by Marcus Leach
As a cyclist you always want to keep pushing yourself, finding the next challenge and testing yourself against it. For that reason sportives are hugely popular. Not only do they give you a chance to take part in an organised ride, but they give you the chance to unleash the competitive beast within, be it against yourself and the clock, or against other riders.
It's no secret that some of the best cycling sportives are in Europe, which, sadly, can put many people off. They simply don't have the time to organise the logistics of such of a trip, or don't want to have to worry about the stresses involved, and as such opt not to go. However, there are companies who will take care of everything for you, making heading to Europe for a sportive, or even a customised week of cycling to suit your needs, simple and very much stress free.
I have always prided myself on never needing a tour company to organise trips for me, cycling or otherwise, thinking that ultimately I am paying more than I need to for something I could just arrange for myself. And yet, having recently been a part of an organised trip for the Tour du Mont Blanc, I now realise the true value of using a well-established and highly professional tour operator such as Velocamp Performance Touring. I am a big believer in you get what you pay for, and when it comes to Velocamp that equates to a high quality trip that is efficiently run, allowing you to focus purely on the cycling.
The Tour du Mont Blanc isn't your usual sportive, in fact it isn't actually a sportive at all, but rather a randonée. Billed as 'the world's toughest one day bike event' it is the most epic of challenges, 330km and 8000m of ascent through three countries and all in a day. The last thing you want to be doing when taking on a challenge of this magnitude is worrying about anything other than the cycling, which is where Ed Maxwell, the man behind Velocamp, comes into his own. From the moment I arrived at Geneva airport everything was taken care of, allowing me to relax, enjoy the experience and focus on getting myself through the ride.
What's more, when you sign up for an organised trip like this you become a part of a team - I was one of eight who made up the Velocamp group - which makes the entire experience that much more enjoyable. Not only do you get to go and take part in an iconic event, but you get to do so with like-minded people who help to make your time away that much better. On a personal level, whilst many of my friends support what I do on the bike none of them are into it as much as I am, and as such I can sometimes feel that I have nobody to really talk to about it. Therefore, to spend three days with a group of guys who are all on the same wave-lentgh as myself was a huge selling point for joining an organised trip.
Having met several cyclists who were there on their own accord it was easy to spot a trend, they were all very worried about the ride and their lack of support. We had no such worries as not only had Ed talked us through exactly what to expect, but we were safe in the knowledge that we would have a support vehicle to rely on throughout the race. This meant that in addition to the official feed stations we would have extra stops, if required, where we could refuel, get extra liquids and most importantly get a change of kit as and when the weather changed. Again the focus was on allowing us to get on with cycling and making the entire experience as enjoyable as possible. Granted you might question how enjoyable such a ride as this really is, but that's another story altogether.
Sadly I didn't quite finish the ride (check out my own personal story here) but nonetheless I can safely say it will be an experience I never forget, and that owes a huge amount to being a part of an organised trip - something I never thought I would say. Not only did I get to take on 'the world's toughest one day bike event', but I got to be a part of a unique experience and make new friends along the way. So, whether you're interested in taking on the Tour du Mont Blanc, or any European sportives for that matter, or simply want to plan your own bespoke cycling trip, I strongly recommend that you get in touch with Velocamp Performance Touring.