Not just spinning: who’s doing what to gear up for the cycling craze

It was bristling with bikes at the easyJet check-in at Geneva airport the other day…

Bikes in fancy hard cases on wheels, bikes in cardboard boxes held together with tape and string, and bikes in bags, all being dragged through the check-in line by blokes with helmet strap lines etched into their sun tans.  And that was before Wiggins won the Tour de France. And Chris Froome was second. And Cav won on the Champs Elysees. Again.

OK the men’s Olympic road race didn’t go to plan for Team GB, but whatever happens in the rest of the Olympics, it has been an amazing summer for British cycling. Wiggo has been all over the front and back pages, ITV simulcast the final stage of the Tour on two channels, a new weekly cycling show has started on TV and a new cycling magazine is being launched. British Cycling announced halfway through the Tour that its membership has doubled to 50,000 since 2008; bike shops are reporting a surge in sales: Evans Cycles said its sales of road bikes go up 35% last week.

So I’m thinking surely this has got to be good for summer tourism around here? Well, the tourism departments certainly think so and the support and marketing to cyclists is getting better and better.

The Maurienne region now calls itself “Le plus grand domaine cyclable du monde” – the biggest cycling area in the world – and has a site specially for it.

Savoie-Mont Blanc is running ‘un jour un col’ (‘one day, one col’), closing the road over various cols for a day so cyclists can ride it without traffic. The ones still to come this season are:

  • 4 août 2012 : Col du Glandon
  • 19 août 2012 : Col de La Ramaz
  • 23 août : col de la Madeleine
  • 25 août 2012 : Col du Grand Cucheron et Col de Champlaurent
  • 2 septembre 2012 : Cormet de Roselend
  • 16 septembre 2012 : Montée su Semnoz- Châtillon

Some 47 cols now have timing mechanisms on them so you can time your ascent with a little widget you can pick up at bike shops or tourist offices near the bottom of the climb.

There are lists of cyclist-friendly places to stay, offering a locked garage to store your bike, bike tools and maintenance area, laundry facilities, suitable meals and packed lunches, etc

And then there are the cycling tour operators, organising camps, tours and support for entry into the big events like the Etapes du Tour and the Marmotte. Around here, Chalet d’Antoine in Megève is growing its summer offering for cyclists, including an elite camp with trainer Paul Mill and a menu of touring-friendly options from laundry and meals to van support and guiding. “Megève is absolutely world class for cycling,” says manager Pete Frost, “you can go in so many directions: the Cormet de Roselend to the East, Col de la Madeleine to the South, Col des Aravis and de la Colombière to the West and the Col de la Ramaz and Joux Plane to the North.” And all on two wheels, with no engine noise or emissions, in total freedom.

                                                                                           (photo credit: Pau Catlla)

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