Just a few quick snaps form the sign on of La Volta a Catalunya in Calella. The habitual start town of recent years is a bit of a classic down beat Spanish seaside town, but once the cycle race leaves the town it is into some of the most beautiful scenery you could wish to ride through. I squeezed in a few heavenly hours from early doors today covering a good chunk of today’s stage, before heading to the sign on to see a few old mates and spot a few of the big hitters.

The array of talent on show at this year’s La Volta is better than ever, and each year it has been more and more star studded – GC wise. It’s a cracking week of racing. No TT to ruin real racing and a parcours to really test early season legs. It’s a bit of a combination of a few days of Classics style stages, maybe a (power) sprint or two, with a couple of snow bound genuine mountain top finishes and a final day of almost criterium chaos around Barcelona’s Olympic Montjuïc park. It makes it a brilliant entertaining week for spectators and tough for the riders. Recommended!

Even better, come and ride here…just saying.

I will try and bring some more imagery and waffle during the week if I can.

Now the cycling season is really underway it’s nice for me to reflect on a very nice pre-season. In January I was shooting Orica Greenedge at their training camp down here in Spain. I was there for Craft Sportswear initially and then with Etixx Nutrition, thanks to an introduction by my mate Christian Meier.

It was great to see the pro’s in their environment from a photographic and also a cycling point of view, but also from an organisational point of view for Sommet. With my creative eye on the shots, I had a little project mind on the organisation; what they do, how they do and how we can develop and bring anything to what we do at Sommet.

In many respects we do much of what they do. The riders need to think about little but ride, supported by the DS and mechanic in the car and recover – and put up with a photographer loitering. That’s exactly what we do at Sommet (I might even loiter and shoot some shots too!). You turn up and we deal with everything else. Arguably we do it that bit more as you turn off at the airport and we arrange it from there; the Pro’s have to make it to the hotel.

Pre-season is a bit like Christmas too; they get their new kit. So do you on a Sommet trip. So we provide Christmas all year round, whenever you choose to join us.

Evening meals are a chance to debrief and prep for the next day, mechanics prepping, tweaking the bikes again for a fresh start, laundry done when needed and even separate groups for separate needs. That’s the Pro’s and Sommet. While we ride the same routes in a whole group generally, where there is a need we always have it up our sleeve to accommodate a different route if needed for parts of a group. As the Pro’s do, we make the rider – you – the priority.

Where we differ is that our trips aren’t a training camp in the strictest sense. We can tailor trips to be as hard and beneficial as needed, or as relaxing and recharging as needed. We can throw in the 5 sets of 20 minutes climbs at less than 60 rpm over a 250km 5,000m ride like they did if you want. Or we can just ride and have some nice food and coffees en route. Our focus is usually on the balance of that tough rewarding riding, with immersion in a beautiful area. The Pro’s turn up, ride, relax, eat (healthy and nutritious fuel, but not restaurants we want so share with you), have fun with each other and ride again. We do all that, but we make sure the cuisine element and the accommodation element has a certain local high quality and charm. And we seek out good coffee sadly lacking at their hotel – I was lucky to be able to pop to Christian (and roomie, Bling)’s room for a decent Aeropress while I was down there. Experimental bean blends tested over a lazy afternoon…otherwise…capsules…oh dear. The hot chocolate machine was good though.

And Bling brings me to MSR. Milan San Remo is this weekend. The real racing has just about started with Strade Bianche and now the first Monument of the season. I am not really into predictions, especially when it is wide open. But while having those Aeropress’ with my mate, there was a potential winner in the background on his X-Box. Someone who has had a yellow jersey on his back already this year, is in rich form and perhaps it is just his year. Someone who is just a nice bloke too. I don’t do flag waving of nations, I like riders (people in general) for who they are in person. There are plenty of possibles, but for obvious reasons, I wouldn’t mind seeing this Aussie pinch MSR this year. Good luck Bling!

Thanks Orica, Craft and Etixx for the time back in January. It was a joy.

Having spent a bit of time on this website it was perfect timing that a quick weekend break over in Lucca with the good lady coincided with completing it’s launch. It also just so happened to be the same weekend as one of the nicest cycle races on the calendar – the very young Strade Bianche, down the road in Siena. In only in it’s 10th edition, it has already staked a claim to be a genuine classic. Perhaps a future Monument…? It’s certainly one that the big classics riders want to win. Perhaps, none more so than two time winner (at the start) Fabian Cancellara in his last year on the bike as a Pro.

