Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Welcome to the Pod!  Our feed is available on all major podcast platforms and is supported by a small number of advertisers and directly by people like you.   If you've made it this far, please consider subscribing to the podcast and if you like what I'm doing, please consider supporting financially via the link below. 

Support the Podcast: Buy Me a Coffee

Feb 20, 2024

This week on the podcast we welcome Thomas English from Trek Travel to discuss the Provence to Girona gravel tour. Thomas shares his personal experience growing up in the Camargue National Park and how he discovered his love for cycling. He discusses the inspiration behind the Provence to Girona tour and the unique landscapes and cultural experiences that participants can expect. Thomas provides a detailed overview of the nine-day trip, highlighting the diverse terrain, cultural differences, and the sense of adventure that comes with gravel cycling. He emphasizes the importance of local expertise and the immersive experience that Trek Travel provides for its guests.

Trek Gravel Trips 

Support the Podcast

Join The Ridership 

About the Guest(s):

Thomas English is a guide for Trek Travel, a company that specializes in guided cycling trips. Based in Lyon, France, Thomas grew up in the Camargue National Park and developed a love for cycling at a young age. He has a background in field medical engineering but decided to pursue his passion for cycling and guiding. Thomas has been working for Trek Travel since 2019 and has guided numerous trips, including the Provence to Girona gravel tour.

Episode Summary:

In this episode, Craig Dalton interviews Thomas English from Trek Travel about the Provence to Girona gravel tour. Thomas shares his personal experience growing up in the Camargue National Park and how he discovered his love for cycling. He discusses the inspiration behind the Provence to Girona tour and the unique landscapes and cultural experiences that participants can expect. Thomas provides a detailed overview of the nine-day trip, highlighting the diverse terrain, cultural differences, and the sense of adventure that comes with gravel cycling. He emphasizes the importance of local expertise and the immersive experience that Trek Travel provides for its guests.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Provence to Girona gravel tour is a nine-day point-to-point cycling adventure that takes participants from the south of France to Catalonia, Spain.
  • The trip offers a diverse range of terrain, including salt flats, vineyards, pine forests, and limestone rock formations.
  • Participants will experience the cultural differences between the French and Catalan regions, including language, cuisine, and architecture.
  • The tour provides an immersive and authentic experience, with opportunities to interact with locals, visit historic sites, and enjoy the natural beauty of the landscapes.
  • Trek Travel focuses on building relationships with local partners and creating a supportive and enjoyable experience for guests.

Notable Quotes:

  • "Gravel in many ways has an adventurous spirit. It takes you off the road and allows you to explore quieter and more remote areas." - Thomas English
  • "Cycling is a universal language, but the culture and use of bikes can vary between regions. Gravel cycling allows you to experience the local culture and landscapes in a unique way." - Thomas English

Automated Transcription:

[00:00:00] - ():  Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport
**** - (): I'm your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don't need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.
**** - (): Yeah. This week on the podcast, we welcome Thomas English from Trek, travel to the show. To talk to us about a new gravel tour they're doing from Two Jarana. The trip looks absolutely amazing. So super excited. To dig in with it and learn more about it and how it came to be. Truck travel since our last conversation with them on the podcast. Has really gone deep on gravel travel, building out several new trips this year, including one in the black Hills of South Dakota. An ACIAR ago to the Dolomites trip in Italy, as well as this To Jerome and a trip that we're going to be digging into today.
**** - (): I had a great experience. In 2022 on my truck travel trip to Jarana and was doing everything I could to join this trip in April. I don't think this particular one's going to happen. Because of some other commitments,
**** - (): . But I'm pleased to have this conversation with Thomas. So you can learn more about it.
**** - (): before we jump in, I do need to thank this week sponsor.
**** - (): A G one. The last few weeks, I've been talking a little bit more about my sleep routine, but today I want to talk about age one and my morning routine. Taking care of your health, isn't easy, but it should at least be simple. That's why for the last 10 years I've been drinking AIG one every day. No exceptions.
**** - (): It's just one scoop mixed with water. My personal preference is through a few ice cubes in there. Once a day, every day and it makes me feel energized and ready to take on the day. That's because each serving of AIG. Delivers a daily dose of vitamins, minerals, pre and probiotics and more. It's a powerful, healthy habit.
