Cycling trips are no longer just about getting fit while exploring beautiful landscapes: the incentive to ride is all about being able to indulge in local food and wine. The hottest cycling tour operators are tapping into destinations, both classic (Italy and Spain’s Costa Brava) and emerging (Peru’s Sacred Valley and Slovenia) that combine the best of both. As an added incentive, star chefs and former pro cyclists are tagging along for the ride.
All of DuVine’s itineraries include incredible, local culinary experiences, but the Somerville, Massachusetts-based operator’s signature Chef on Wheels trips add star chefs to the mix. For 2017, Boston’s award-winning chef, Jody Adams, pedals along with guests on a five-night seaside tour of the Costa Brava, Spain’s culinary powerhouse. Cycling-obsessed chef Seamus Mullen of NYC’s Tertulia will take on Italy, joining a five-night trip to Sicily and a first-of-its-kind Sea-to-Sea trip in October 2017 that will cross Italy from the Adriatic to the Ligurian during the Italian harvest season.
Pioneering active-luxury travel operator, Butterfield and Robinson, teamed up with cultural culinary magazine Saveur to develop the ultimate bike trips for food lovers. The Basque Country Culinary Journey explores the famed coast between Spain and France. Along the way, cyclists refuel on endless pintxos. Time off the bike is spent visiting the oldest winery in the region, bottling your own cider and partaking in a hands-on cooking workshop in a txoko, a local gastronomical society
During his career as a pro cyclist, João Correia fell in love with the hills of the Tuscan countryside but could never indulge in their culinary pleasures. When he retired he launched InGamba, a cycling company specialising in food-and-wine-focused tours of Chianti. Working closely with top Italian wine producer, Castello di Ama, the company supplies riders with $10,000 Pinarello Dogma bikes and attracts more than mere cycling enthusiasts – they draw obsessives. Correia’s former pro friends often join trips and long days of pedalling are rewarded with authentic meals and top-notch wines.
Former professional cyclist George Hincapie, who competed in the Tour de France 17 times, runs culinary and cycling camps from his Domestique Hotel in Travelers Rest, South Carolina. Surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills, the 13-room French hotel looks plucked out of the French countryside. Guests can sign up for multi-day “Climb with Hincapie” retreats that include morning rides, recovery massages, and trainer-led core-building classes. Hincapie’s friends, like former pros Christian Vande Velde and Craig Lewis (who now imports wine), often make guest appearances. After a morning of serious climbs at Chimney Rock Parks, you’re rewarded with smoothies, a farm-to-table breakfast and massages. The hotel’s chef, Nick Graves, leads cooking classes and is responsible for the evening feast that’s always paired with top bottles.
The terrain of Italy’s Dolomite Mountains is fierce, but even the steepest climbs seem easier to tackle knowing there’s a great meal waiting at the next village. Agustina Lagos Marmol – founder of Dolomite Mountains, a high-end adventure operator specialising in the region – created an eight-day Gourmet, Wine, and Bike in the Südtirol itinerary that gives riders a taste of the area’s Ladin, German and Italian cultures as they pedal village to village. Cyclists cover anywhere from 19 to 37 miles a day and stay in family-run or boutique hotels along the way. Culinary highlights include a visit to the Kellerei Kaltern winery, one of the most important wine producers in Italy, and a guided tasting at the Novacella Abbey.
It’s easy to carb load when you’re riding through Italy’s premier pasta region. The 10-night Cycling Italy’s Culinary Delights Plus! The Farm itinerary from cycling outfitter Experience Plus! loads keeps cyclists fuelled with pasta, parmesan and Parma ham as they cycle from Cremona to Faenza. Beginner-friendly terrain makes this an accessible trip for novice riders. Between stretches of picturesque road, riders break for picnic lunches, cooking lessons and one-on-one meetings with local artisans. Downtime is built in to explore the ceramic capital Faenza and see the architectural jewels of Sabbioneta, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Jen Murphy is a Colorado-based writer whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Outside, Men’s Journal and Departures.