I started working on trips a few years ago. At first I was attracted to life on the road thinking I would be spending all day, every day riding my bike in some of Europe’s most iconic locations. My first trip was the Maratona dles Dolomites, it doesn’t get more iconic then that. The Dolomites are special, jaw dropping beauty, some of the Giro’s most epic battlefields, the people are incredible and so warm, what more could you want. What I didn’t realise was that I wouldn’t be riding at all, my role was driver, mechanic and general dogs body. Maybe I was naive, maybe mis-sold. Turns out it didn’t matter. I was in one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been and more importantly I met some incredible people, who at the time were guests and soon to become firm friends.
I realised pretty quickly that guiding is about people as much as the places. The journey not the destination, how I deliver an experience or show them somewhere or something they would never have found on Strava or Google. It isn’t about the five star hotel or Michelin starred restaurants or how fast I can get them up and over a mountain, it’s local culture, food, knowledge and even that unexpected view around a corner. One of my favourite rides is Sant Hilari – Sasqueda reservoir in Girona. As you turn off the main road and head up a short sharp climb then drop down and the reservoir reveals itself, all of a sudden it stops people dead in their tracks, break out their phones and start taking loads of photos, always makes me smile.
I love to take people to Christian and Amber Meier’s Espresso Mafia and watch Christian talk to people about his passion for coffee, explain the process of roasting and watch their faces light up. Even the non coffee drinkers start enthusing and begin to understand the difference between high street and speciality or “Organized coffee”.
People often send me a few emails before the arrive asking how hard the riding is, how should their bikes be set up and what gearing, sometimes a little intimidated if it’s their first big mountain trip, or first time they’ve ridden back to back hard days. Ensuring they go home with a sense of achievement, hopefully having learnt something new about a place or culture or even learnt that they can ride harder for longer and push themselves further than they first thought is all part of the job. Creating these memories that last for people to share with their friends and family is the key to a great trip.
I’m passionate about bike stuff. I love talking about it, products, kit, brands, sharing my knowledge and beliefs, no doubt some misguided based on “The Rules”. The places I’ve been and the people I’ve been lucky enough to ride with. I can bore you to death while we’re riding or as I like to think, distract you from the challenge ahead.
All the above means many start off as guests but leave as friends. That’s WHY I GUIDE.
See you on the road.
Images courtesy of TheMusette photography.
Magnum Photos. That in itself would be enough for me to suggest a Sommet for the Weekend. Their catalogue of work is unparalleled and I have spent many, many hours (days, months…) studying, admiring and just enjoying it’s work over the years. In all fields, including, but well beyond cycling.
A couple of days ago, they posted this blog about their work;Featured Essays. Magnum Cycling around cycling. It has been curated to be published in a new book Magnum Cycling which is winging it’s way to me as a birthday gift to myself.
Curated by a man who loves this type of photography, former editor of Rouleur, Guy Andrews, he has put together a wonderful collection of some outstanding images, from some of the best photographers to ever cradle a camera.
It must have been an arduous task to get down to only 200 or so images. Arduous, as the body of work is so large, but joyous, as the body of work is outstanding. If you like any of or all of; cycling, photography, true photojournalism, art, history, anthropology, travel and more, you will most likely enjoy this.
It’s incredible. That’s before I get my hands on the book.
Superb work Guy and Magnum!
So you may know that the weekend past was de Ronde. This cycling period of Flanders then Roubaix for me surpasses anything Christmas or birthdays can throw at me.
I am not a racer, but some bike races are special and it’s a way to generate an idea and a route for some cycling exploration; an experience, a day out on the bike.
So I decided to let the Flanders fever help me create a new exploration from my door here in Barcelona. I put together a route with de Ronde in mind which allowed for a route I would likely never have ridden in it’s entirety. And I discovered a couple of new sections by virtue of needing to link up bits I knew I wanted in there.
The idea was basically to seek out as many short, sharp, brutally steep climbs as possible from home. Double figures, obligatory, bad surface preferred, sketchy descents a bonus. Find as many narrow, twisty, laneways as I could; ones that encourage you to ride far too fast for the distance the ride ahead holds. A few industrial link ups to make it feel right and to highlight the beauty of the genuinely pretty bits, of which there were many. Those industrial bits on there own have a certain allure on a Sunday morning dawn start; a desolate peacefulness… Chuck in some cobbles, a bit of dirt (due to only 4 or 5 stretches of cobbles it seemed ok to add some technical difficulty of dirt to compensate. And add to the fun).
5 hours of riding fun – plus half an hour or so of cafe pit stop – exhausted and back home, lunch had to be frites. A couple of fried eggs perhaps not very Flemish, but it’s all about taking the bits I love – the passion and culture of Flanders – and making it work in the best way to suit my needs; a great route with two lovers of Flanders – one being a real Flandrien – and some frites with the missus after.
That’s our idea here at Sommet too. Our trips – off the peg ones or the custom fully supported and the custom Sommet Independent trips . We are driven by cycling, riding and the culture that yields. For me, riding Flanders would be almost as intriguing in June as now. The race , de Ronde, is epic and I love it, but also it’s such a heartland it makes cycling there a real calling. In a similar way that pure environmental beauty draws us cyclists to other areas. To take people to wherever there callings are, or to build a trip for you and let you explore yourself from our guidance, is what we built Sommet for. For you, but for us to make your dreams and aspirations a reality.
On the weekend, I took one of my dreams and let it guide me to create a special route from my doorstep. Whatever your dreams on a bike, let us build it for you.
Thanks to Sommet Explorer, Sommetier and fellow pseudo Flandrien Fred and real Flandrien, Steven, for joining me on this local Sommet Explore. A great day as always.