**** - (): That's also powerfully simple. For me, that simplicity is really what came into play. When I first started using ag. I really wanted to make sure that my nutritional bases were covered by high-quality nutrition. In a way that was simple to integrate in my daily habits. I couldn't bear the idea of taking a dozen pills and supplements to cover the same. Basic areas that AIG one covers in one scoop of powder. If there's one product that had to recommend elevate your health it's ag one. That's why I've partnered with them. For so long as part of this podcast. So, if you want to take ownership of your health, start with Tri AIG one and get a free one year supply of vitamin D plus K2 and five free AIG. Travel packs with your first purchase.
**** - (): Exclusively at drink. gravel ride. That's drink. dot com slash the gravel ride. Check it out today. Would that behind us, let's jump right into my conversation with Thomas.
**** - (): Thomas, welcome to the show.
[00:03:17] - ():  Thomas English: Hi, Greg. Thank you for hosting me.
[00:03:19] - ():  Craig Dalton: We're dealing with the challenges of international video conversations today with you in France and me in California.
[00:03:28] - ():  Thomas English: Absolutely. Long distances.
[00:03:32] - ():  Craig Dalton: Um, I'm excited to get into this conversation with you. Uh, I've been a big fan of Trek's commitment and enthusiasm around gravel travel.
**** - (): And when my buddy Rich hit me up and told me about this Provence to Girona trip, I was like, I got to talk to someone about this. This sounds awesome.
[00:03:52] - ():  Thomas English: It's epic. So the, the idea of the trip came in about two years ago now. Uh, I was involved in the design because my roommate is actually a trip design coordinator, if you want the truth.
**** - (): So the two of us got this whole thing running and it's going to be an epic journey.
[00:04:11] - ():  Craig Dalton: I love it. I can't wait to talk more about it, but to set the stage, I just want to learn a little bit more about you. We established that you're currently living in France. But where did you grow up and how did you initially find the bike?
[00:04:24] - ():  Thomas English: So long story short, uh, I'm actually based in Lyon, France right now. So closer to the French Alps, about two and a half hours away from the sea. I actually grew up in the Camargue National Park, which is where the The Rome River creates a delta. It's famous for mosquitos, flamingos, and, uh, bulls, if you want the whole truth.
**** - (): And it's very flat, so cycling wise, it gets pretty boring pretty quickly. But the scenery is worth it. And if you're beginning with gravel, it's definitely a good spot to start.
[00:04:58] - ():  Craig Dalton: And, you know, obviously gravel, we can argue about how long gravel has been around, but did you initially start as a road rider
[00:05:05] - ():  Thomas English: or a mountain biker?
**** - (): That's a very tricky question, because I think when, when you start cycling for me, it was, it was, you know, the first key to freedom my parents gave me. I was fortunate enough as a kid to grow up on a boat. So I think I grew this lack of, uh, you know, freedom for a little while being being like. On a boat with with parents.
**** - (): It sounds very spoiled, but we were adventuring in a different way. It's more swimming and and canoeing out to places. And so as soon as we got back to lands, the bike was this this real weapon of freedom and this tool to go adventure and come back in late and get told by my mom. But I think, yeah, it was one bike does it all and I think I, I mainly did mountain biking as a teenager because it was a thing, you know, it was the era of downhill and free rides as they used to call it.
**** - (): It's taken a whole new shape nowadays and gravel came naturally because we, we can do it in many ways. And especially as a company, I think it's, it's a trend and it's very much growing at the moment and it's the perfect. You know, where to explore a new region and mainly you can just get off the roads and go to, you know, access quieter places and places you, you'd wish to go on foot, but you can actually do it with the bike and it hasn't got to be too much of a distance on the road.
**** - (): Yeah, 100%.
[00:06:23] - ():  Craig Dalton: It sounds like you grew up with quite an adventurous spirit. How did you find your way into guiding for Trek?
[00:06:29] - ():  Thomas English: I started working for Trek for in, in 2019. So this is my sixth season, which I travel and. It's an, it's an amazing place to, to work, uh, good people, you know, the, the support and logistics from A to Z, uh, whatever you get on the guest experience, when you call up the office or the guest services, uh, we feel on, on in the field and feeling that supports from, from, you know, a guide in the field, you don't really find that anywhere else.
**** - (): So that's one, one thing to mention. Uh, but I, I, I kind of fell into it because I have a friend that was a guide a year before me. That was the one of the first reasons. Um, but mainly because I was working as a field medical engineer, uh, in the previous life. And there is a moment where you want to follow your dream.
