Tour de France

Photos from the Tour de France

FILE PHOTO - Cycling - The 104th Tour de France cycling race - The 189.5-km Stage 15 from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay, France - July 16, 2017 - Lotto NL-Jumbo rider George Bennett of New Zealand in action. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
FILE PHOTO - Cycling - The 104th Tour de France cycling race
FILE PHOTO - Cycling - The 104th Tour de France cycling race - The 189.5-km Stage 15 from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay, France - July 16, 2017 - Lotto NL-Jumbo rider George Bennett of New Zealand in action. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
FILE PHOTO - Cycling - The 104th Tour de France cycling race - The 189.5-km Stage 15 from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay, France - July 16, 2017 - Lotto NL-Jumbo rider George Bennett of New Zealand in action. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
FILE PHOTO - Cycling - The 104th Tour de France cycling race
FILE PHOTO - Cycling - The 104th Tour de France cycling race - The 189.5-km Stage 15 from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay, France - July 16, 2017 - Lotto NL-Jumbo rider George Bennett of New Zealand in action. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Cycling - The 104th Tour de France cycling race - The 189.5-km Stage 15 from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay, France - July 16, 2017 - Lotto NL-Jumbo rider George Bennett of New Zealand in action. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Cycling - The 104th Tour de France cycling race
Cycling - The 104th Tour de France cycling race - The 189.5-km Stage 15 from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay, France - July 16, 2017 - Lotto NL-Jumbo rider George Bennett of New Zealand in action. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
The son of Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will join the Rice University football team this fall.
Lance Armstrong's son set to play football at Rice University
The son of Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will join the Rice University football team this fall.
The son of Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will join the Rice University football team this fall.
Lance Armstrong's son set to play football at Rice University
The son of Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will join the Rice University football team this fall.
The son of Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will join the Rice University football team this fall.
Lance Armstrong's son set to play football at Rice University
The son of Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will join the Rice University football team this fall.
The son of Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will join the Rice University football team this fall.
Lance Armstrong's son set to play football at Rice University
The son of Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will join the Rice University football team this fall.
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Is this the most surprising cycling destination on Earth?
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Is this the most surprising cycling destination on Earth?
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Is this the most surprising cycling destination on Earth?
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Is this the most surprising cycling destination on Earth?
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Is this the most surprising cycling destination on Earth?
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Is this the most surprising cycling destination on Earth?
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Is this the most surprising cycling destination on Earth?
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Is this the most surprising cycling destination on Earth?
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Is this the most surprising cycling destination on Earth?
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Is this the most surprising cycling destination on Earth?
Ammanis are bad drivers. In what appears to be an effort to outdo the British urban car user, who is never without a phone in one hand, residents of Jordan’s capital city tend to carry a minimum of two phones – so neither hand is unencumbered. Ammani drivers also turn without looking and consider the number of lanes painted on a given stretch of road to be more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast law. Don’t get me started on their habit of driving on motorways at night without their lights on. So cycling in Jordan is a no-no, then? Not at all. But it’s wise to wait until you’re out of town before hopping on the saddle. Luckily there are companies like Cycling Jordan that can provide a vehicle support service for both one-off rides or extended multi-day trips. Their guides will carry your kit in a car or pickup truck, bring water and snacks along, and show you