Category Archives: Competitions

Skedaddle Twaddle about competitions

From St Malo to Nice – France en Velo

A few years ago, two of our wonderful guides, Hannah Reynolds and John Walsh,  helped create a journey through France, with one goal in mind: to give roadies the best possible experience! Today this is now our epic 1000-mile cycling holiday from St Malo to Nice in France, a route incredibly popular with many Skedaddlers. If that wasn’t enough, they’ve also created a beautiful guide to read more about the route, known simply as France en Velo. Here, Hannah gives us a little taste of the 1,000 mile-experience, a fantastic chance to hear from the author and pioneering guide herself…

The journey in a nutshell
Starting in the fortified town of St Malo, on the rocky coastline of Brittany, and finishing in Nice by the sparkling blue of the Cote d’Azur, this iconic journey of nearly 1000 miles takes you through France from the Channel to the Med. The longest journey starts with a single step, and an entire country can be covered just one pedal stroke at a time. It doesn’t matter if it takes you ten days, two or three weeks. Every time I arrive in Nice having guided a group all the way from St Malo, there is a sense of euphoria and satisfaction that we have covered such a long distance. Taking time to re-wind the route in my mind and trace a finger along the map, it is amazing to think back to the changes in landscape, the food we have eaten and wine we have drunk.

france-en-velo-1

The best way is by bike
Travelling by bike is a perfect way to fully understand a country and what I love about St Malo to Nice is that your bike provides the perfect speed of transport. It allows you to cover significant distance each day, but at a pace that allows you to fully absorb the changes in the sights, smells and sounds around you.

You learn the terrain and geography through your legs and your senses in a way you can’t by train or car. This is most apparent on the day we climb up to the summit of the Col du Mas. The morning starts as we leave Mende, the highest overnight stop of the trip and begin following the course of the Lot River to its source. Here the air is cool as we climb very gently to just over 1000m. Around us there are pine forests and alpine style cattle grazing, even a ski station, which gets occasional winter use.

After coffee we descend, then climb again from Villefort, this time a much smaller col. The Col du Mas de l’Ayre is shaded by dense chestnut woods with only occasional breaks in the trees. Beginning the descent from the top of the Col du Mas de l’Ayre you can occasionally glimpse Mont Ventoux and Provence laid out beneath you.

As you descend the cool mountain air does battle with the warm air of the Ardeche until suddenly as you near the bottom the wafts of warm air becomes waves and it feels that someone has turned the heating on. That is the moment you know you have arrived in the south. Not all changes in terrain and temperature are as dramatic. Sometimes the changes are subtle and it is only in looking back at the end of the day that you realise how gradually the landscape has shifted.

Food, glorious food!
One good indicator of the changing terrain is the food. When on the St Malo to Nice route you can gauge where you are in the ride based on the food we eat at picnic stops. On the first day I always try to find a Far Breton, a custardy cake with large sticky prunes in it that you can only find in Brittany. In Fougeres on the second day we will look out for the creamy patisserie called a Paris-Brest-Paris after the 600km cycle race.

As we head further south we pass through areas famed for their meat, for their cheese and of course in the Rhone valley for their wines. The crops of the fields and vineyards that have been our scenery for the day are reflected back to us on our plates each evening. If you pick the Menu du Jour each day you can trace your journey as clearly in the meals you have eaten as the miles you have ridden.

france-en-velo-3

Why France?
France is the spiritual home of cycling. From the invention of pneumatic tyres to the first and greatest professional race in the world, Le Tour de France, cycling is deeply imbedded in French culture. Cyclists are treated with huge respect.

Your bicycle and your journey will open up many conversations, often in surprising quarters, the surly bar tender can suddenly erupt into smiles and questions once you reveal you have cycled to his bar all the way from St Malo! Your bike will be treated as an honored guest. In Chateauneuf-du-Pape we have even been invited to store our bikes in a wine cellar amongst the finest vintages!

Criss-crossing with routes of many pro races, including Le Tour de France, you are literally riding in the wheel tracks of the pros. In many places the graffiti and names of riders are still clear on the tarmac. If you wish (and weather conditions permit) you can ride Le Geant de Provence, Mont Ventoux, from our overnight stop in Salut. A mountain that is iconic in its own right and has been the site of many legendry battles, such as Froome’s triumphant finish on the summit in the 2013 Tour de France.