**** - (): And I was out there adventuring in the mountains every weekend. So I realized I could do it for a living and take people with me, which is what I care for.
[00:07:31] - ():  Craig Dalton: Amazing. I feel like. It might be interesting to hear, what is the life of a guide like? Do you, do you ride all year round and guide all over the place?
**** - (): Or are you located in France and you only ride trips in
[00:07:46] - ():  Thomas English: France? So that's a fascinating question that we often get from people on the trips, from people outside the trips, from friends and family, or from the first newcomer that you, you, you meet in a, in a party in an evening, for instance. I, I think the life of a guide is is very much full on.
**** - (): It's a season is very long in cycling and it's getting longer. Uh, it's some people would rather do it as a very seasonal thing, like riding through the nice period in the, when it's warm and you can ride in shorts and then there'll be a ski instructor in the winter. So. Each guide kind of have their, their own algorithm to, to go about it.
**** - (): Uh, for me, it's, it's a full time commitment and then I get a bit of time off, uh, in the winter months to go travel and discover new places. And it kind of sticks to my, my character and my way of doing things. I like to go work hard, play hard in many ways, even though that sounds, uh, Very, very general, it's full season and then a bit of time off to, to go and relax and recover and adventure some more, but it is, it is a lifestyle more than a career.
[00:08:56] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah. What does that look like for you, Thomas? So are you guiding road trips into Spain one week and then gravel trips in, in France? How does, how does the year end up playing out? So
[00:09:07] - ():  Thomas English: at the end of the year, when -you've already guided a little bit, which I travel, you submit a survey to the favorite regions or your favorite regions, your top five.
**** - (): I think it is, um, places you'd rather you'd like to go guide. And if you're lucky, you're going to get a few of those pics. Um, but for the, for the main part, you're, you're assigned to a region for a duration of time. It can go from, um, A couple of trips to a whole bunch of different trips in that region.
**** - (): We have regions that also cover multiple trips. If I take Provence, for instance, we're actually running three trips out of there and nearly a fourth with the gravel, which will be leaving Provence and going all the way to Spain and sorry, Catalonia and Girona. And so. That's, that's more or less how it operates.
**** - (): You're assigned and then you, you'll guide multiple weeks in a row. We try and we try and do maybe three weeks in one week off as a rhythm.
[00:10:04] - ():  Craig Dalton: Got it. Yeah. And my, my experience with the team in Girona was that, that between the two guides, they would switch off between time in the van. And time riding. It wasn't lost on me that you've got it as a guide.
**** - (): You've got to be motivated and enthusiastic every day. You're out there on the bike with guests as a guest. If we're tired, if we're grumpy, we can suffer and let you know it. But I imagine as a guide, you're really there to elevate the spirit and never share if you're down. Are there days on the bike when you're guiding that you're just tired?
[00:10:41] - ():  Thomas English: Oh, yes, absolutely. And, but you don't show it. I think it comes from, from an inner part of you, it's, that's what I said by it's a lifestyle more than a career. It's, um, we always swap with, uh, our co guides. Uh, so one of us is going to be in the support van, one of us is going to be on the bike. It takes different shifts, uh, depending on the trips and the parameters.
**** - (): Uh, but yes, you, you're always on, we're always on top of things. And. You know, a lot of people on the outside of the job think that we are the fittest cyclists out there and you've got to be an absolute athlete. You, you get the training for sure. And, and some guys are more into cycling than others. Uh, but the, the real, the reality behind it is we take care of people no matter what.
**** - (): Yeah.
[00:11:24] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. I imagine that's, you know, I see this. All over the place, right? You have people who are innately just skilled at being good spirited, being uplifting and having had that experience with truck travel and that Girona gravel tour definitely saw that like it was more about the experience.
**** - (): None of the riders were trying to show how strong they were as athletes, although clearly they were, they were really there to just make sure we were having a great time. And that's what I think is so great about traveling on bike as a guest and gravel travel in particular. You just have a team around you whose sole job it is to not only find the best rides and routes for you, find the best cafes, create the best overall experience.
**** - (): And it is, you know, it's obviously an investment taking one of these trips, but there is a pretty massive return when all you need to do as a guest is ride your bike all day.