Lucca itself was beautiful and is one of the places we’ve got custom trips being planned for this year. For good reason, it’s a bit like our home trip of Girona. Green, quiet peaceful roads, always undulating and testing. Stunning scenery. The cuisine variety, I reckon, is greater in Girona, but who am I to judge… The good lady was sold straight away and is hankering to live there. Girona, Lucca, tough choices.
For Siena, we took a lazy 90 minute Chianti drive – coffee interrupted in a beautiful village recommended by a friend of a friend who had worked there years ago; well worth it. Even in the grey drizzle and wind (unlike our sunny home!) the drive was beautiful. Off the beaten track, only Italian words in the air, we had escaped completely. Inside Siena’s impressive walls this stunning, incredible city the ambiance was perfect. Just out of tourist season, a little quieter than normal, but with the simmering excitement of the race. Another coffee, focaccia then some massively chocolate laden desert and there was plenty of time (and sugar) to wander over to check out the finish half kilometre. That famous wall of a climb into the city’s even more famous Piazza del Campo.

Strade Bianche_SommetJournal_06

It isn’t a circus like, say, the Tour de France. The small paved streets were still open to wander on the race route itself so we could meander down the hill then crawl back up it at will for a while. The trick, to a degree, is knowing where and how to to get to the city in the first place. After the hill crawling, we picked a spot on said hill, 100 metres or so from the final turn and then waited and soaked up the building crowd and hubbub.
Strade Bianche_SommetJournal_08
If I am not riding my bike, I quite like chasing some races, or popping along the route or to the finish, but it’s so much better if I can immerse myself a little in the place. Chatting with the locals next to you, finding out what is going on in the race coming, slightly confused if you don’t have the lingo perfectly tuned in. Taking photos for people, waving to folk watching from their apartment windows and generally having a good old time. We spotted the Grubers and had a quiet word with them before they got into race-photography mode for the finish. It’s like a quiet street party or reunion which happens to have a bike race.
Strade Bianche_SommetJournal_10
Then it arrived. Etixx and Brambilla leading the way. A big Swiss Trek chasing down. Etixx and Štybar on his wheel. I hoped Brambilla would hold on – we weren’t aware of all the efforts he had put in. The ignorance was bliss. Would Fabs have a fairy tale last Strade Bianche and make it 3 titles. Or would Stybie retain the crown.
Strade Bianche_SommetJournal_17
No idea at the time. You rarely do know on the street. After about a third of the peloton had fought up the wall our new Italian mates alongside us got news of the result. Chapeau Spartacus. A sign for the rest of the Classics season. Look out everyone else, the kid plans on going out in style. And if there was a place to make that statement it is in Italy. They do style quite well.
(And chocolate fancies and often, but don’t be fooled, not always, coffee!).
Words & images by our Ian (themusette.cc)

If proof was needed that we support and are supported by the areas where we take our journeys then this is a good start. We are proud to announce that at the start of this year La Fabrica Coffee Works launched their very own cycle race team. La Fabrica Race Team.

La Fabrica is part of our Girona trip as it will fuel us with caffeine and goodies each day. It is run by Christian Meier, of Orica Greenedge, and his wife Amber and I have been drinking coffee their since the very first day having been their photographer from the start. That relationship has developed and I now call Christian and Amber friends and I have been invited to extend the photographic connection to be the photographer for the Race Team and we have been able to become co-sponsors of the team – along with some very prestigious local and international brands.

Not only is it pretty cool to see our name alongside other fancy names and not only is it great to be helping out a local bunch of really talented young riders, but we hope it will garner some interesting trip options. We have our standard Girona trips – which are far from standard, they are special in their own right. But then we are hoping to add in some Girona options to ride with the guys on the team on a couple of days of a long weekend Escape. These guys are good riders, I mean, really quite strong riders. So this would be a trip to push yourselves hard. And it will prove that Girona has more than enough hurt potential in her locker for anyone out there who thinks they need massive mountain ranges for epic challenges. Anyway, one for the back burner, let us know if you fancy some hurt though.

That said, these guys – along with Christian – are super nice kids. They just love riding bikes. So while they might be able to hurt us mere mortals, they get the ethos of riding with mates. It’s high time I got back an hour up the Autopista and rode with them and took a few shots for them and to share here. Always a pleasure.

Stay tuned for regular updates of the Team and also for opportunities for those extras on a Girona trip in 2016.