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Thomson Bike Tours: 2009 Giro d’Italia KOM Trip
There are lots of good Tour companies offering a great ways for riders to travel and discover new roads, and see the big races. Andrew Ward of Thomson Bike Tours tells us why he feels the company he works for have the most challenging tours in Europe.

– Special Travel Feature By Andrew Ward of Thomson Bike Tours –

A Thomson Bike Tours client asked me earlier this year “Does Thomson Bike Tours provide the most challenging bike tours?” Well, after some investigation I could not find another tour company that consistently offers such challenging tours to the mountains of Europe, and our 2009 Giro Trip is a great example…

Measuring difficulty or challenge in cycling terms isn’t easy but a quick glance at our itinerary for the TBT King of the Mountains trip to the 2009 Giro d’Italia (May 8 to May 16) leaves little doubt – whichever way you measure it – Thomson Bike Tours Performance trips to the mountains are challenging indeed. The usual measures – difficulty index of climbs, feet climbed, average % of the grades, ride distances etc. – all display some impressive numbers when evaluated for our trip to the centenary edition of the Giro d’Italia in May.

Measurements of “Difficulty” :TBT 2009 King of the Mountains – Giro d’Italia Trip
• Total Distance 385 miles
• Total Elevation Gain 48,950 ft
• Total Number of Climbs 18
• Average grade of climbs 6.1%
• Total miles climbed 132.1 miles
• Average Difficulty Index 87
• Maximum Difficulty Index 141

Unlike previous years when their trips focused on the final week of the race, their 2009 “King of the Mountains” trip focuses on the 1st week of the Giro including the Opening Team Time Trial in Venice and the 2 mountain-top finishes in the Dolomites.

“Deciding to focus our trip on the 1st week of the Giro was actually quite an easy decision” explains Peter Thomson co-founder of Thomson Bike Tours. “We looked at the final week of the Giro but the huge distances between the key stages would have meant long, daily van transfers which are not what our clients want – they want to ride! Road safety in that region of Italy was also a major deterrent for us. In our opinion the 1st week of the Giro was the only week that offered all the key ingredients for a successful trip – excellent race viewing opportunities, spectacular and challenging rides, road safety and, very importantly, a full week of riding with no van transfers”.

The Trip focuses on the 1st week of the Giro in the spectacular Dolomites
– climbing the Passo Gardena in 2008.

The trip starts with two days in Venice – the world’s most beautiful city – and once likened to “eating a box of chocolate liqueurs at one go”. In 2009 Venice will host the start of the Giro d’Italia centenary edition with a spectacular team time trial on Venice Lido and of course Thomson Bike Tours will be there to witness it, so potentially two boxes of chocolate liqueurs for the price of one!

The first impressions of Venice are sure to last a lifetime and, once the cycling carnival that is the Giro departs, Thomson Bike Tours gets back to the Performance cycling business. It is in the Dolomite Mountains north of Venice where we will provide some answers to the original question posed.

From Venice, Thomson Bike Tours riders will head straight to the Dolomites and take in the Passo Duran at 3,255 feet and nearly 8 miles long with an average grade of 7.8%. This should warm up the legs for the rest of the trip. There then follows two more live viewings of the Giro; the finish of Stage 4 at San Martino di Castrozza and the Stage 5 finish on the daunting Alpe di Siusi. Both of these are mountain-top finishes so should give some clues to the way the race is going to play out. Alpe di Siusi, with almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain over 16 miles is sure to be a testing challenge for pros and clients alike.

The Blue Marquis tents signal your race vantage point…

LIVE Giro Race Viewing
• Stage 1: Opening Team Time Trial in Venice
• Stage 4: Mountain-Top Finish in San Martino di Castrozza
• Stage 5: Mountain-Top Finish in Alpe di Siusi

Best-in-class support is another key feature of every Thomson Bike Tour trip and this is clearly evident at our mountain-top vantage points. As you’re climbing the mountain, look out for the blue Orbea & Thomson Bike Tour Marquis tents which signal your vantage point for the upcoming race. Their marquis tents have become the envy of the mountain with LIVE Satellite TV coverage (in English!) and ample food and drinks to refuel after a hard day on the bike. We even transfer pre-prepared back-packs for everyone so that you can change into dry clothing if it happens to be raining. Now that’s ‘support’.

You won’t miss any of the action with our Satellite TV coverage.

But our trips are also about riding – lots of riding! Just like the Giro d’Italia, TBT have a special affinity with the Dolomites in Northern Italy for the simple reason that we present the most challenging and spectacular bike rides in Europe. On the 2009 Giro trip you will be able to benefit from this affinity as Peter and his experienced team of guides lead you over some of the most demanding climbs in the Dolomites including Giro favorites like Tre Cime di Laveredo, Passo Fedaia and Passo Giau.

Lots of riding…
Date, Distance, Elevation, Main Climbs
• May 10: 45 miles 7,000ft Passo Duran, Forcella Staulanza
• May 11: 85 miles 11,500ft Passo Giau, Passo Tre Croci, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Passo Falzarego
• May 12: 65 miles 8,150ft Forcella Aurine, Passo Cereda, Passo Rolle
• May 13: 60 miles 7,000ft Passo Costalunga, Alpe di Siusi
• May 14: 60 miles 6,200ft Passo Sella, Passo San Pellegrino
• May 15: 70 miles 9,100ft Passo Fedaia, Passo Sella, Passo Gardena, Passo Valparola

Ride the most spectacular routes in Europe – on the Passo Costalunga in 2008.

But don’t worry if this all seems too intimidating… Each day we divide the overall group into 3 ride groups, two of which have a combination of shorter distances and/or more relaxed average speeds. This allows each rider to find the appropriate group that matches their fitness level for that day, and each
ride group is fully supported with its own sag van and experienced TBT ride leader.

Our sag vans (1 van per group) are always close at hand – on the Passo Gardena in 2008.

So back to the original question – do Thomson Bike Tours provide the most challenging cycling tours? I would certainly say so, but don’t take my word for it – join us in the Dolomites in May and feel what it’s like to be “King of the Mountains”!

Check out
for further details.

Andy Ward


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