Where to go now

The Go List

4 Pro Cycling Tours Around the World You Can Do for Fun

You aren’t a diehard unless you vacation like one. These over-the-top trips put you and your wheels to work in some of the most stunning places on earth.

You aren’t a diehard unless you vacation like one. These over-the-top trips put you and your wheels to work in some of the most stunning places on earth.

First, the bad news: You aren’t a pro cyclist. Doesn’t matter what local Strava records you hold; you’re not as fast as Contador. The good news? You can still ride the same races as the pros… sort of. A handful of tour companies offer unique “ride the race” tours where amateur cyclists get to ride legendary race courses like the Tour de France just hours before the pros pedal the streets. Some packages even let you mingle with the pros each night. “It’s like fantasy camp for cyclists,” says Jim Rutberg, a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, which operates three different race tours. Here are four opportunities for you to ride the race. 

US Pro Challenge, Colorado

(John Humphries/Lizard Head Cycling Guides)

Think of the US Pro Challenge as our Tour de France—a multistage race through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains that attracts the biggest names in pro cycling. Lizard Head Cycling Guides offers a Chased by the Peloton package where you ride the course highlights two hours before the pros, taking full advantage of the closed roads and cheering fans who line big mountain gaps like Independence Pass. Off the course, you’ll stay in plush digs like Aspen’s Limelight, a modern hotel with a rooftop terrace and outdoor hot tubs at the base of Aspen Mountain. Each morning, Lizard Head owner John Humphries finds gourmet coffee. “I like to think I have the best knowledge of local coffee in Colorado,” Humphries says. 

Ride it: August 16–22; 350 to 550 total miles; $3,095, lodging and meals included.

Tour de France

(Custom Getaways/Facebook)

Is it a cliché to want to ride the Tour? Hell no. This is the World Series of cycling. Custom Getaways has been the official tour operator for the Tour for the past 11 years, giving amateurs VIP access to closed roads and some of the biggest names in cycling on race day in a variety of tour packages. We like the Yellow Jersey Final Week tour: For eight days, you’ll ride the same stages as the pros through the Alps and even ride across the finish line in Paris. Ride the course in the morning, then get primo spots to watch the pro action in the afternoon, enjoying unprecedented access to the Tour. Want to get your picture taken on the podium? No problem. 

Ride it: July 20–27; mileage varies; $4,695, includes meals and lodging.

Amgen Tour of California

(Carmichael Training Systems)

This is the closest most of us will ever get to being a pro cyclist. During the eight-stage race through California’s iconic coastal and mountain terrain, Carmichael’s clients are treated like another pro team. You’ll ride every inch of each day’s course two hours before the start, gutting it out in hopes of not getting caught by the pros and yanked from the course. You’ll have your own team mechanics and masseuse, stay and eat with the pros, and follow the same rules as the pros: Show up late and get fined (the money goes to charity). “You’re standing in line at the buffet, and the pro wearing the yellow jersey is right in front of you,” Jim Rutberg says. 

Ride it: May 10–17; 650 to 700 total miles; $11,750, includes lodging and meals. This year’s trip is sold out, but you can still get on the waiting list.

Giro d’Italia

(Thomson Bike Tours)

Part of Europe’s trifecta of pro cycling races that make up the Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta de Espana), the Giro offers some of the toughest climbing in Europe, compliments of the Italian Alps. On Thomson Bike Tours’ eight-day King of the Mountains Challenge, you’ll test your mettle against infamous climbs like the Mortirolo in the Dolomites, a 13-kilometer slog that averages a 10.5 percent grade. Maybe even better, you’ll watch two mountain stages without having to battle the circus crowds that collect at the Tour de France. “It’s so much easier to get close to the cycling gods at the Giro,” says Thomson co-owner Paul Rogan. Fuel the next day’s ride with robust Italian fare, and relax at plush digs like the Sporthotel Europa, which sits lakeside with the Dolomite’s signature limestone faces rising in the background. 

Ride it: May 20–27; 400 total miles with 58,700 feet of climbing; $4,495, includes meals and lodging.

Filed To: Road Biking / Events / Travel / Colorado / France / Italy
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.