Topbike Tours - Tour de France - Paris 2013 03 Jul 2014

They can't cook pasta and haven't a clue about making wine - Le Tour starts this Saturday

They can’t cook pasta, and haven’t a clue about making wine, but they have got the biggest bike race!

2 out of 3 of those points about France are approved by Italy.

Le Tour starts this Saturday, in the UK and here’s a preview I wrote for Bicycling Australia’s Tour de France issue, which is out now (of course!). You have to buy the magazine to view their great pictures (and other stories, I don’t have them here, sorry.

Speaking ‘of Corse’, or ‘Of Corsica’, our Tour of Corsica trip for next year is half full already, so if you’re interested, please let me know asap. Of note with this tour this year, more than half the riders ‘rode out/rode in’ everyday. That means no time in the car. Not many tours you can do that on.

Tour de France 101

It’s been three years since Australia’s first Tour de France triumph, and while it seems like an age, it’s nothing compared to the preceding ninety-seven tours that we didn’t win. Since 2011 we’ve endured two years of dominance from the Old Dart. As painful as it might be, it’s not the dominance of Team Sky that has been the problem. I don’t mind them winning, but it’s the lack of art, or to be more appropriate, the complete absence of ‘je ne sais quoi’ in their wins. Keep it up and they’ll equal Armstrong ‘seven years of nothing’ for boredom. For us, even if Cadel didn’t win in 2011, we all –all cycling fans that is, not just the Skip Fans- would agree that it was the best and most interesting tour in modern times. Cadel only had one day in yellow, the one that counts. For the previous three weeks the jersey had bounced around the teams like a dropped bidon in the speeding peloton, allowing a select few their day in the sun.

The 2011 tour brought fascinating racing, with a script that couldn’t be written. Remember the pre-tour race favorite Contador, on the backfoot from the start, losing three minutes on stage one after being caught behind a fall? And the comedy of the show, as two Spanish non-team mates tried gamely to help in his re-gaining of the peloton that day? The joke being that they were from Euskaltel, a team that tends to choke on Team Time Trial days, viewing them more as active restdays than race days. Andreas Klöden, Bradley Wiggins, Alexandre Vinokourov, Janez Brajkovič, Chris Horner and Jurgen Van Den Broeck all ‘exited stage left’ early, injured. While Robert Gesink, Samuel Sánchez and Levi Leipheimer all lost considerable amounts of time, condition, and bruised egos, due to falls.

Controversy reigned when Nicki Sørensen was struck by a photo motorbike, and the now famous (mainly due to the incident) Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha being injured after an ‘incident’ with a television car. Fabian Cancellara failed in his bid to be Union Leader that day, and neutralize the day’s racing, siting the course as ‘dangerous’. So while he self-righteously tried to slow the peloton and negotiate with the Commissaires, upfront a frenchman who should never be allowed an inch, dug deep. Thomas Voeckler chewed on his bar tape, and with the help of his ‘breakies’ levered himself into yellow. For the second time in his career he gave the French hope for the next ten or so days.

This will, without doubt, be a long awaited and memorable day in the 100th edition of the Tour. For the first time, there will be a double helping of nerves for the riders who will be dreading the double climb of the Alpe d'Huez, and rightly so. With its notorious twenty-one hairpin bends, it is also one of the most telegenic climbs in France. Note to Fabian: If you are signing up for a sport that regularly runs its murderous three week parcourse up and down high Pyrenean and Alps passes, where wheel to wheel, handle bar to handle bar, cheek by jowl almost, you and your cohorts hit speeds of 80-90+ KMH, wearing nothing more for protection than a thin layer of lycra (that barely protects you against sunburn) and the softest roadside padding being kilometers of steel Armco, think carefully about what you call dangerous.
It’s impossible to recreate the same script as 2011, but at least this year, with the removal of the mid-tour individual time trial, where the race was secured the last two years, we’ve got a sporting chance

To the race


Ivan Basso - Giro D'Italia 2012 09 May 2014

Of the Giro - Starts Today in Belfast

I count 14 Aussies on the starting list this morning, unfortunately Richie Porte is not one of them. However, 8 weeks ago, when I wrote the following article for Bicycling Australia magazine he was. So please forgive me for not being able to predict that.

