Capra Velo Classic: Vintage Cycling Tour
Start: Biarritz End: Biarritz
5 DAYS/6 NIGHTS – FULLY SUPPORTED 1600€ Deposit of 450€ LIMITED SPACE
7 DAYS/8 NIGHTS – FULLY SUPPORTED 2200€ Deposit of 450€ LIMITED SPACE
(Custom Dates 2019, July 2020, September 2020 and Custom Dates 2020 with a minimum of 2 riders)
tell me more!
Think of it as Eroica but for a whole week! No more leaving your vintage bike at home while you enjoy a cycling vacation in France on a lackluster rental! This cycling tour is all about vintage, retro and classic bicycles and seeing them roll along the same French roads that have witnessed countless eras of Tour de France history. This tour will traverse the Pyrénées-Atlantiques from the imperial city of Biarritz to the cycling capital of Pau. We’ll cycle through the elegant land of the Béarn, with a dynamic view of the Pyrenees. Then we spend two epic days in the mountains and descend through the lush green Basque Country. It will be an outstanding week of cycling on our vintage steeds, with gumption and determination, the way they were meant to be ridden. As tourists-routiers, literally meaning tourists of the road, we will pedal not for the win but for our own pride. We ride for our love of a good bike and a great road. This is not your average Tour de France cycling holiday!
After your arrival, spend the first night in a hotel near the ocean, sharing a nice dinner and good conversation with your new cycling friends. Day one is spent warming up our legs and putting our bikes through their gears. We’ll explore the Pays Basque, following some portions of the 2018 Tour de France TT near Espelette, the home of the famous Basque pepper. After an unhurried but rolling 50km with a picnic lunch stop, we’ll finish back at the shop, giving us a chance to make any last minute adjustments or preparations. There will be time to catch the sunset and enjoy a nice dinner near our hotel. Day two is a big one as we re-trace the route of the 1931 Tour de France from Bayonne to Pau. We’ll eat a well-deserved dinner and share stories from our long but enjoyable ride.
On the third day of our tour, we’ll leave the Pyrenees behind for a jaunt into the beautiful Béarn region. This picturesque “old France” is a bit flatter but we’ll make a wide loop to get there, totaling 101km and 900m of climbing. We’ll check into our lovely B&B in the Béarn near the turquoise Gave d'Oloron river, where we’ll stay for two nights! Dinner will be served family style at the B&B or at a local farm-to-table restaurant in the village. The fourth day of our tour gives you the option of taking a rest day or a bonus ride to one of France’s most beautiful villages, La Bastide Clairence. This ride through the luscious green landscape of the Béarn-Basque borderlands will add 73km and 975m ascent to your palmarès. We’ll get to sleep late and linger over breakfast because our next day’s ride will be a “short” 69 kilometres as we retrace the 1939 Tour de France time-trial stage from Salies-de-Béarn to Pau.
Finally, we’ll ride a part of the historic 100th anniversary Tour de France. The 16th stage from Pau to Bayonne, was an epic effort across the beautifully dramatic Pyrenees. At 198 kilometers with over 4,000m of climbing, we’ll ride this over two days. From Pau, we ride through the Barétous valley before ascending the Col du Soudet. Not up for the challenge? Catch a lift in the broom wagon. We’ll award a special prize for those riders making it to the summit under their own power, riding or walking! The views from the top are well worth the effort. We finish at our hotel in Larrau, at kilometer 98. The second half will lead us all the way to Bayonne but not before we conquer the category 1, category 3 and finally, category 4 climb in the heart of the Basque Country. Those with tired legs can hop in the van but those who ride will receive a special climber’s prize. We’ll slow pedal from the medieval center of Bayonne through the heart of Biarritz, then along the beach to the flamme rouge. There will be celebratory champagne and a finisher’s party for everyone!
Routes are approximate and can vary a few kilometers each stage depending on current road and weather conditions. Rider safety and enjoyment is our top priority, so we will make alterations to the route based on needs and/or preferences of the group. A few things have changed in the French countryside since the 1930’s, namely the addition of a high-speed toll from Bayonne to Pau. We will follow as closely as possible to official Tour routes without cycling on the highway. Given the added challenge of riding vintage equipment, especially in the mountains, please consider the distances and approximate climbing carefully. Know the limits of your specific equipment and personal fitness. This tour is not a race. However, this tour will also not be a leisurely journey. We intend to have fun and ride at an appropriate pace for the entire group, though we will have to keep the pedals turning in the interest of daylight (especially during the fall tours). There is always the option of riding in the van if the route has become too taxing. This will be an amazing cycling vacation that will offer a unique and legitimate challenge. We recommend that you have experience riding long distances on vintage bicycles. You should also have experience climbing and descending with vintage equipment, as the performace standards can vary from modern equipment. We ask that you bring a rear red light and a portable fender for low-light and/or rainy days. You will receive a highly detailed road book, explaining each day of the tour. We will have bike checks by the mechanic after each stage and pre-ride meetings every evening.
what about the bikes?
