The pros are the gods of cycling, representing the pinnacle of our sport through their never-ending quest for higher performance and glorious victory…
They are extreme human beings, with singular purpose and unwavering focus. Every inch of their lives are optimised for one goal. We envy them because we will never be as fast, as lean, as brave or as dedicated as them. Which is why, when you meet them, you can’t but help feel that lump in the back of your throat…
La Fuga been creating cycling experiences for our guests for over eight years now, and we’ve always stayed true to riding the iconic locations and meeting the unique people that have defined our great sport. The professional races inform our riding territories, the pro riders inspire us to push on the pedals just a little harder and the mountains set a canvas on which our journeys are drawn. Over the years we’ve been lucky enough to have so many opportunities to bring our guests to meet, ride, and share a beer or two with cycling royalty. At the end of the day, it’s the people that make the experiences memorable and if they are exceptional people, well… So we’ve delved back into our archives to bring you ten of our favourite pro moments.
1. Fabian Cancellara, Cobbled Classics
Fabian was an unstoppable force in the Classics in 2013. We love this shot one of our sharp shooting guests managed to get of him smashing his way to Flanders victory. Even better was the day after his victory. We heard the rumour that he might make an appearance at the Tour of Flanders cycling museum in Oudenaarde, so we got all our guests tickets and sure enough we had Fabian within arms-reach. Courteous and humble in victory, an private Q&A with Fabian was the cherry on top of a great Classics trip. Fabian Cancellara will be targeting the Classics with Trek Factory Racing in 2015.
2. Dan Martin, Lombardia
It’s been an absolute pleasure each time we meet Dan, which has been a regular occurrence now on our Lombardia trip. What a way to round off the season; We were privileged enough this year to be there on the race finish line and witness him sprint for the win. Not only that, but our invitation extended to celebrating with Garmin-Sharp team as they cracked open the victory champagne. Dan is most definitely the man! Dan Martin now rides for the newly formed Cannondale-Garmin pro outfit.
3. George Hincapie, Annecy
Big George needs no introduction and is one of the nicest folks in the pro-peloton. George joined us on an Annecy to Paris adventure during the Tour de France the year before last. Charismatic to the last and with plenty of insider stories to tell he had us wrapped around his little finger for the next few days. Still with immense power in his legs, we had to work hard to earn our time with the maestro! George Hincapie continues to focus his attentions on his young rider development team and Hincapie sportswear brand.
4. Brian Cookson, Etape du Tour
Perhaps an even rarer opportunity is the one to meet the people actually pulling the strings of the professional cycling world. The newly appointed Brian Cookson so happening to be sharing our hotel and we could resist asking him to join us on our group ride the day before the Etape du Tour. You don’t often get a second chance for these requests. Cookson duly obliged, and showed our guests he’s no slouch on the bike either. Great to see an advocate of our sport getting out there and enjoying the ride just like we do. Thank you Brian. Brian Cookson is current president of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) and first Briton to take the chair.
5. Marco Pinotti, Chilterns
An engineer by education and nicknamed the “Perfect Athlete” and “The Professor”, Marco holds six Italian National Time Trial Championship crowns. Marco flew in to join us for a day ride around the Chilterns last summer. A perfectionist to the last, he made it his task to speak to every guest one of our thirty guests throughout the day. Our guides were pretty taken with riding with Marco too, so he had no shortage of conversation all day. Marco Pinotti retired from pro racing in 2013 and now works in the Sports Science division of BMC Racing
6. Magnus Backstedt, Olympic Velodrome
The winner of the 2004 Roubaix was the perfect man for our day on the boards. Enthused by Magnus’s win at the Roubaix velodrome and stories of his Hour record attempt at Newport Velodrome, our guests took to the boards like ducks to water, even though many had never ridden a fixed gear bike, let alone up a steeply banked track. But this is what the pros do the best, they inspire. And in this case, not only the guests, but all the velodrome staff came down to catch a glimpse of the Nordic giant himself too. Magnus Backstedt’s goals are now geared towards triathlon and sports commentary. He qualified and raced the Kona Ironman World Championships last year.
7. Sharon Laws, Haute Route Dolomites
Our guests hit the jackpot when Sharon decided to join us on our 2014 Haute Route Dolomites trip. A pillar of the women’s professional cycling, Sharon had just won the Queen of the Mountains polka dot jersey at the inaugural Women’s Tour in Britain. She encouraged, rode, lived, and ate with our lucky guests for the entirety of the Haute Route, probably the hardest week of riding they had ever done. And whenever the going looked too tough, she pulled out the polka dot winners jersey to urge the legs on. What better than to have a Queen of the Mountains to guide you through the Haute Route? Sharon Laws races for Bigla Pro cycling in 2015.
8. Freddy Maertens, Paris-Roubaix
Freddy is a legend, with a capital ‘L’. Vuelta winner, World Champion and just a great guy. As we were negotiating the chaotic crowds at the Arenberg Forest during Paris Roubaix this year, an old chap appeared from the sanctuary of the VIP tent and immediately thrust a tray of beers into our hands. Freddy had recognised us and come out with the goods. Turned out to be the best beer of the day had by all. If you’re ever in Belgium, head to Oudenaarde and visit the Flanders cycling museum, where Freddy is it’s caretaker.
10. Eros Poli, London
Eros loves a drink and we like drinking with Poli. Eros came to launch our Haute Route partnership last year with a ride and a party. Famed for his daring and unlikely victory in the 1994 Tour de France, where he bested the peloton over Mont Ventoux. As a sprinter competing with the likes of Cipollini, he was never meant to win a mountain stage, even when the peloton gave him a 20 minute lead in the breakaway. Suffering over Ventoux, he lost almost all of his time on the peloton, but in a display of sheer guts, he clung on, descending brilliantly to win the day. Suffer like Poli and you too could conquer Ventoux. Eros Poli is a man who enjoys life and offers to guide on his bike every so often.
10. Fabien Barel, Cote d’Azur
One more Fabien to round off the list. But this one is the off-road variety. Our guest Alex wanted to put on something special for his birthday, so we dreamed up a mountain bike trip to the gorgeous South of France and led by none other than multiple-time Downhill World Champion, Fabien Barel. Even though we weren’t riding downhill courses, Fabien seemed more at home riding cross-country and having a good time just showing us his backyard trails (and his incredible handling skills). Needless to say Fabien was the perfect guide, unbelievably talented and the most patient host. Fabien Barel has been seen training on his road bike and racing with the Canyon Factory Enduro Racing Team.
We have so many more stories with the legends of cycling. If you enjoyed our top ten pro cycling moments, come out on tour and the stories from our guides are half the reason why it’ll be a great trip. Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to bag a pro on the road or perhaps we can design the perfect encounter for you. Let us know who would make your ride.