the best routes – all with a cheery smile and a genuine enthusiasm for showing off their country. Amman's roads aren't a place for cycling Credit: AMOS CHAPPLE/GETTY Downhill all the way Mountain biking from the outskirts of Amman to the Dead Sea is one of the country’s showpiece routes. Covering 60 kilometres (40 miles), the ride uses mostly quieter roads, riverside footpaths and car-width back-country gravel tracks, before a short unavoidable section of main road to finish. The fact that the ride is almost entirely downhill will be music to most ears – and is fairly unsurprising too, given that Amman sits at 700m above sea level and the finish point is around 300m below. Starting at the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, we quickly escaped the confines of the city on little-used back streets, before dropping down to follow the path of a small stream. We dismounted to splash through the water, and paused to help a lorry driver lift a gigantic spare tyre onto the roof of his truck, before our first scheduled stop, the ancient ruin of Qasr al-Abd. The site dates back to 200 BCE but has been subject to frequent demolition and renovation in the intervening two millennia. Qasr al-Abd Credit: GETTY From Qasr al-Abd, there’s no avoiding a seriously steep climb, referred to by some Ammani cyclists as “the atheist’s uphill”, because “no man can believe in God as they try to ride up this road”. It’s certainly a test – even with the extra small gears afforded by a mountain bike. From the top of this ridge, however, it really is all downhill to the Dead Sea. We coasted along gravel paths that evoked the famous strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany, through the surprisingly green landscapes of northern Jordan, before crossing what seemed like an invisible border line into the dry and dusty terrain one usually associates with the Middle East. The Dead Sea Credit: GETTY We decided to hop into the truck when our route rejoined the road, opting to take the shortcut to our finale, lured mainly by the promise of a big lunch and some time by a swimming pool. Several hotels at the Dead Sea offer ‘lunch and lounge’ deals, ideal for hungry cyclists with weary legs. We make short work of the extensive buffet at the Holiday Inn, before retiring to sit by their pool for a couple of hours before sunset. Top 5 | Reasons to visit Jordan A heavenly valley Before flying out to the Middle East, I’d heard rumours that the road cycling scene in Jordan was limited to extreme early-morning club rides out of Amman (with groups setting off at 5am to avoid the worst of the manic rush hour). In fact, there’s a great deal on offer – you just won’t find it in the city centre. Engaging the services of Cycling Jordan once again, we headed south to Feynan on a Friday morning. With no traffic on the roads – almost the whole population of Jordan was at prayers – we made rapid progress down the shores of the Dead Sea, hopping onto the bikes at around 11am. From the start at Feynan we rolled along a flat desert road before climbing for a solid hour up a former military access road. The ascent of Jebel Proywe (‘jebel’ or ‘jabal’ means mountain) is much like a European alpine climb, with switchbacks, smooth tarmac and the gradual experience of a slowly changing terrain. As we climbed in altitude, the low, rolling dunes gave way to hard rocky outcrops, then vivid red sandstone cliff faces. The landscape near Feynan Credit: STOCK.ADOBE.COM/FABIO NODARI At the crest of the climb, the road dropped in and out of a series of small ravines, shooting up and down at severe gradients. As we grimaced through agonising hairpins we could smell the clutch on the support car as it laboured uphill behind us. Then at last, the true summit, and a gently undulating road over green hills that were all that lay ahead. A paradisiacal valley high above the holy land. By then it was well into Friday afternoon and families were gathered all over the place, enjoying post-prayer picnics in this impossibly verdant and peaceful place. Another five kilometres brought us to the entrance of Siq al-Barid, known colloquially as Little Petra. We clambered up the dry sandstone steps hewn out of the sandstone edifice more than two millennia ago, our small-scale mountaineering made all the more tricky by the slippery, flat soles of our cleated cycling shoes. Posing for photos at the end of an unquestionably unique cycle ride. From Siq al-Barid you can head by car back to Amman, or continue cycling on to the town of Wadi Musa (gateway to the main Petra site). There are great road climbs dotted around this more mountainous area of Jordan, easily discoverable if you have an expert guide – you could easily spend three or four days exploring with Wadi Musa as a base. No cycling is allowed inside the Petra site itself, however. The rock-hewn city of Petra Credit: GETTY Off the beaten tyre track Much like trying to climb up those slippery sandstone steps, cycling in Jordan is fiddly but fun, rarefied but infinitely rewarding. You won’t find yourself rolling