Mont Ventoux is also a place of pilgrimage for British bike riders as it is here that the legendry Tom Simpson died. Simpson was World Champion in 1965 and hugely popular with the public. He became British Sports Personality of the Year, a feat yet to be repeated by a bike rider.  This year is the 50th anniversary of his death, his memorial part way up the ascent, is always covered with cycling caps, water bottles and other memorabilia as cyclists pay their respects. Mont Ventoux is also dramatic when admired from a distance, may be with a Pastis or Rose in hand as you watch the locals play boules on the terrace that overlooks the mountain.

And then do it all over again
Some people ask us as guides if we still enjoy doing a route that we have ridden many times before. With St-Malo to Nice the answer is a resounding yes! While some parts become familiar and looked forward to, the obligatory evening swim under Pont d’arc in the Ardeche for example, there are new experiences and insights every time. For us, as guides, it is also fun to keep back some of the surprises of the days ride so that we can see the excitement and enthusiasm from the group as they discover it for themselves. With so much variety it is a fresh experience every time.

Conquer St Malo to Nice for yourself…
Our iconic journey through France can be cycled in a number of ways to give you the best possible road cycling experience in France. Each tour comes complete with our expert guides to help you along the way, as well as our world famous picnics too! Learn more about our guided cycling holiday ‘St-Malo to Nice’ by clicking here.

Get a copy of France en Velo
The Ultimate Cycle Journey from Channel to Med – St-Malo to Nice by Hannah Reynolds and John Walsh is available from www.franceenvelo.cc. To get your copy for a special price of £13.59, saving 20% off the RRP, enter code SKED at the checkout. NB there is free postage and packaging to UK destinations.

Or…

You can WIN a copy of France en Velo signed by both authors! Go to our Facebook page for more details.

en-velo-france

Guide Profile: Tiago Afonso

Let us introduce you to Tiago Afonso!

Tiago is part of our team in Portugal and is a true cycling enthusiast. He has guided lots of our cycling holidays in Portugal over the past year and was always keen to share his experience with everyone via his Instagram! We were curious to find out a little more about Tiago too and managed to prise him away from his favourite Portuguese trails to ask him a couple of ‘cycling-related’ questions…

tiago

Full Name: Tiago Miguel Vaz Afonso

  1. What do you like most about Saddle Skedaddle?
    What I like most about Skedaddle is the spirit and the good vibes in the tours. It’s fantastic how we can combine professionalism with fun.
  1. Give your best piece pre-trip of advice for customers
    The best advice I can give customers is that they research a little about the country they are going to visit, always check the condition of the bike in a way that avoids problems.
    Simplifying luggage is very helpful, avoiding unnecessary cargo. Because in Tours we always have everything that customers need (parts, tools, etc.).
  1. Which trip are you most excited about in our holiday range?
    The tour that fascinates me most is Portugal – Mountains of the Douro – Guided Road Cycling Holiday. This is an amazing tour! The landscapes are fantastic, the roads are calm and without traffic, and for those who appreciate wines, it is the best part of Portugal to drink a good wine!
  1. What would your chosen superpower be?
    The north of Portugal.
  1. What’s your favourite power snack and why?
    My favourite power snacks are the “berta bars”, Berta’s homemade energy bars (the person responsible for catering in Tours in Portugal), are delicious and contain everything we need with natural ingredients and without sugar. 🙂

Guide-tiago-afonso-1

Tiago is a winner of our October guide competition. He shared some great photos via Instagram while guiding our road cycling holiday, Portugal Atlantic Escape and also our our mountain biking trip Portugal Atlantic Trails. Take a look at his Instagram feed here to get some more Portuguese cycling inspiration!

Customer Competition 2016: We Have A WINNER!

You voted fiercely and we are now happy to announce our Annual Customer Competition winner for 2016:

Congratulations, Denise D’Abadie!
Her November entry was a huge success and her prize sees her claiming an additional £1000 worth of Skedaddle vouchers. YAY! Denise is a real Skedaddle regular so we are delighted she has won.

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 17.45.00

Her destination: Chile and Argentina
We love seeing more and more Skedaddlers enjoying the impressive cycling sights of South America! Denise loved our holiday in Chile and Argentina so much that she wrote a series of blogs, which give an incredible insight into our adventure there. This trip took her through landscapes of snow-capped volcanoes, deep valleys, lakes and curious forests of monkey puzzle trees set against the awesome backdrop of the Andes. Chile is a special place for us, this is where the idea of Saddle Skedaddle was born, so we’re super pleased Denise felt suitably inspired.

chile3

What now?
You can look at her full competition entry or learn more about the ‘Chile and Argentina’ holiday right here. We have a guaranteed departure date in November 2017 and places are filling in fast! Also, keep your eyes peeled and your entries ready for our competition re-launch in 2017.