[00:12:25] - ():  Thomas English: Yes, and I'll double up, I'll double up on that in a way that I think you come on a holiday to be on a holiday and There is nothing more relaxing entertaining Fulfilling as when you sign up and you just let go of everything and you just have to enjoy it That's that's the main part is we take care of all the rest the you know, the logistics It's not that you're not necessarily capable of Of it, you know, I've, I've caught myself going on multiple guided trips, whether it's hiking or other activities, um, other than cycling and you, you, you appreciate having the, the local expertise, you know, it, it might not be something that's, that's in the itinerary, you know, but, but your guides might know so much about the geology, the plants, or even just the best cafe, because that's where they cycle past every morning and that's their local, their local terrain or their backyard.
**** - (): And that's where it makes the whole, the whole world of difference. You. Okay. The impact of, of that vacation or of that experience on your life is so different when you actually witness it with someone local and you share it with friends. Yeah, a
[00:13:32] - ():  Craig Dalton: hundred percent. I want to jump into the Provence to Girona gravel bike tour.
**** - (): This is very much a tour because it's point to point the experience I had with track out of Girona. We stayed in a single hotel and we explored routes in every single direction, which was fantastic. But as I've said before on this podcast, there's something about point to point travel or touring or what have you that is incredibly special.
**** - (): So how did the idea for the Provence to Girona gravel route come up? And then we can dig into some of
[00:14:08] - ():  Thomas English: the details. Okay, so that also refers to a question you previously asked on what does the life of a guide look like? Well, to be quite frank if I'm not guiding a trip with people on board I'm usually bikepacking and I've got the packs all set up on the gravel bike and I'm sleeping outside Which sounds ridiculous to a lot of people in on this planet But it's actually one of the most freeing experiences you you can get out there for yourself.
**** - (): It doesn't have to be far It's sometimes just right out right out your front door and you just roll to a place you haven't checked out or you haven't seen and It is the most it is the most freeing thing and you're also you feel very Self sufficient it teaches you a lot of different things and skills where you have to approach people and places Uh, but the main idea behind this trip from Provence to Girona, and we named it that way because there, there are two places that actually ring, uh, or resonate to cyclists, uh, whether they're roadies or already very much accomplished gravel riders.
**** - (): Uh, it was the first point to point that we, we were thinking of putting in the book. It's based on a race called, a race route called La Poco Loco that came together, I think in 2019. And it's very tracks since then, but that's what really inspired me initially, and I had written portions of it in a, in a few bits and pieces and on different holiday times.
**** - (): And this was the perfect, this was a perfect opportunity to actually start from one point, go all the way and see if we can actually make it work with hotels and accommodations and places to check out. It
[00:15:46] - ():  Craig Dalton: sounds super special. What is, I imagine over the course of that Provence to Girona, the terrain is going to vary quite wildly.
**** - (): Can you talk through a little bit and if it's helpful to talk through the various nine days, just what is gravel like in Provence and how does it change over the course of those nine days?
[00:16:09] - ():  Thomas English: So I can give you a global overview of of the trip if you want not to go into too much detail because nine days is It's quite epic and and you do see a lot But I do want to say that I grew up in in the area where we begin the trip in so, you know I remember I remember being in in my youth in my young age and teenager and adventuring here and there at the weekends And putting all these things together in the culture of the South, because it's, it's a very strong culture in the South of France.
**** - (): And this, the, the, the landscape had me stop and take many pictures. Of a place that I've, you know, I've grow, I've, I grew up in. You, you get accustomed to seeing these things on a regular basis. And coming back to it a few years later, it stops you. You're, you're blown away by the beauty of summer's scenery.
**** - (): And when I say that, it's on the first day, for instance, We will start the trip and we'll greet everybody, uh, right by the, a bit of a, it's a, it's a swampland where it's famous for ornithology for birdwatching, uh, just south of Montpellier. So imagine a huge city, all buzzling and whistling and noisy and, you know, just the heart of a big city and you just escape, we greet you in this, you know, you just come off the train or come out of the airport and we greet you in this really quiet bird sanctuary.
**** - (): With a nice French buffet, you know, proper Provence, there might be some rosé involved for those who, who want to start with that, um, giving you a few, a few bits and knots about the culture and the area you're in and throughout those first 60Ks, which is quite a, quite a bit for a first day, you get to see everything, so much variety from, from the sea, the sea, the salt flats to. The hills, a bit. Of vineyards here and there and the, and the pine forests.
