6 dream vacations for cyclists

The day before a major race, riders can now preview the world's most prestigious courses.

No matter how hard you work in the saddle, you'll never make it to the Tour de France as anything other than a spectator, right? Wrong. The world's most famous cycling race course is not off-limits to amateurs and enthusiasts—not even on race day.

“Tour de France is a big bucket list trip that we've been offering from the beginning,” says Mark Thomsen, a marketing manager with Trek Travel, a luxury full-service cycling vacation company founded by Trek Bicycles in 2002. With Trek Travel, you can attempt the most brag-worthy climbs, like the gravity-defying Pyrenees and Alps, just hours before the pro peloton swoops in. Riders can then meet up with racers, like Swiss superstar Fabian “Spartacus” Cancellara, at each stage finish to high-five.

To be clear, this experience is not a race, but rather a cyclosportive. “The general idea is to give an organized bike group the chance to see what pro courses are like, and give them the opportunity to watch the race live,” explains Simeon Green from CMI Cycling, which runs such bike tours. “Cyclosportives are the perfect combination of a cycling holiday mixed with the extra challenge of the event, and the cherry on top is the chance to witness a real bike race in person.”

You'll want to trainfor the experience, but don't worry about getting dropped: “It's not so much about riding 50 to 100 miles each day as being at the right point at the right time. If that means a ride in the shuttle or a boost up a hill or a helicopter ride to the viewing area since roads are closed to cars on race day, we get everyone up in time to see the pros charging in,” Thomsen says.

Below, a list of the coolest, most-coveted pro race trips of the season.

tour de france

Where: France
When: July 18 – 26, 20 – 27, 23 – 27, 24 – 27
Highlights: Trek Travel has exclusive VIP access like no other tour operator on the course, so you just might get that selfie with 2013 winner Chris Froome. “We're really able to give close and personal access to the point of having dinner on the team bus or meeting the mechanics or staying in the same hotel as the team,” Thomsen says. Not to mention, you get to pretend the loaner all-carbon Trek bike (think an $8K Emonda) is yours for the week.
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usa pro challenge

Where: Colorado
When: August 17 – 23
Highlights: Give new meaning to the phrase “tap the Rockies.” Seven days straight traversing this magnificent mountain range with Carmichael Training Systems will earn you daily post-stage massages and a spot at the dinner table with the pro teams. It may be the closest you'll ever get to feeling and living like a pro cyclist.
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vuelta a españa

Where: Spain
When: September 7 – 14
Highlights: For it's 70th edition, the Spanish Grand Tour will feature nine new climbs that will really put your heart, mind and legs to the test. Sadly, you won't find homegrown Alberto Contador back to defend his 2014 title since he's set to focus on the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France this year. But Spaniards will still be happy to toast el campeón with you over ever-flowing wine.
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spring classic tour of flanders & paris roubaix

Where: Belgium and France
When: April 2016
Highlights: With CMI Cycling, you'll learn to cycle on some of the world's most famous cobblestones alongside ex-pro rider David McKenzie, who won a stage of the Giro d'Italia in 2000. After mastering the bumpies, grab a cold Belgian brew with your new bud, who's also a cycling TV commentator in Australia where he is a former Australian National Road Champion.
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giro d'italia

Where: Italy
When: May 2016
Highlights: With the pros coming in the next day, you have a little more time, which you will need considering that the Dolomite Mountains and Mortirolo Pass are on the cue sheet of this Duvine Cycling & Adventure Co.-led trip. Rumor has it, Lance Armstrong once called this pass the “hardest climb he had ever ridden.” Don't worry, you won't need to dope to get through it. A few espressos should do the trick.
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amgen tour of california

Where: California
When: May 2016
Highlights: Last year, Carmichael Training Systems had the newly retired cycling legend Jens “Shut up, legs!” Voigt join the small exclusive group for part of Stage 4 from Pismo Beach to Avila Beach. If CTS can score him again for next year, you won't want to miss taking notes from this accomplished and charismatic rider who won this exact stage in 2013.
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