So, you're ready to go abroad. Cross a foreign bucket ride or two off your list. Maybe it's the exotic South American GFNY Brasil or L'Etape Wales in the UK. Or in my case it's closing out the season at the 3-day Haute Route Ventoux in the beautiful Provence region of France.
Heading overseas for a bucket ride is no small task. Making sure you have a wonderful experience starts with planning and preparation. Here are some pro bucket rider tips to help you have a great trip.
2. THE MAIN EVENT: Preregister! Gran fondos (sportives in the UK) sell out quickly. They are BIG events with thousands of riders. Needless to say, they are very popular. Keep in mind these events seed riders in corrals based on ability/finish time - elite racers up front, recreational tourists at the back, pro bucket riders somewhere in the middle. This makes the start nice and safe for everyone.
4. ROOM SERVICE: Plan to stay near the ride venue to keep things stress free. It's nice to get up, roll out the door and only ride 1km to the start village. Luckily the Haute Route Ventoux starts and finishes each day in the same place, the Provencal village of Bédoin, to keep ride logistics simple. I'll sleep in the same bed every night and enjoy fresh croissants with coffee at Boulangerie Olivero café in the morning. With any luck, it will help me climb the Giant of Provence a bit faster - it certainly can't hurt.
Editor's Note -- airlines differ a lot on this. For example, British Airways does not charge extra, it's just a checked bag even if you have to lug it to the oversized counter once checked in. Check the smallprint before you book.
6. LOST IN TRANSLATION: When foreigners come to the US they don't expect people to talk in their home language, don't expect people to speak English when you travel abroad. Learn a few polite phrases like, hello, goodbye, thank you, yes, no, etc. and download Google's Translate app to handle the rest. Luckily for me, since I can't even master one language, Haute Route events are staffed with tri-lingual bike friendly people fluent in English, French and Spanish. So, no need to pantomime "Where do I submit my drug test sample?" That might be a bit embarrassing.
Editor's Note II -- French, Italian and Spanish events normally require a doctor's note to ride. A racing license can be enough in Italy. Confirm and get it before you travel. Trust me.
8. A FAMILY AFFAIR: Bring your family, spouse, partner or best friend and take time to experience your host country - off the bike. Gran fondos abroad take place in exciting adventurous destinations everyone wants to visit. Who doesn't want to see Scotland, Switzerland, Provence, Tuscany, Norway, Australia or Costa Rica? So, after wrapping up your gran fondo take time to see the local sites, experience the food, meet the people and learn their history.
That's what my wife and I look forward to after I finish Mont Ventoux - or it finishes me.
Cheers and most of all enjoy the ride. What's on your bucket list?
John is a former faux pro racer enjoying life as a geriatric cyclist in search of great bucket list rides to keep him in shape and out of trouble - well, at least in shape.
He writes about his Bucket Rides in all their variety and glory for Granfondo.com. See his other pieces here