**** - (): I mean, you, you, I can't wait to see the smiles on people's faces when we reached the hotel after the first day. Sounds
[00:18:05] - ():  Craig Dalton: like an amazing start.
[00:18:06] - ():  Thomas English: It is. It is true. So as I was saying, we, we did the Reese, we did the research with my roommates. Who's a, who's a true design coordinator and she's not from the region, but both of us were like kids.
**** - (): And you know, it's, it's the joy and the accomplishments of bringing something together that actually works out. And to see the, the, the versatile, the, how versatile the, the. The bike actually is on different terrains. You, you ride a bit of, you know, open forest road to single track, um, and all this on the, under the blue Provence skies, because, you know, it is subject to a bit of wind from the north, um, let her mountain or the missile for the East as you go.
**** - (): It's, it's, it's a superb. It's just an area of France that is very underestimated because it's. It's usually some some somewhere between a place you just drive through to get to Spain or you just go to Montpellier or like a few places on the coast, but people don't really stop on these on these areas.
**** - (): So. We've got these beautiful barren landscapes in, in some part of the trips that are just untouched, not no cyclists. You just, it's just epic adventure.
[00:19:15] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah, I think that's, what's mind boggling to me when I think about this trip is just the, the versatility of the gravel bike, that's easy to maybe to conceive of a point to point ride on a road bike.
**** - (): And you're sort of following a map, but traveling onto these single track trails and just kind of getting off the beaten path just adds this additional layer of. Intrigue and joy. I think on each day's ride. And I
[00:19:40] - ():  Thomas English: think we we call, you know, the inner child in our in ourselves. Um, I think a lot of cyclists will refer to that.
**** - (): But I think gravel in many ways has a bit of an adventurous spirit. And you might agree with me on that one. But, you know, it kind of takes you out there. You're not on a on a on the road. You might be leaving civilization for a little bit. We've designed this trip so we can always access you. The route in many points, but for the most part, you know, the whole stress of having traffic and cars around you that you might have on on on the road or uncertain of our road trips, even though we do take very quiet roads there.
**** - (): It's it's in existence. You won't have, you know. Any vehicles on most of our itineraries because we're, we're mainly on, on gravel and yes, like from, from one place to the next, you'll, you'll see us, uh, a part of the landscape that not many people get to witness or get to see because it is completely different experience from sitting in the car or riding on the road than being on those single tracks.
**** - (): Yeah,
[00:20:48] - ():  Craig Dalton: absolutely. What are the next handful of days have in store for riders?
[00:20:53] - ():  Thomas English: So yes, I, I touched base on the, on the first one. Sorry, I was, I was kind of selling that first day because. It blew our minds. So I think I like I said, I can't wait to see people smiles as we roll into the first hotel. It is a point to point.
**** - (): So we are going to be changing hotel every day apart from our fifth day where we'll have a proper rest day. Um, but the first day we, we leave Montpellier where, where it's, it will be more of a greeting point. Beautiful scenery on those first 60 K's through like what I've said before, the difference. Uh, see.
**** - (): Salt flats, single track, into the forest, up in the hills, back in through into vineyards. And we, we have a hotel a little bit on the outskirts of the city. Where the French rugby team has actually been hosted for the trainings, if you, if you want a little, the little hints there. But so, no rugby match on that first evening.
**** - (): The next day we kind of sneak out through a secret passage that follows a river out of the city. And we're heading to one of my favorite places in France, which is called Le Lac de Salagout. Uh, the Salago Lake famous spot for kite surfers and for geologists because the soil is a bit of an ochre red. It very much has the color of grapes, so not to bring it to too close to wine, but that's my French side.
**** - (): Um, you cross the hills and you arrive on this beautiful blue emerald lake with this, this red kind of, you know, tar looking gravel. It makes a mess of the bikes and it makes them look very adventurous all of a sudden because they get covered in this little red, red dust. Uh, but it's an epic scene to arrive and we're staying in the village.
**** - (): That's a little bit the outskirt of it in the national park called Moore's and it's very famous for its, um, Dolom, Dolomitic, uh, rock formations where erosion is just left. These huge limestone columns, uh, beautiful maze of, that was just shaped by nature, uh, and our hotel is, is nestled into that, into that rock face.