Cadel Versus Richie.
That’s a lovely way to start an article about a race in Europe, and it’s also the way we (as aussies) would love to see the 2014 Giro pan out. While it’s possible it may end up this way, I doubt the Italian grand tour planners had our boys in their grand plan, when designing the route. While RCS Sport (the Giro owners, and also the owners of ‘La Gazzetta dello Sport’ - Italy’s pink daily sporting rag) trumpet this race as a tribute to the late Marco Pantani, as it’s ten years now since his passing, it looks remarkably like it was designed for the Messina Shark - Vincenzo Nibali to repeat his 2013 victory. In fact the penultimate two days, where Vincenzo sealed his win, almost mimic those of last year’s race. All we need do is add a couple of metres of snow, and it’ll be complete.

Let’s start by having a look at this year’s edition week by week.


Polignano 07 May 2014

Off to Corsica - riding, eating and drinking.

We’re off to Corsica tomorrow, not chasing a race, just riding, eating and drinking. Consequently this story is all about olive oil, and wine, and the purchasing of such items.

As we are based in the heartland of wine and olive oil production, we’ve always tried to buy such items in bulk, or ‘sfuso’, refilling our own recycled water bottles. It hasn’t always been as easy as it sounds, as inevitably we pass the ‘sfuso’ sale places while on our bikes, and consistently fail to return, with bottles ready to go. Years ago, when I lived in Lenola, a small town south of Rome, I rented an apartment, that was supposed to be ‘self contained’. On arrival I found it was equipped with three coat hangers, and not much else. When I reported to the owners that I needed something to cook with, the Nonna immediately disappeared into a hidden cave, promptly returning brandishing a large bottle of olive oil. Obviously this was the primary requisite, before pots, pans, dishes, cutlery etc. For the next three months I was gifted olive oil and red wine from friends in the local cycling fraternity, as long as I returned the original glass vessel, clean. It was convenient, simple and humbled me, as none of the group lived a high life, but they all placed great emphasis on ensuring their Australian guest wanted for nothing.



About to depart - Tour of Sicily 19 Apr 2014

Ferry to Catania is my office

Topbike’s 2014 season is underway, we pick up our first group, for a Tour of Sicily, tomorrow in Catania.

I spent yesterday driving down the peninsula, stopping at the odd Autogrill, and making sure I was off the Autostrada, in a bar in a small town to catch the last 50k of Paris-Roubaix. Which was a terrific race and well worth it. I also felt a bit like a double Harry Belafonte, as I had to leave two little girls in Marone town.

As I write this I am on the ferry, Napoli to Catania. It’s a trip we’ve done a few times. The first time we (MBW - My Beautiful Wife and I) did it was about ten years ago. I wanted to be up on deck as we went through the Messina Straits. However, when I awoke it was to the thundering of the bow-thrusters, and thinking we were already in port, I knew I had missed it. I raced up onto the bow to make the most of the ‘port action’ and once up there, all I could see was clear water and one ship, very close. We were stationery while the other ship was manoeuvring to throw us a tow line. We had broken down. I watched as they attached one tow line, snapped it immediately, and set about hooking up another. It was almost comical. In fact the whole day descended into comical farce, as we eventually learned we were being towed back into Napoli, and had to do the complete journey again the following night. Without the cabin we had paid for the previous night. It was not much fun, as territorial rights over the bar lounges were rife. Neither of us dared go to the bathroom ‘til after 1 am.

Another time, MBW raced a world cup in Madrid on the Sunday prior to picking up a Giro group in Palermo on the Thursday evening. Monday we departed Madrid early, changing drivers every two hours, we drove 1,000k to Sommieres, where we changed cars, picking up a nine seater van. The next morning we drove to Bourg d’Oisans, where I fitted the towbar and picked up our trailer, from Le Shed Olle. We drove over the alps into Italy for that evening. Wednesday morning we were there to meet the 7.30 flight at Milano Malpensa, but it was delayed 2 hours. The rest of the day was spent belting down the peninsula at over 130kmh, to make the Napoli ferry. Remembering to drop off the trailer south of Rome, as it was not needed in Sicily. Overnight ferry to Catania was unremarkable, this time. However, the next morning we were halfway across the island to Palermo, when I remembered I’d left my passport as security for the room key on the ferry. Back we go.

We eventually finished our 3,200k odyssey that afternoon at our hotel in Palermo. And as I finally pulled into a car park on the street, I ripped the bumper off an adjacent car.

