing and life-changing experience, Director Peter Easton and his staff emphasize their “3 Pillars” approach – equal amounts of serious cycling, sublime culture, and exemplary service, offered at levels designed to exceed their client’s expectations.
Guests get up close and personal with Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem, and Roubaix on the Spring Classics vacation.
The primary reason for taking a cycling trip abroad is obviously to ride your bike, whether on the storied roads of the biggest races in Europe, or the endless back roads that cross the countryside.
“I signed up for the Spring Classics trip because I’ve long been a fan of the hard men of the north. I wanted to see first-hand just what the terrain looks and feels like. If that’s what you’re interested in, you’ll love the trip,” says Dan Byrne of Seattle, WA, who brought his two sons along.
There is also the simple pleasure of experiencing the timelessness that comes from cycling in a completely new environment. Cory McNeely of Salt Lake City enjoyed this feeling as he tackled the famous climbs of the Tour de France. “[The trip] gave me the opportunity to spend 11 days indulging myself in my cycling passion that’s been a huge part of my life since I was about 16 years old. I’ve never been able to spend so much time doing something I enjoy so much”. And though the abilities of the various members of the group may differ, it’s the group dynamic that ties everyone together, creating camaraderie unmatched by other types of vacations, and stimulating personal introspection, as reflected by Frank Venuti upon completing his ascension of Alpe d’Huez “admiring the breathtaking view down into the valley on my right, I was profoundly grateful for having been granted a body that could ride a bike, a mind that could reflect on it, and a spectacularly beautiful planet upon which to do it.”
The story-book town of Brugge is just one of the cultural highlights of Belgium.
Though the quality of cycling is a major factor in deciding when and where to travel, VCT pays specific attention to the role of the traveler and how to expand the views of their clients to embrace and indulge in the local cultures. “One of the treats was the opportunity to see masterpieces of Northern Renaissance art in Belgium’s major cities, particularly Brugge and Ghent. Peter and Bernd do a great job of providing cultural opportunities,” says Jeff Alden from Portland, Oregon. Peter’s professional training as an architect enables clients to hear about historically significant buildings and monuments, social history and lifestyle.
The culture is seamlessly integrated into the accommodations provided. A converted Benedictine monastery in France; a medieval Guild house in Belgium; a King’s castle in Spain and a centuries old Tuscan Villa in Italy highlight the exceptional quality of each of Velo Classic Tours’ trips.
Complementing these surroundings is the masterful cuisine of legendary chefs like Jean-Marc Reynaud in Tain, France, Juan Maria Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain and Firmin Arrambide of the French Pays-Basque village of St. Jean. Along with the spectacular meals, every evening is a well-orchestrated step in becoming better educated about wine.
“We believe these 3 pillars define the method, means, and quality of the experience someone joining our trips can expect”, says Bernd Kraan, a longtime VCT leader and Dutch mathematician. “The difference really comes in focusing on the details. We are extremely attentive to the intricacies and we enjoy extending our services to meet various requests”.
To surpass clients’ expectations is a goal that seems monumental, unless those achieving it thrive on the challenge. Cyclists who have participated in a Velo Classic Tours trip are excellent judges of the quality of services provided within the company’s philosophy. This included enjoying a ride over the tough cobbled sections of Paris-Roubaix, something Jeff, a die-hard Johan Museeuw fan was finding hard to enjoy at first. “Peter and Bernd were great at the organizational details and were a delight to hang out with. They give their clients a high level of attention and I appreciated their concern to assure we were having a good time.”
For others, the travels become a much more personal and deeply enriching journey, and is best summed up by one client “[Classic France The Alps trip] was multi-layered, and many factors within my life converged to make this trip a life experience of incredible depth and complexity” says David Henry from Brooklyn, New York. “I wanted a trip where cycling would be ‘serious’, rather than an afterthought, or merely a means of meandering from one leisurely lounging place to another. I also wanted to experience the culture of the country. ‘Classic France – the Alps’ was an event that challenged me both physically and spiritually. I have a sense that it was somehow life changing. I am already looking forward to my next Velo Classic Tour, and will again simply show up with my bicycle and let the event unfold on its own”.
Whatever ones ideas may be regarding bicycle touring, the fact remains the simple pleasure gained from being free of daily routines on an adventure that closes the gap of cultural differences can bring a new level of awareness that stays with you long after your return home.
Spring Break? Think Spring Classics.
Visit the Velo Classic Tours website for more info,
or call 212.779.9599.
Velo Classic Tours
15 E 32nd St 5th Flr
New York, NY 10016