David Heatley:                   So hey, it’s David Heatley here from Cycling-Inform and we have Paul from Sierra Sports & Tours on the video night. We’ re going to be talking about the 2019 schedule for some of the tours that he’s running and some of the releases cause I know the Tour de France and Vuelta. Tour de France has released their course for this year, we’ll be talking a little bit about that and Vuelta, they’re releasing it this coming Wednesday, but you’ve already got some of the inside scoop on what they’re going to cover and some of the terrain on that. So Paul, tell us a little bit about, first those two races and then some of the other tours that you run throughout the year.

Paul DAndrea:                   Yeah, so basically the pro races are one category of cycling tours that we focus on. Not all clients want to follow those races but we know that there’s a lot of keen people still wanting pro racing action. So we have cycling tours that follow the Classics which are the early part of the European season, so around anywhere about March and mid April period. So especially the Flanders and Roubaix events. Incredible races.  I love the courses and there’s lots of history, lots of amazing routes and so people who are really, I guess, keen cycling enthusiasts, just love getting across to Belgium for those events. We run a tour that intersects both the Flanders and Roubaix races with a lot of nice riding in between away from the race as well.

Then we also get to the Grand Tours, so we’ve got the Tour de France which last week was just released. An interesting development there with the race and then also this week they’re releasing the Giro. So the Giro, obviously, we’ve got some good contacts with some of the pro teams and we’ve got a bit of inside word but we’ve got two itineraries there up on the website for those two pro events. Then the Spanish race, La Vuelta, will be early January that they’ll release the itinerary there. You can still see an example itinerary on our website but they’re the big races. This year for the first time we’re going to the Dauphine as well which is the most important lead up race to the Tour de France. We often run an annual French Alps tour but this year with a lot of interest around that race, we’re doing a special tour for 2019 because you’re always close to Lake Annecy and the French Alps and it’s just the perfect combination for creating a really nice tour for our guests.

David Heatley:                   Fantastic. So tell me, what’s going to be the highlights for the tours like the Tour de France, now that you know the course has been released, what are some of the highlights for 2019 that you think are going to be pretty special for that particular year?

Paul DAndrea:                   Well for next year there’s a lot of talk about it being a really tough, mountainous course next year. But there are still a lot of the sprinters talking about some good opportunities for them as well so at least it’s not like the Giro and the Vuelta which sometimes are really heavily skewed on big mountain stage finishes. The Tour de France has a better blend and this year it seems like the Tour has still got a bit for the sprinters which is good because they lug their bodies up over those big mountains day after day and they’ve got to get some reward for a stage or two for themselves as well. But we’ll be getting sort of more towards the final week with our cycling tour when they move from the edge of Provence, and move into the Alps from the southwest. Basically there, they’ve got five big mountain summit finishes for the tour this year above 2000 metres, so there’s a lot of talk about how those demanding stages at altitude will come to effect the peloton.

As recreational riders, you ride your rhythm, you deal with the altitude, you deal with the long climbs but when you’re racing competition it’s a different ball game so there’s a lot of talk about that so we’re really interested to see the big stage where they cross Col de Vars, Col de d’Izoard and Galibier all in the same day. That’s going to be a really amazing day and we’ll be there to see that stage. There’s also, they’re passing Cul d’Iseran, which is the highest European mountain pass. It’s not the highest asphalted road in Europe but it’s the highest pass at nearly 2800 metres. In all the history of the tour it’s only the eighth time that they’ll go up to that altitude so they’re testing the peloton for sure.

David Heatley:                   Yeah so, yep yep, sorry. And then I, sorry Paul.

Paul DAndrea:                   No, sorry. Just saying that’s going to be really tough and put a lot of demands on the riders going over. That’s stage 19 so it’s right at the end of the race as well.

David Heatley:                   Fantastic, so I assume that’s going to change the selection for the teams for 2019. Do you think it’s going to have a major impact on the riders they’re going to be selecting for teams that year?

Paul DAndrea:                   Yeah, they’re going to continue with only the eight riders for each team which they trialled this year so that obviously made some impact last year already so that’s going to continue. This year, there’s also less individual time trialling than other years so they’re definitely going to create teams to help GC contenders for sure this year, or next year, so yeah.

David Heatley:                   Fantastic. Alright. What are some of the other tours. So you mentioned a little bit about the Tour de France, the Giro, so any insight on the Giro?

Paul DAndrea:                   Yeah the Giro, it’s going to be released this week. There’s a lot of talk of stages up around towards the end of the race near Venice, Bassano, in the region of Foza and Asiago. So there’s some big climbs up there and they’re also not heavily skewed in the Dolomites. They’ve got some pre Dolomite mountains which is still a lot of those 15-20k climbs but obviously at the Giro time of the year, the weather can be dicey at times. So they’ve still got some big stages there. They’re looking at going over the Stelvio as well so that’s always a bit iffy at that time of year but they’ve got it in the programme.

But we like to basically start our tour in Venice. Bassano del Grappo’s got some really nice cycling near the Prosecco wine region. You’ve got Foza Climb, Monte Grappa which are regular Giro climbs, this year that won’t be in the race but we like to warm up the group away from the race. Do some good climbing at relaxed speed and then we’ll move in and see some of the big races along San Pellegrino which is another beautiful area and then we’ll also skip the race for a day and do the Sella Ronda which is one of those amazing ring loops with four climbs, all above 2000 metres. One of the epic destinations. Then finishing down in Verona. They’re going to finish with an individual time trial for Stage 21 which is obviously, the race is still pretty live and that’ll probably be the one that ends up crowning the Maglia Rosa this year. They’ve got the Roman amphitheatre all prepared and they’ll be finishing the time trial there in 2019.

David Heatley:                   Fantastic, excellent. Alright. Well look Paul, I really appreciate your time. Thanks very much. Now the best way to get in contact with you is on your website. You’ve got most of these already up there apart from the Vuelta and the Dauphine, is that correct?

Paul DAndrea:                   Yeah, those ones are still up in the air, but in terms of the dates the Dauphine is always at the start of June and the Vuelta is always the first couple weeks of September. So we know the dates more or less but we just need to wait until next year for those races but apart from that, the full programme for all our other tour offerings is already live and bookings are open.

David Heatley:                   Fantastic.

Paul DAndrea:                   Sierra Sports & Tours on a Google Search and you’ll find us.

David Heatley:                   Excellent, and you’ve got some early bird specials on at the moment, is that correct? Up until the end of November, is that right?

Paul DAndrea:                   We’ve sort of got a scaled system so up until the end of November, there’s a lot of tours still with 150 Euro discounts and then when December rolls over till the end of the year, they’ll sort of drop to around 100 Euros, so there’s good offers there at the moment.

David Heatley:                   Good bargains. Bargains to be made. Fantastic Paul. So Sierra Sports & Tours, do a Google search and find out some of the tours that he’s got and tick off some of those bucket list climbs and rides that you’ve been wanting to do for a while over in Europe. Paul I really appreciate your time. Thanks for your time and we’ll catch up with you soon, alright?

Paul DAndrea:                   Cheers mate.