into the hotel lobby after a day riding a series of popular training climbs made famous by Team Sky, before setting off on a crawl of bars and restaurants owned by one-time Tour de France stage winners. If you want to follow the tyre tracks of the pros, both current and past, then there are probably better places to go for a cycling holiday. If, though, your approach to travel leans more towards the adventurous – with a generous dash of problem-solving and logistical faffery thrown in – then Jordan is among the most exhilarating places you could go to cycle. After all, where’s the fun in doing what everyone else does? British Airways (ba.com) flies daily to Amman from London Heathrow. Day access to Dead Sea hotel pools costs from 45 JOD (£45) Five other offbeat cycling destinations By Adam Ruck 1. Madagascar This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 340 miles (548km) of cycling over nine days – more downhill than up as the title suggests – plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean. A 17-day Madagascar cycling tour costs from £3,245 including flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures until October 2018. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Spot lemurs when you're not pedalling Credit: GETTY 2. The Baltic Explore the amber-rich Baltic coast and capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the mountainous dunes and beaches of the Curonian Spit and the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Easy cycling punctuated by minibus transfers. An 11-day The Baltics tour costs from £1,129 (€1,290) including accommodation, breakfast and internal transfers, but not bike or e-bike hire or flights. Departures between July and September. Baltic Bike Travel (0037 046 300 144; bbtravel.lt). Brave the Baltic Credit: Rasmus Jurkatam 3. Sri Lanka Wildlife is a highlight of this two-week adventure – leopards, elephants, crocs, and whale watching – but there is much more to it than that: Buddha’s tooth temple, tea plantations, hot curries and everywhere a smiling welcome. The cycling (24 miles a day) is graded moderate, but includes some climbs and may be quite taxing in the heat. A 14-day Sri Lanka tour costs from £2,129 including flights, accommodation, some meals and bike hire. Departures until November 2018. Explore (01252 883963; explore.co.uk). Explore Sri Lankan temples Credit: viii - Fotolia 4. Morocco A classic winter mountain bike holiday combining the colourful tumult of Marrakech with exciting rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. Five days of cycling (average 37 miles a day), on tarmac and dirt; requires fitness and some mountain bike experience. A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs £695 including accommodation and all meals but not flights or bike hire. Departures from November to April. KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com). Tackle the Atlas Mountains Credit: ALAMY 5. Myanmar A nine-day stint of “comfortably paced” cycling is only part of a two-week voyage of discovery, including the Bagan plain and its 2,000-plus temples, Mandalay, a boat trip on Lake Inle and old British hill stations. A 17-day Cultural Cycling tour of Myanmar costs £2,945 including accommodation, all meals (except in Yangon), internal transfers and bike hire; international flights not included; departures in November and February. Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
FILE PHOTO: Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - Training ahead of the weekend's start - Coutances, France - 1/07/2016 - Tinkoff rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia during a training session - REUTERS/Juan Medina Picture Supplied by Action Images/File Photo
FILE PHOTOCycling - Tour de France cycling race - Training of Tinkoff rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia
FILE PHOTO: Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - Training ahead of the weekend's start - Coutances, France - 1/07/2016 - Tinkoff rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia during a training session - REUTERS/Juan Medina Picture Supplied by Action Images/File Photo
FILE PHOTO - Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - The 162.5 km (101 miles) Stage 11 from Carcassone to Montpellier, France - 13/07/2016 - Tinkoff team rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia wins on the finish line. REUTERS/Juan Medina Picture Supplied by Action Images
Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - The 162.5 km (100.97 miles) Stage 11 from Carcassone to Montpellier
FILE PHOTO - Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - The 162.5 km (101 miles) Stage 11 from Carcassone to Montpellier, France - 13/07/2016 - Tinkoff team rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia wins on the finish line. REUTERS/Juan Medina Picture Supplied by Action Images
FILE PHOTO - Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - The 162.5 km (101 miles) Stage 11 from Carcassone to Montpellier, France - 13/07/2016 - Tinkoff team rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia wins on the finish line. REUTERS/Juan Medina Picture Supplied by Action Images
Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - The 162.5 km (100.97 miles) Stage 11 from Carcassone to Montpellier
FILE PHOTO - Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - The 162.5 km (101 miles) Stage 11 from Carcassone to Montpellier, France - 13/07/2016 - Tinkoff team rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia wins on the finish line. REUTERS/Juan Medina Picture Supplied by Action Images
<p>Thomas targeting Tour de France yellow jersey</p>
Thomas targeting Tour de France yellow jersey

Thomas targeting Tour de France yellow jersey

<p>Thomas targeting Tour de France yellow jersey</p>
Thomas targeting Tour de France yellow jersey

Thomas targeting Tour de France yellow jersey

Briton Geraint Thomas wore the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey for four days last year
Briton Geraint Thomas wore the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey for four days last year
Briton Geraint Thomas wore the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey for four days last year
Briton Geraint Thomas wore the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey for four days last year
Briton Geraint Thomas wore the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey for four days last year
Briton Geraint Thomas wore the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey for four days last year
Briton Geraint Thomas wore the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey for four days last year (AFP Photo/Lionel BONAVENTURE)
Briton Geraint Thomas wore the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey for four days last year
Briton Geraint Thomas wore the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey for four days last year (AFP Photo/Lionel BONAVENTURE)
Men and Women World Champions, Olympic Medalists and Tour de France Veterans Set to Compete in the Amgen Tour of California in May 2018. (Graphic: Business Wire) <a href="https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180405005404/en/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Multimedia Gallery URL" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> Multimedia Gallery URL</a>
The World’s Best Cyclists Are Coming to California for America’s Only WorldTour Race as the Amgen Tour of California Gets Ready to Roll in May
Men and Women World Champions, Olympic Medalists and Tour de France Veterans Set to Compete in the Amgen Tour of California in May 2018. (Graphic: Business Wire) Multimedia Gallery URL
2,200 miles (or thereabouts) of road, slogging up and down mountains, in the sweltering French summer: it&#39;s little wonder than the Tour de France is known to be one of the toughest endurance tests of man. But what if you decided to do it not on a bicycle, but on foot? It may sound mad, but that&#39;s exactly what long-distance runner Peter Thompson is planning to do. Setting off on the May 19, Thompson, 33, will attempt to run 30 miles per day for 70 days along the official course, with the aim of finishing before the Tour de France proper starts. The Bournemouth-based runner is raising money and awareness for mental health charity Mind and disability charity Livability; his campaign is dubbed &#39;Marathons for the Mind&#39;. Thompson&#39;s path to the challenge, including a similar one last year which saw him run 44 marathons in the 44 European countries in as many days, is a circuitous one. Just three years ago, he almost gave up running after it began to have a negative effect on his personal life and mental health. I just love it as an event. It goes through some amazing scenery, through the Alps, the Pyrenees. It&#39;s got something about it, a real iconic sporting raceThompson on the Tour de France &quot;I&#39;ve been running for about 10 years. I did my first London marathon in 2009. I built on that year on year and it became a really big part of my life,&quot; Thompson says when we speak two months before the Tour de France run begins. As an ultra competitive person - &quot;if I&#39;d have broken the world record I would think that&#39;s not enough&quot; - running began to control Thompson&#39;s life. &quot;I was training upwards of 120 miles per week, running twice a day, no rest days. I was doing gym sessions too. I was fixated on getting better, and I was getting quicker, finishing the Amsterdam marathon in 2015 in 2hr 25min.&quot; In retrospect, he realises the growing success was never enough: &quot;Don&#39;t get me wrong, when I&#39;d cross the finish line I&#39;d be ecstatic. But it&#39;s so short-lived. The next day I have to get better.&quot; This single-mindedness led to alienation from his friends and contributed to a romantic breakup, which spurred him to change. &quot;It took all that to happen for me to take a step back and think &#39;do I want to get quicker at running and alienate people I care about? Or do I want to do something about it?