**** - (): And there'll be a nice little pool to, to relax after, after a big day on the bike. So, like I said, we go a little bit further up north after the first day where we were actually stationed by the sea. On the third day, we leave that beautiful area in the quiet morning, and we hit the hills. There'll be a bit of climbing in the morning.
**** - (): And for those who have got an idea of what Provence looks like, or the whispers you've heard of the adventures down there, we're going to be going through a few stone villages. Very, very French. You might come across a You know, to a dish vu like these iconic French cars or markets. Or we can stop and have CA coffee and a cafe, uh, to cross the plains from these hilly villages or hilly, hilly based villages all the way to a bigger town, again called busier.
**** - (): Which is famous for multiple reasons, but we're, we'll have a nice sit down lunch in a very retro French cafe where people are playing Pétanque just outside, uh, in front of a lock, you know, we sat there and all the locals were coming around to chat us up. So, you know, it might take a bit longer than scheduled.
**** - (): Don't be in a rush there. It is a big day. Uh, but that's, that's kind of the idea, um, is to actually enjoy the ambience and the culture as you're, you're crossing these landscapes, not just whizzing past.
[00:24:23] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah. Taking an opportunity to enjoy the riding as well as the culture seems like the reason you'd be there for sure.
[00:24:32] - ():  Thomas English: A hundred percent. And so that brings me on to the fourth day. So Béziers is a bit, a bigger, a bigger town. We, we have lunch on the outskirts of it, by that lock, as I, as I presented. And there, there are famous pieces of architecture, if, if this is what you enjoy in, in the French history. We are going to go past some very impressive monuments that I can state later.
**** - (): Um, and we follow what we call Le Canal du Midi. Which is a, a French icon. A lot of people, a lot of French people would actually go down there on holiday, uh, either rent a boat or kayak up and down this canal. Um, it is, it is a beautiful piece of French architecture and the waterways in France are famous in the history of, of the country for transporting goods, you know, the different wars and battles, why was it separated here or there, uh, the historical borders as well.
**** - (): But this, this third day finishes. Back back on the coast again after following this famous canal and we'll be heading we'll be heading the next day. And getting closer to the, to the Pyrenees to go to a place called Billister after crossing a few national parks and famous birdwatching areas again, um, we'll, we'll be climbing a little bit more than the previous days.
**** - (): The third day and the fourth day are quite, quite. Big days on the bike. So it's not for the faint hearted, but we'll support everybody, you know Croissant takes you a long way as they say and there's one thing in France for sure is you can't you can't go hungry Because once you've done this little, you know section of gravel you come across this little village and there'll be a bakery and for sure You know the smell of it everything just kind of entices you to get down there and grab something to go So we'll make sure you try the good ones And there are some specialties of the South that are proper to the South, um, that you can only find in the bakeries down there and we'll make sure you try them.
**** - (): Um, and you know, that fuels the climb up to this little village of Belista, which used to be one of the main points of interest in, in this area for, uh, white wine growing. Um, they, they still do. It used to be a massive cooperative and we are staying in a, in a hotel called Le Riberac. It is. It is something out of this world.
**** - (): We were astonished by what they've done with this eco lodge. You might be sleeping in a wine tank. Yes, we are sleeping in a wine tank. Um, there are spa and, you know, different treatments you can do all around the grape over there. It is one of a kind. It is a place that was designed by two amazing architects.
**** - (): The owners is an amazing couple that we got to meet and had the pleasure to have a nice glass and a sit down conversation with. And they really have, you know, an ambience about this, this whole environment that they created, the team that they put together. They still have a part of, um, the cellar that is functional, that, uh, gathers most of, uh, the winemakers of the area as a cooperative.
**** - (): And the wine, the wine is delicious down there. The, the riding up will maybe annoy a few, maybe. make others enjoy the adventure twice as much. Um, you know, we all come at a different, at a different place when it comes to climbing on a bike, but that's a good place to finish day four solid before a rest day.
**** - (): And we are, we are entering what we call peak at that, which was the scene of multiple combats between, uh, what used to be the Spanish empire and France at a time. And, you know, these perched castles up on the hills, this limestone rock face and this little tower up top with a, with a, with a Catalan flag and the border changed so many times in the past, you know, hundreds of years or decades that it's, it's just very interesting to see the cultural changes throughout the trip because you go from a very Provence, French, uh, south, south of France part with all its influences and its culture.