This is the best part! As it is a vintage cycling tour, we will be riding vintage bikes. Our rules will be much more lenient than L’Eroica. We ask that your “vintage” bicycle be pre-1990 with downtube shifters and two functioning brakes. That’s it. Fixed gear or single speed? Why not! Vintage tandem? Absolutely! If you have a modern, handmade steel frame and can retrofit downtube shifters (even modern ones), you are welcome to bring it. If a friend or partner wants to ride along but doesn’t have a vintage bike, no problem! We understand that not everyone has caught the vintage bug…yet! Only one of you needs to be riding a vintage bike. If you have questions about the qualifications of your particular bicycle, please contact us. It is not our intention to exclude any rider. We just want to make sure the spirit and feel of the tour is maintained. Most of our guests will be bringing their own vintage bike. If you don’t want the hassle of traveling with it, here’s our proposal: provide the Bike Flights label and we will unbox it/assemble it before your tour then disassemble and re-box it after your tour for 150€. Want to bring it on the plane? We’ll assemble and disassemble for 75€. Are rentals available? Unfortunately, no.
If you would like to purchase a vintage bicycle prior to your arrival, we can provide you with two or three build options in your size from which to choose. Prices range from 500€ to 2000€ for a complete bicycle (depending on brand and quality level) consisting of a gently used vintage frame and fork from the 1950’s to the 1980’s with gruppos and wheels from the same era. Retro-mod builds and wheels are also available. All bikes will be built with care, professionally serviced and guaranteed to operate properly within the limits of their age and technology available at the time. In other words, they will roll well, shift and brake properly and look darn good doing it. Send us your fit numbers and we’ll have it ready to ride when you arrive. We can also help with return shipping to your place of residence.
Not many tour companies offer you the chance to ride around France for a week on your special vintage bicycle, in the well-laid tracks of your cycling heroes. We love to ride our vintage bikes too and since we live and work year round in the Basque Country, we routinely ride these fabled routes. We can’t wait to share them with you! But it’s not just about the riding. We also love to eat great food and know how to balance an enjoyable day on the bike with plenty of recovery time. Most importantly, we know how to have fun. We are cyclists who love the amazing history of the bicycle, just like you. We are more interested in providing a unique cycling experience, instead of just the same old bike tour…no pun intended. We enjoy small groups of like-minded cyclists. Four riders is all we need for a tour. A private tour can be had for as few as two (shoot us an email for details). We provide capable guides (on vintage bikes, of course), a great mechanic sensitive to the needs of retro bicycles, a broom wagon (just in case), luggage transfers, accommodations including the night before your tour, memorable meals, photography, custom vintage-inspired wool jersey/bibs, 2 custom bidons and portable cycling nutrition that actually tastes good. We’ll stay in traditional hotels or well-appointed B&B’s. Breakfast will be available every morning, thoughtfully prepared by our hotel hosts (think croissants and jam and cheese, with juice, coffee and some granola or cereal NOT bacon and eggs). We’re happy to help supplement your morning meal if you let us know in advance. Expect 3-course dinners with wine or beer. We prepare healthy, picnic-style lunches on the road highlighting local flavors. We are happy to accommodate your specific dietary needs (within reason and availability…this is France after all, so we might have to get creative).
I need my beauty sleep!
Rooms will be shared. We’ll try to match you with a super duper roommate but if you’re squeamish about a stranger seeing you in your underwear, you can 1) bring a friend or 2) request a single room for a 400€ supplement (think about it: no snoring and you can sing in the shower). Some hotels TBD depending on the season and availability. Don’t worry; there will be modern plumbing, clean sheets and WiFi to upload all your incredible cycling photos. Properties will be classic and comfortable and we promise they won’t mind you sleeping with your beloved bike in the room or going to breakfast in your bibs. We’ll send you a confirmed hotel list a few weeks before the tour. We will try to accommodate any wants and needs of our customers to ensure your total comfort while off the bike. We like to rest as hard as we ride.
When we aren’t on tour, we operate a small bike shop in Biarritz complete with espresso machine. Not one of those pod thingies…but a fine Italian machine. We can usually handle any last minute adjustments or repairs. We sell socks and tubes (and other helpful items) if you forget those. Travel insurance highly recommended. Proof of health/accident insurance required. Can non-riding guests come along? We’ll provide a non-cycling, emotional support-buddy supplement if they want to join us at the hotel after our ride each day. They can share your room (but not your meals…they get their own). Or, for tours starting and ending in Biarritz, we can help with local hotel accommodation and activities. While you’re out laboring on two-wheels (poor you), they can be living it up in the Basque Country. There’s the beach, the mountains, surfing, shopping, people watching, pintxos, an aquarium, a casino…we could go on and on. If we haven’t listed it here and you NEED to know about it, just ask. We’re always available by email, instant message or by phone. We speak French and English. Ok, enough already. Have we convinced you to join us for a very special Tour de France bike tour? Great! Let’s get the cranks turning, shall we?