PS: We still have places for the Tour de France....c'mon, you know you want to.

Read more

Emma Colson - MTB Nationals Bright 2014 - Image Anthony Jones 16 Mar 2014

Confessions of a wife-beater. MTB Nationals 2014

I'm a wife beater. I do it whenever I get the chance. I even enjoy it. Sometimes the build up is worse than the beating. The tension can be sickly for days. Last week was like this. The air was thick leading to Friday. We both knew it was on. Wednesday I broke the omerta. I asked my wife how she felt in the lead up. What were her plans. I took some of her advice, and changed my strategy. It didn't help.

Friday eventually arrived and by 9.30am MBW (my beautiful wife) was on the course. Mountain Bike Nationals had started at Bright. Betty and I were in the feedzone, despite my intentions to beat her, we still screamed out our support. She took a podium place, 3rd. At 2.30pm the roles were reversed. I had a good race, but nine bastards had better ones. Still a top ten, though. Not as good a result as MBW's, but my lap times were better. Victory lap in the bedroom to me!

Read the Full Article

Topbike Giro Fiat, outside The Corner Store, Station St, Forrest 23 Feb 2014

Topbike Ride Weekend - 'Pan y Agua* in the Otways' - March 22 & 23

'Pan y Agua* in the Otways' - March 22 & 23 2014

This year we will be offering two rides on the Saturday. The usual 140k Turtons Tk, OR or a 70k option, Forrest-Beech Forest-Forrest.

Saturday March 22, Both rides will START from 'The Corner Store' in Station St, Lower Forrest (200m east of the Brewery, see photo above) and finish at the Brewery.
The Corner Store will be open for coffee from 0730h.

Saturday evening dinner will be at the Forrest Brewery drinks from 6pm (or earlier, if you wish), dinner at 7pm, please RSVP to me.


Alpentour Trophy - 250m to go 19 Jan 2014

A Snowy Ride Report

A Snowy Ride Report - While Parts of Australia Sweltered in a Heatwave Last Week

Here's a story I wrote back in June, regarding an MTB race we went to in Austria, straight after the 2013 Giro. On this day of 44' here in Melbourne, I thought it appropriate to share it. But first, here's a quick word from our sponsor:

Topbike Pink Fiat

Thinking about going to the TdF in 2014?
''Tour de France 101' coming up soon, and we do have some other great tours on offer also, our Tour of Corsica, May 6-16, will be a cracker.

Keep and eye out for the Topbike Pink Fiat in Adelaide this week too.

Sunday June 2, 2013
The Alpentour Trophy, 4 day MTB stage race in Schladming, Austria

I don’t withdraw from races very often, and with the few people I have been involved with in a coaching or mentoring capacity, I have always made the point that DNF’ing is the most heinous crime of all. You never know what will happen on the last lap, or final kilometre of any race, so pushing through to the end is imperative. We can all remember Stephen Bradbury.


Annabelle Drew - turning over the legs with Topbike during the Worlds in Tuscany 06 Dec 2013

2014 Tour de France and a Little Strava Story

2014 Tour de France and a Little Strava Story.

Thinking about going to the TdF in 2014? Good idea, it should be a ripper, and quiet, as apparently everyone (on earth) went to the 100th edition. 'Tour de France 101' coming up soon, and remember, it’s better than Christmas as it only takes 49 weeks to come around again.

PS We have some other great tours on offer also, our Tour of Corsica, May 6-16, will be a cracker.


For the uninformed or uninitiated, Strava is a website for personal/public storage of your athletic records. There are kings (KOMs) and queens (QOMs) of mountains all over the globe, ‘discovered’ by Strava users, with as little elevation change as one metre. And not only climbs, flat sections are measured as well, along with circuits and descents. There is almost something for everyone on Strava. Used by pro cyclists and amateurs alike, it is a tool that allows you a win, and bragging rights, while never having to pin a number on, and go head to head, elbow to elbow, with another human being.


Forrest Bath Girls 09 Nov 2013

Pan y Agua Ride Weekend Forrest, Nov 16 & 17, 2013

Hello everyone, a quick reminder about our ride weekend, on NEXT weekend.

Please remember to RSVP if joining us for dinner at the Brewery on Saturday.