**** - (): And the food evolves as you go down the coast, getting closer to Spanish influence and, you know, the way people talk and behave and, oh, it's just, it's just superb. You get to see that even with a foreign eye, I think. Yeah, it's so
[00:28:54] - ():  Craig Dalton: interesting to see and hear that not only will the terrain change, but you'll get these subtle changes in culture across the nine days, uh, changing from the south of France culture to the Catalan culture at the end.
[00:29:11] - ():  Thomas English: Absolutely. And if, and if you've been to Gerona, as I've heard you, you've experienced that, that part of the culture and, and, you know, cycling. Cycling is international. It's, it is a universal language. Um, uh, there is a bike in every country you go to, and that's, that's not a lie, that's the truth. But the, the culture that a com, you know, comes with it.
**** - (): Maybe the French and the Spanish or the French and the Catalan don't necessarily see the bike. In the same way, you know, maybe the French will use it as a commuter to go get their fresh baguettes from the bakers in the morning, whereas Catalan people will use it to go from, you know, place to place or there's always a different use for it.
**** - (): But this, this, this area we're going to is not famous for, you know, holiday and it's not overcrowded. We're really taking you. On, on the unpaved. Uh, this is a proper adventure. Um, we're taking all these, these detours to get to Ballista, um, which is definitely, definitely one of my, one of my crushes for, um, for this trip, because we'll have a rest day in that little village.
**** - (): We'll probably have, Awesome activities to go enjoy off the bike for those who want to. You also have the opportunity to, you know, relax because we do come, we do cover between 350 kilometers and 400 kilometers over the first four days. It is a pretty. High level trip, we, we classify as avid. So not to be intimidated by it.
**** - (): It does require quite a bit of, you know, physical preparation and a good level of, of writing, uh, but the, but the, the technicity of the gravel stays stays very accessible in many ways. And it's all about how, if you're okay with adventuring the whole day on the bike, you'll, you'll enjoy this trip very much the same as we did my roommates.
**** - (): Um. Uh, actually used, uh, the money plus, which is the assist version of our gravel bike and she absolutely loved it. And, you know, we have very different levels of cycling, the 2 of us, but we kept it together and, you know, it's, it's just very complimentary. You get to enjoy the adventure together. So a big rest day on day 5, uh, to recover from, you know, 4 days of adventuring already.
**** - (): Uh, there's a pool at the hotel. It's an eco lodge. So they have all these amazing green certifications. We, we do a great job at Trek Travel at building relationships with the people we work with, because I don't see us as a big tour operator where we just walk in, you know, give our standards and, and then, you know, move on to the next season or go somewhere else next season.
**** - (): We do build these relationships, and I think you feel it on trip with us. If you've traveled with us before you, you get to appreciate. All the little details that we look into, we always try and better, um, the experience, you know, when you, when you arrive in Bethesda, I can tell you already, uh, Raquel, who's, uh, actually from Madrid originally, who's just fallen in love. With. That region.
[00:32:18] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah, that's so special as you were mentioning before. I mean, one of the really. Exciting parts of getting a guided tour is having these locals who can show you the ins and outs of the local area and the hotspots and the great riding. Phenomenal.
**** - (): So it sounds like at this point, you're up for arrest day.
[00:32:39] - ():  Thomas English: A hundred percent. Yes, it's, it's just, it's, it's going to be, it's going to be, uh, you know, not a resurrection, but it will be, it will be one of those that you actually need to push on for sure.
**** - (): And, and we'll see if people are up for activities, but I'm, I'm already guaranteeing a lot of people will stay back and say, we need a day to just relax and recover and prepare for the next four. But we, on the fifth day, we, we start tackling the Pyrenees. , we'll be going through what we call the, this, this, the circus. It's, um, it's this beautiful, uh, ochre lime, um, formation, rock formation facing Canigou, which is one of the highest peaks, uh, in this part of the Pyrenees. So you can, you can see this, this dark mountain in the background, uh, slowly getting closer.
