All of our guests joining us on tour are at different stages of their cycling journey and given the timing of our different tours throughout the year, are often at different stages of their year regarding ride preparation. They are also often at different stages in life. These are all contributing factors to how they prepare for a tour and also the mindset that they bring with them when they land in Italy.
There is no right or wrong way to prepare for a tour, however with 8 days of consecutive riding (and let’s be honest, when was the last time we all had the opportunity to do that), we do stress that both mental and physical preparation is important, as there is no doubt that we are all a bit tired by the end of the tour. Most important however, is your mindset.
We tend to see 4 different rider mindsets from guests in the lead up to our tours, which we believe are the key determinant of their experience on tour.
1. I’m an experienced cyclist and I’ll be OK.
They are experienced cyclists and have been riding for quite a few years. They have been on a tour before and know what to expect. They don’t do any additional training or elevation as there is a belief that their experience, conditioning and usual 3 training rides per week will be enough to get them through and they’ll be ok.
2. I’m new to cycling and prepared to do what it takes.
We also have riders who are new to cycling or are getting back into it after a long spell. They are looking for an active holiday and are also keen to broaden their cycling experience. They are prepared to ask questions and take recommendations on how to “get up to speed”, and they want to know what the daily elevations are on tour, and how to weave that into their riding at home. Most importantly, they are prepared to do the work and arrive on tour in the best condition they can be in.
3. I know what to expect and I’ll put in the work.
We have people who ride together and have been riding for a while. These are often friends, couples and small groups of 4-6 riders. They have ridden overseas on tours before and know that riding 8 days back to back is a step up from their usual routine. They also know that there is more to see and do after the bike has been stowed for the day and so they do the work pre tour to ensure that they enjoy all elements of the tour. If it’s too cold to ride in the depths of a Melbourne winter, then it’s indoor sessions with very specific goals to ensure the weather does not affect their preparation.
4. I haven’t done this before and I’m not sure I can do it.
We have guests who love the idea of an Italian cycling tour, but they haven’t been on a cycling tour before and don’t know what to expect. They hesitate to book in to the tour or they book in, and then panic. They are concerned about their ability to do the km’s and/or the elevations or most often, they are worried that they will hold up the group, which then in turn becomes self-talk that if they are holding up the group, then they don’t think they can do it. However, the good thing is that they are open to asking questions to understand what happens on the road on tour and also, how they as riders are supported on the road. With some questions answered and enough ‘positive thinking’, their mind turns to ‘I can do it’.
How to approach the tour, given your mindset
As we have said, there is no right way or wrong way to think and prepare for an Italian cycling holiday as everyone has different circumstances in the lead up to a tour and different mindsets.
One thing we do know is that Italy’s geography does make for often challenging riding and with 8 days of consecutive riding, there is a need to step up the mind and body’s preparation pre tour. There is quite simply no way of getting around the ‘discomfort’ of the training required, and so whatever your mindset, we see one of two options you can take pre tour.
Option A. Believe you can, but don’t do enough work pre tour.
Do your usual 2-3 weekly rides as training.
Start the tour and ride well for the first 3-4 days, and for the last half of the tour, the build up of fatigue and lack of conditioning will see you still ride all of the k’s, but it will most likely hurt. You’ll probably be all round slower on the bike than the first few days (and what you are at home on your regular rides), however this is not by much, possibly 30 minutes. This is managed by us by splitting the group and ride guides, so everyone is supported and still gets to ride the complete tour.
However in this scenario, the biggest thing we notice is that a rider’s head is down looking at the road, not up at the surrounding landscape and little hilltop hamlets. Then post ride, the rider is more subdued during post ride activities and dinner.
In effect, the tour becomes an 8 day training block and the rider finishes the tour with great condition, albeit probably not enjoying the experience to it’s full capacity or to their full potential.
Option B. Believe you can and do the work pre tour.
Develop an 8-16 week training block pre tour (length depends on your starting condition), with rides that mirror the length and elevation that you will experience on tour. Also ride multiple days back to back, so your body is used to the feeling of the cumulative effects of fatigue.
This will have you landing in Italy, raring to go.
In this scenario, riding up hills is no problem, your head is up, taking in everything you pass, you have the energy for chats on the road with other riders, and fully enjoy all the post ride activities.
In essence, the tour is what it should be; a fully enjoyable cycling holiday, where you leave feeling great, physically, mentally and emotionally, and totally immersed in the magic of Italy.
Our motto is: “if you think you can, then you can” and this is definitely the best mindset for joining one of our Italian cycling tours, coupled with the willingness to do the preparation.
Which mindset do you think you have?