In other news our Tour de France routes are finished, contact me for an itinerary, or check the website (our Giro tour is now full for 2014). Plenty of other tours available as well as Le Tour, Corsica & the Dauphine are rippers!

Topbike Ride Weekend, 'Pan y Agua* in the Otways'

On the weekend of Nov 16 & 17 we are planning to ride two terrific loops in the Otways, starting and finishing in Forrest.

Read on for More Details about Pan y Agua Rides

Topbike Riders - Giro Tour 18 Oct 2013

'Giro route announced, TdF route coming next week' or 'Atherton is my Office'

The 2014 Giro route was announced last week and our program is now set.

GIRO TRIESTE: May 23 - June 2, 2014

We follow the final 10 days of this grand tour as it twists its way around the top of Italy, through Piedmonte, Lombardia and the Dolomites, before arriving in Trieste for the final stage.

Cadel has nominated that this is his goal for the year, and if he can keep ahead of the local's hometown advantage (ie getting pushed up the hills by the italian tifosi) he will have a good chance.

We’ll ride most mornings, encompassing parts of the day's stage, and generally get right in amongst it. We have an excellent selection of Hotels and Agriturismi booked, featuring two on stage routes, and one in a stage start town. We also feature a visit to Zoncolan, a rest day ride loop, over the passes of Mortirolo and Gavia, not to mention the passes of Stelvio, Alpe Noveis, Bielmonte, Campione and Montegrappa.

Read on for More Details about TDF, 2014 Tours, Pan y Agua Rides and Cantare Report

UCI World Cycling Championships in Florence with Topbike Tours 02 Sep 2013

La Vuelta España, World Champs, Bling Matthews, Dave Sanders & Italian Bread Report

La Vuelta a España (the Tour of Spain) started last weekend and Australia’s Michael Matthews (from Orica-Greenedge) won stage 5, in a sprint finish. It’s a lot of firsts for him, as it comes as his first Grand Tour win, in the first week, of his first Grand Tour. Not bad. He won the U/23 road race at the World Champs in Geelong in 2010. His twitter handle is @blingmatthews, if you’d like to follow his exploits. He loves wearing plenty of bling, and is not underly fond of himself. To quote Dave Sanders, VIS development coach, ‘the problem with Bling is that he is ALMOST as good, as he thinks he is’.

Read More - Including The Cuisine Report & Worlds 2013

Topbike Tours - Classic Italian Climbs Italy 21 Aug 2013

Its Mid-Summer In Europe

This year, just after the Tour de France finished, we ran an Italian climbs tour in the Dolomites (Mortirolo, Gavia, Zoncolan, et al). No ride days were cancelled due to bad weather, and none re-routed elsewhere. In fact it was hot, damn HOT (see above photo, taken on the Sella Ronda).

So what is my point? My point is that this year's Giro weather was un-seasonable. Just because SBS happened upon a few wet & snowy stages of this year's Giro, doesn't mean that the weather is like that every year. We've been running trips to the Giro for over ten years, and this year was the first time we have even heard of a stage being cancelled. Worst weather in 50 years in fact. SO, you can all come back to next year's Giro and remain unconcerned, unpreoccupied and unworried about inclement weather (insert smiley face here).


Here's our program for 2014, featuring some new rides (TdF stages in Corsica & the Criterium du Dauphine) and the usual ol' favorites.

Read More - Including The Cuisine Report and Rides for 2014

Peyresourde TDF 2013 17 Jul 2013

Are you the Tour De France? Report

A couple of days ago in the Pyrenees, I was sitting in my car, on the phone, when a man approached me, and asked a question, in formal French, so not at all impolite. ‘Are you the Tour de France?’. I couldn’t reply. I probably had a look on my face akin to a guppy at feeding time, wide-eyed, mouth open.

Many times, when leaving Australia and headed to the Giro, Tour or Vuelta, I have been asked if I am racing. It’s never from a cyclist of course, but a genuine question nonetheless, from someone who knows little about cycling. It’s quaint, and of course I respond in the negative. But this question was different, and it was from a Frenchman.

Am I the Tour de France?
Well, really, do I look like the Tour de France?

Unfortunately I was on the phone to a bank in Australia, reporting the theft of credit cards, as MBW had been pick-pocketed a few minutes before, in our beloved Italy. I had been on hold for an excruciating amount of time, and shortly after our quiz master popped the question, I was put through to A REAL PERSON, and could only respond by holding up my hand.