**** - (): And you got all these different rock formations that we're snaking through to and getting closer and closer to the mountain will be staying in in an old, um, spa and treatment, um, uh, facility area on on the night of day six, uh, to tackle called Dallas on day seven. So. If you, if you, if you, if you've had too much gravel over the, the first six days, don't, don't worry, we've got you covered with a bit of pavement just to, just to rest, uh, a little bit from gravel on, on day seven, because Col d'Arès is, is definitely a stinger, as we call it in, in, in the area, um, it is a bit of a steep one for 13, 13 kilometers, and we do have a section of gravel for those who, who want to keep the trend going, uh, it is, the base of it is this beautiful medieval town where, uh, We'll offer a bit of a treat and, you know, a bit of a quick snack if people want to start tackling the climb on a, on a, a bit of a light bite.
**** - (): And once you reach the top, it can be, it can be two, two rooms, two ambiance, as we say in French. Um, it can either be beautiful and sunny or, uh, as it was when we were up there, uh, last fall, quite miserable and windy. Uh, but the views on the Pyrenees that you get from up there no matter what, are just.
**** - (): Absolutely stunning. And you descend all the way to this Catalan village after crossing the border, um, called Camprodon, famous for its beautiful stone arch bridge. And from there we are in Catalonia. And the following day, day eight, takes us along the Vies Verdes, uh, which is an old rail to trail, uh, all reconverted.
**** - (): Um, it is part of the Pyrenees, if you've heard and followed some of the racing across the Pyrenees. So we are going to be, like, using some of these tracks. And it's beautiful, what we call Catalan gravel. It's very nice, you know, small compact limestone. It takes you all the way back into the Mecca of cycling today, Girona.
**** - (): And you will definitely feel the Catalan countryside. If you've been on the Girona gravel trip, you know what I'm referring to, but you will, you will smell, you will, we say you will taste, because usually you have a bit of stuff on your water bottle, and we have the tips for you there, um, but it's, it's, you, you, you get a second country on, on this trip and it hits you like, like a, like a day ride.
**** - (): I don't know how to, how to say it in any other way. You cross this border and, um, You're, you're, you're in Catalonia and on these gravel paths, just, um, you know, flying along, along the Via Verde, you, you enter Girona from, from the back, the back door, and we are, we will be staying at Hotel Nord, which I think you say that on our, on our trip there, um, which is the perfect, you know, little nest in, into the city.
**** - (): And, yeah, I think it's a good, it's a good way to, to go from, from the South of France, Provence, specific architectural types, all the way into a completely different culture, a completely different, you know, language, accents, influence, uh, but you, you'll, you'll get to, you'll get to feel the connection between the two countries, between that border that's been distorted over the years and the centuries.
**** - (): Um, you'll, you'll definitely get that cultural aspect of the trip because we, we felt it as we were, as we were prepping it and we have a, a, a, a nice last day ride, uh, just to, to spend the legs more, more or less, um, before we say farewell. And that's a, a good way to, um, a good way to then spend a bit of time in Girona if you want to stay in Girona or head towards Barcelona, which is another great city to explore after Montpellier in France.
**** - (): Um, this, yeah, this trip kind of starts and finishes in, in two really cool points of interest as well, which is another good reason to, to come and join this adventure.
[00:37:26] - ():  Craig Dalton: Amazing. Anything else you'd like to add about the trip before we go?
[00:37:30] - ():  Thomas English: you know, you create some pretty special bonds over nine days. Uh, sometimes it is over the rest day. Sometimes it's straight off the first day. Um, we are going to be riding these amazing checkpoints as it are seven top, top end, uh, gravel bike. Um, 45 seat tires, which is very comfortable, but after, after eight days of proper riding, you'll probably be in need of a good rest and maybe sometime off the bike.
[00:37:56] - ():  Craig Dalton: What an amazing journey and adventure. Thanks so much for coming on and telling us about this trip. It sounds fantastic. I have a love for these point to point adventures. And everything you've described from the terrain to the cultural changes that you're going to experience over the nine days makes this track travel trip.
**** - (): Sound amazing.
**** - (): Thank you for spending some time with us this evening. And I look forward to seeing you in France at some point.
[00:38:24] - ():  Thomas English: Thanks a lot.
[00:38:25] - ():  Craig Dalton: That's going to do it for this week's edition of the gravel ride podcast. I hope you enjoyed learning more about that. to Gerona adventure that Trek travel has in store for us. They've got some slots this year, I think starting at the end of April.
**** - (): So head on over to track and check out some of the photos to go with. Thomas's great. Narration of the trip.
**** - (): I hope everyone's 20, 24 is filled with many, a gravel adventure.
**** - (): Until next time here's to finding some dirt onto your wheels.