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Thomson Bike Tours: The Definitive Cycle Challenge
Thomson Bike Tours are synonymous with demanding cycling routes in the mountains of Europe. Andrew Ward of TBT describes the Thomson Bike Tour Challenge Series, what defines a TBT Challenge and the cycling highlights of each one. He poses the question: Are you prepared to take the Thomson Bike Tour Challenge?

- Special Travel feature by Andrew Ward of Thomson Bike Tours-

What is a Thomson Bike Tour Challenge?

You may think you have had tough cycling challenges in the past – well here at Thomson Bike Tours we promise you that our series of Cycle Challenges will push you to the limit and raise your cycling to a whole new level.

The Challenge Criteria:
• A minimum of 55,000 feet total elevation gain for the week.
• A minimum of 450 miles total mileage for the week.
• A minimum of 7,500 feet average daily elevation gain.
• A minimum of 65 miles average daily mileage.
• Point to point mountainous itinerary
• At least 1 TBT *death-ride day within the itinerary.
• A minimum of 7 days riding.
*For an explanation on Thomson Bike Tour Deathrides click here.

The Challenge Philosophy:

All Thomson Bike Tours trips are outstanding and designed with Performance cyclists in mind. However, with our Challenge series we wanted to develop a series of exceptional tours that would create a defining moment in the life of each cyclist:
• The Challenge route should be point-to-point over a well recognised region or area, or a route that is widely considered to be iconic from a cycling point of view. For example, across a mountain range or coast to coast.
• The Challenge must feature the major climbs in each region with a combination of the toughest and most scenic routes.
• The Challenge must be achievable by avid cyclists with a reasonable level of cycle specific fitness and with the help of Thomson Bike Tour’s excellent support.
• Completing the Challenge will provide each cyclist with an incomparable sense of accomplishment and raise the overall standard of their cycling ability.

Trans Dolomites Challenge: The Passo Stelvio – a significant accomplishment for any cyclist

The Thomson Bike Tour Challenges:

a. Trans Pyrenees Challenge: 525 miles and 56,000 feet of elevation gain
b. Trans Dolomites Challenge: 455 miles and 62,575 feet of elevation gain
c. Trans Alps Challenge: 474 miles and 58,000 feet of elevation gain
d. Trans Swiss Challenge: 514 miles and h62,000 feet of elevation gain

a. Trans Pyrenees Challenge

Climbing the Col d’Aubisque

The Route:
The Trans-Pyrenees takes riders across the Pyrenees; on a spectacular route from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. The first 3 days cross the rugged Spanish side of the Pyrenees on traffic-free routes through the deep canyons and gorges that familiarise the Spanish Pre-Pyrenees regions. Crossing into France via the Col de Portillon the route continues over the legendary Pyrenean cols made famous by the Grand Tours.

“The Trans Pyrenees Challenge was hands down the most epic of the many epic journeys I’ve completed in thirty years of riding.” G. Chadwick, California.

The Climbs:
• Col du Tourmalet
• Col d’Aubisque
• Col d’Aspin
• Col de Peyresourde
• Col du Portillon
• Col de Marie Blanque
• Col de Soulor
• Col de Bagargui
• and many more…

The Death-ride:
Day 5: 75 miles and 11,150 feet of elevation gain over the Col de Peyresourde, the Col d’Aspin, the legendary Col du Tourmalet and the climb to the hotel, half-way up the Col de Soulor.

2010 Dates:
June 20 to 27
September 5 to 12

The ride starts from the Mediterranean

“Peter, I’m really impressed with what you are providing at TBT. As I told you on the trip, the way that you and your staff approach these ‘challenges’ and the atmosphere that you provide for your clients could, and should, be used as a model for anyone considering this business! The Trans-Pyrenees Challenge was just that – a challenge! The scenery was spectacular, the climbs were tough (especially for someone who will never be a Spanish climber), but the support and encouragement from you and the staff made it easy to push harder and longer, even when it seemed the mountaintop would never come. All the ‘suffering’ paid off though with what have to be some of the most exhilarating descents I have ever experienced! In addition, a fun group of people and bonding with the other riders made the kilometres fly by. All-in-all, the trip was tough, beautiful, extremely well organized and definitely character building… and I’d do it again in a minute! Thanks for a memory that will last forever.” R. Ruhlman, North Carolina

b. Trans Dolomites Challenge

Descending the Passo Costalunga

The Route
Following the tire tracks of many famous Giro d’Italia stages, the Trans Dolomites Challenge starts on eastern edge of the Dolomites and heads west through impressive mountain scenery to finish with the classic climbs of the Stelvio, Mortirolo and Gavia.