It was a golden moment lost. Just imagine if I had have answered in the affirmative? And if the quiz master had nodded sagely, turned, and walked away, accepting that I WAS the Tour de France? How good would that have been? Pure gold.

Now, the real Tour de France report.

I feel sorry for Christopher Froome. After the likes of, not just Lance Armstrong, but a string of cheats. Pantani, Ricco, Contador, Scarponi, Basso, Millar, Vinokourov, Mayo, Ulrich et al. No one, but no one, can rate his performances credibly, including myself. And if it is true that in the 2010 Giro he was caught hanging onto the back of motorbike to get up a hill, even more so. That is a serious spike in performance in a very short time.

Read More - Including The Cuisine Report

Port de Pailheres in the Pyrenees, TDF Stage 8, by Gerard Hogan on tour 08 Jul 2013

It's one week in, already? - Golden Days in My Office

Golden days in my office.

Skippy report:

I started saying it about 4 years ago, I think. Maybe after Cadel won his world title. These are golden days for Australian cycling. There are countries steeped with cycling history that would be envious of Australia’s recent successes. Even more so about our eleven starters in this year’s Tour, and what they have achieved in the first week. One second slower, in total, for stage’s 3 & 4 could have made it such a non event, but it all went OGE’s and Simon Gerrans’ way. It is nothing short of terrific.

I wrote a pre-tour story for Bicycling Australia, and while writing it, I pondered on another SKY 1-2 repeat in 2013. Yesterday I don't think I saw Froomie, or his Roomie (OUR Ritchie Porte) take a breath, as they belted out a pace that destroyed Cadel's 2013 chances. (Bastards)

Black Cavendish report:

I just love the sprinters, and how they come out of nowhere, reinventing themselves for the finale. I love the tussles, and most of all I love seeing Cavendish win. 24 TdF wins, and still only 28. At the end of week one we have Black Cav, the Gorilla (Greipel), Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan all with wins.

French media report:

This week, on the back page of ‘L’Equipe’ (the daily sporting rag), a cartoonist had substituted all the stars on the Australian flag with the silhouette of TT cyclists. EXCEPT they had presented the landscape view, in portrait, which had it looking quite weird. While it was not quite akin to burning a flag, if they had done it to the stars & stripes, I expect it could have started another war.

In another Equipe, the humorist listed the top ten doping excuses. I’ll try and have them translated for the next mailout.

'The Sag Wagon' Podcast

Don't forget, my gorgeous former co-host, Annabella Fashionista, for six years on communtiy television has turned 'Pro', and is now steering the caboose on SBS's podcast 'The Sag Wagon'. Intuitive, erudite and incisive analysis of all the things mainstream TdF reports neglect, guaranteed. You can find a link here: SBS - The Sag Wagon

Photos above & below: Port de Pailheres in the Pyrenees, stage 8, by Gerard Hogan on tour.

Read More - Including The Cuisine Report

Topbike TDF Climbs - Col de la Croix de Fer 01 Jul 2013's started? Already?

And it's two days in and we've had as many riders in the yellow jersey this year, as there was in the whole of the 2012 Tour. Now that makes this tour more interesting, already.

The big news for me is that Boy Van Poppel from Holland is in 123rd place, 12+ minutes down, and Lars Boom is in 166th place, at 17+ minutes. No relevance, I just like their names. AND there are five Australians tied in 2nd place, at only 1 second off the lead. (There's also another 89 others tied there too, but who's counting...?)

Also, my gorgeous former co-host, Annabella Fashionista, for six years on communtiy television has sold out, and is now steering the caboose on SBS's podcast 'The Sag Wagon'. Intuitive, erudite and incisive analysis of all the things mainstream TdF reports neglect, guaranteed. You can find a link here
(And if you can work out how to get it on your android, please let me know, 'cause I can't)

And the Bus? Probably achieved more recognition for Australia around the world, than the whole 'where the bloody hell are you' promotion.

Photo above:Topbike riders commence the descent from Col de la Croix de Fer (the hill of the iron cross) (During this years: Preview the Climbs of the TDF)
Below: Madeleine mile-post, one to put behind you.

Read More - Including The Cuisine Report

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An Australian company, Topbike has a fully equipped European base and its own fleet of high quality hire bikes. We specialise in quality cycling tours with small groups and are famous for looking after our clients.

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