As cycling is part of the Inverloch community, a culture known for big weekends rides and mid-week catchups, Inverloch 3996 was keen to catch up with Clare Holdsworth, Director of Wide Open Road Cycling Tours. In this interview we explore the joys of the sport and her motivation to take the reins of the local company six years ago to Europe and beyond.
Why did you decide to start up Wide Open Road?
In 2005, I signed up on a Wide Open Road Cycling Tour as a customer on the “Bordeaux to the Alps” holiday – a two-week cycling trip across France from the vineyards of Bordeaux to the French Alps on top of one of cycling’s most famous mountain climbs, Alpe d’Huez. It was the holiday of a lifetime and I loved every minute! So much so, in fact, that I joined the WOR “Crew” for the following four years. The style of the WOR tours resonated with me - a balanced and relaxed approach to a cycle tour that blended stunning cycling with the feeling of being on holiday. The group had great camaraderie and a fun, relaxed vibe. We were immersed in the local culture, staying in campgrounds with Europeans on holiday and eating at local restaurants in small villages. We visited famous regions but also hidden gems tucked away in rural France, Italy and Spain. Being a “foodie”, I enjoyed learning about the local cuisines, wines, terroir and seasons. I shared magical moments at the Tour de France and rode with amazing people, sharing experiences on some of the most epic cycling Cols in Europe.
In between seasons, I learnt French and cycled through Europe with panniers, growing knowledge of European culture, language, cuisine and cycling. I climbed famous mountains and explored quiet, lesser-known regions on my bike.
In 2010, I took over the reigns of WOR and have continued to deliver friendly, small group cycling holidays to Europe each year. We provide a personalized holiday experience that caters to the needs of each individual, continues the balance of holiday, fun and cycling, and welcomes women, couples and singles on our tours.
2. When did your passion for biking begin?
Spin classes at the local gym inspired me to buy my first ever road bike about 15 years ago. I couldn't believe that I somehow ended up spending close to $2,000 for a shiny blue Avanti Kona including accessories. Soon after, I signed up for the 1000km, two-week cycling holiday across France from Bordeaux to Alpe d'Huez--and I was hooked! Now I own the cycling tour company and cycling is a major part of my life.
3. What level do you need to achieve to attend?
You will need to be able to ride around 80km a day for 12 days to 2 weeks, depending on the length of the tour, with a rest day or two in the middle. Most of our holidays involve some climbing, so we suggest you do some training in hilly/mountainous regions to prepare. Our holidays are not group or ‘peleton’ rides. We provide route notes, maps and GPS uploads so you can ride at your own pace and stop when you want. It is not a race and the intention is for people to take their time over the riding and enjoy the places we are passing through. Remember – we always have the support vehicle / sag wagon if you need a lift!
4. What sort of bicycles do you have?
I own three bikes. I own a custom-built titanium road bike with Ksyrium wheels and Ultegra/Dura Ace running gear. The bike is strong, tough and a joy to ride. It is relatively indestructible, perfect for travel. It also has in-built pannier lugs for multi-day journeys, so I can carry a tent, a change of clothes and a credit card! I also own an Avanti road bike that I use for commuting and a very old third-hand mountain bike 'banger' for trips to the shops/pub. I’d like more but have no-where to store them!
5. What tours do your offer?
Our cycling holidays are currently all in Europe – France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Each year, we choose different itineraries but ensure that one of our tours is timed to catch a few stages of the Tour de France! In 2016, we are running a tour from Bordeaux to Barcelona via the Pyrenees. We will watch the Tour de France as it passes over some of the famous climbs in the Pyrenees. Our second tour in 2016 is Classic Northern Italy from Milan to Venice. We ride through the most spectacular cycling regions of Italy – the Italian lakes, Alps and Dolomites. We also run tours in the French Alps, Corsica and Sardinia, the Swiss Alps and Provence.
6. What size are your groups and where do the tours meet?
We take modest sized groups from 6-18 people. Depending on the size of the group, we provide 3-5 crew members and 1-2 vehicles to ensure a consistent high level of service and support.
Our tours all begin in cities that are easily accessible via air or rail. You organize your own travel arrangements to get to the starting point. We book the first nights accommodation at a comfortable and well-located hotel and kick things off with welcome drinks and tour briefing in the evening. After a good nights sleep, the riding begins the next day!
7. Where is Wide Open Road located?
Wide Open Road Cycling Tours is a Melbourne based company, currently delivering cycling holidays in Europe. We have a large number of past and regular WOR customers, with many people from Australia, in particular Melbourne. In the off-season or Australian summer, we coordinate WOR reunions and training rides and enjoy catching up with our friends at local cycling events such as the Audax Alpine Classic and the 7 Peaks Ride Domestique series.
8. What should I bring?
Bring a bicycle, some spending money, a toothbrush and a sense of adventure! We provide you with a suggested packing list when you sign up and also offer quality two-second pop-up tents and deluxe air mattresses to save you from toting them from home
9. Will you have a place to store my backpack during the tour?
Absolutely! We have a large luggage-van that travels with us along the way, carrying all your gear from stop to stop. All you need each day is your bike, water bottles, spare tube and some spending money!
10. Can I bring my own bike?
Yes, in fact we recommend you bring your own bike. However, if you want to hire a bike, we can put you in touch with a range of local companies. We offer tips and suggestions on travelling with your bike and our mechanics will help you put it together at the start of the tour and pack it up at the end
11. Does Wide Open Road do private tours or group events?
Yes, we offer bespoke tours for groups of 8+ people in Australia or in Europe. Contact us if you are interested!
With special tours always in store, cycling with WOR is a great way to enjoy cycling locally and in the world’s great locations. Feel free to connect WOR below and they'll be sure to provide biking enthusiasts everything they need to know to get started on an adventure of a lifetime.