“This trip was magical. To ride the Stelvio, Fedaia, Mortirolo, and Gavia was truly a dream come true for me. I have taken a number of trips with Thomson, and I have come to really appreciate how their planning and support allow you to really enjoy the cycling. Each trip has a hidden gem of a ride that exceeds your expectations, no matter how high they are.” J. Cracraft, Massachusetts

The Climbs:
• Passo Mortirolo
• Passo Stelvio
• Passo Gavia
• Passo Fedaia
• Passo Duran
• Passo San Pellegrino
• Forcella Staulanza
• Passo Valparola
• and many more…

The Death-ride:
Day 3: 85 miles and 13,000 feet of elevation gain over the Passo Fedaia, Passo San Pellegrino, Passo Duran and the Passo Staulanza. The Fedaia is a truly dramatic climb which opens with a narrow gorge with rock walls several hundred meters high and which has been the battle ground of many Giro d’Italia mountain stages.

2010 Dates:
June 6 to 13

The Passo Stelvio – conquered on the Trans Dolomites Challenge

“Once again, Thomson Tours has exceeded my expectations! I can no longer say this was a “tour of a lifetime” because I intend to keep coming year after year. The Dolomites were spectacular and difficult. It was a solid test of my bike riding abilities and I am happy to have conquered these magical and mythical passes. See you in Spain next year!” D. Pick, Alberta, Canada

c. Trans Alpine Challenge

At the summit of the Col d’Izoard

The Route:
The Trans-Alpine Challenge offers you the opportunity to ride one of the most exigent routes in Europe – across the French Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean – and in just 7 days! The countryside changes dramatically after the Col de la Bonette – the highest paved road in Europe – from typical high Alpine passes to countryside more typical of the Mediterranean. A tough but simply stunning challenge.

“The Trans Alpine Trip was the most challenging, fun and spectacular cycling trip I have ever taken. The route was incredible, the service could not have been better, the food was great and the feeling of accomplishment I had when we crested Col de Vence and saw the Mediterranean will never be forgotten. Thanks Peter for organizing a fantastic week in the Alps.” H. Shapiro, California

The Climbs:
• Col de la Madeleine
• Col de la Bonette
• Col du Galibier
• Cormet de Roselend
• Col de la Colombiere
• Col d’Izoard
• Col de Vars
• Col de Telegraphe
• and many more…

The Death-ride:
Day 6: 90 miles and 13,700 feet of elevation gain which includes the passes of Col d’Izoard, Col de Vars, and the Col de la Bonette. One of the hardest Death-rides we have done to date.

2010 Dates:
August 22 to 29

The “A” group climbing the Col de la Bonette

“Once again Peter you surpassed expectations with the Trans Alp ride. As usual, the organization, support, riding route and logistics were flawless. The staff members always seemed to put our needs as a priority and were always so happy to help. I was looking forward to this trip for 6 months, and still the trip exceeded my expectations. I just love the point to point days and the accomplishment of completing the epic trek of crossing the Alps. Thanks, Peter!” B. Eisman, California

d. Trans Swiss Challenge

The Furkapass in the Swiss Alps

The Route:
This is set to be the new Challenge for 2011 and will be run as a private trip in 2010. Possibly one of the hardest Challenges we have ever done in terms of elevation gain and distance and set in one of the most beautiful mountainous locations on the planet. Yet again, demanding performance cyclists are guaranteed to be satisfied as they are taken over the most challenging Swiss roads finishing in Italy on the switchbacks of the infamous Stelvio.

The Climbs:
• Stelvio
• Sustenpass
• Nufenenpass
• Schallenberg
• Col de la Croix
• St Gotthardpass
• Furkapass
• Fluelapass
• Col du Pillon
• and many more…

The Death-ride:
Day 4: 90 miles and 12,150 feet of elevation gain. The Glaubenbielenpass, Brunigpass, Sustenpass, epic climbs, and all regulars on the Tour de Swiss pro race itinerary.

2010 Dates: available in 2011

The single-track road leading up to the Mittelbergpass

Are you prepared to take the Thomson Bike Tour Challenge? If you are, more information on our series of cycle challenges can be found on our webpage:


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