&#39;&quot; he explains. All smiles at the @bournemouthmarathonfestival running the half marathon with my teammates. #bournemouth #bournemouthmarathon #halfmarathon #run #running #runner #team #fit #fitlife #health #wellbeing #healthylifestyle #motivation A post shared by Peter Thompson (@marathonsforthemind) on Oct 9, 2017 at 4:48am PDT After briefly considering stopping altogether, and feeling &quot;lost&quot;, Thompson turned his passion for running into a positive – for his own mental health, and to raise awareness. Gone was the obsession with shaving his PBs, heart rate monitors and ultra-meticulous diets. In their place came running for the joy of running. Then, in 2017, Thompson embarked on his European challenge. It was a huge struggle, hampered by injury, but one he got through with the help of strangers and running clubs across the continent. &quot;I got a muscle problem in my quads. They just gave out. I only had 30pc of range of motion, and couldn&#39;t bend my leg much, I was scraping it on the floor. I definitely wasn&#39;t breaking any records!&quot; But he succeeded, raised £19,000, and decided he&#39;d do something similar again. Which brings us to the Tour de France. How does he feel about increasing his daily output to 30 miles, and keeping that up for 70 days? &quot;It&#39;s scary. I wish I&#39;d said 80,&quot; he jokes. There&#39;s no shortage of insane running challenges; Thompson himself was inspired by Ben Smith, a runner who completed an astounding 401 marathons in as many days. The Tour de France, however, holds a special place in his heart. &quot;I just love it as an event. It goes through some amazing scenery, through the Alps, the Pyrenees. It&#39;s got something about it, a real iconic sporting race.&quot; Apart from the 70 days, he won&#39;t be timing himself, and his new girlfriend may even join. &quot;She&#39;s not running, but will cycle a bit. We&#39;ll stay in campsites and B&Bs along the route.&quot; Peter Thompson&#39;s tips for long-distance running Thompson now focuses on the many positives running can bring to mental health, while remaining cautious about taking it too far. &quot;The benefits of just being outside are huge. It can give people focus, something to hold on to. There&#39;s such a community element now, which is a huge factor if you&#39;re struggling and you hide away. And doing exercise can have a knock-on effect on other aspects of your life, you might eat better, for example. It&#39;s an outlet.&quot; Since his nadir in 2015, Thompson&#39;s runs have changed drastically - &quot;the mindful aspect of running is something I try and do now.&quot; No more staring at his wrist to check the time: &quot;It didn&#39;t used to matter where I&#39;d run because it wasn&#39;t about anything other than the times. Now I take in my surroundings. I run more with friends, even if they&#39;re slow. It&#39;s a much better experience than being on your own.&quot; Peter Thompson is running for Marathons for the Mind. To donate, visit his Virgin Money Giving page.
Not as easy as riding a bike: why one fleet-footed Briton is about to run the Tour de France
2,200 miles (or thereabouts) of road, slogging up and down mountains, in the sweltering French summer: it's little wonder than the Tour de France is known to be one of the toughest endurance tests of man. But what if you decided to do it not on a bicycle, but on foot? It may sound mad, but that's exactly what long-distance runner Peter Thompson is planning to do. Setting off on the May 19, Thompson, 33, will attempt to run 30 miles per day for 70 days along the official course, with the aim of finishing before the Tour de France proper starts. The Bournemouth-based runner is raising money and awareness for mental health charity Mind and disability charity Livability; his campaign is dubbed 'Marathons for the Mind'. Thompson's path to the challenge, including a similar one last year which saw him run 44 marathons in the 44 European countries in as many days, is a circuitous one. Just three years ago, he almost gave up running after it began to have a negative effect on his personal life and mental health. I just love it as an event. It goes through some amazing scenery, through the Alps, the Pyrenees. It's got something about it, a real iconic sporting raceThompson on the Tour de France "I've been running for about 10 years. I did my first London marathon in 2009. I built on that year on year and it became a really big part of my life," Thompson says when we speak two months before the Tour de France run begins. As an ultra competitive person - "if I'd have broken the world record I would think that's not enough" - running began to control Thompson's life. "I was training upwards of 120 miles per week, running twice a day, no rest days. I was doing gym sessions too. I was fixated on getting better, and I was getting quicker, finishing the Amsterdam marathon in 2015 in 2hr 25min." In retrospect, he realises the growing success was never enough: "Don't get me wrong, when I'd cross the finish line I'd be ecstatic. But it's so short-lived. The next day I have to get better." This single-mindedness led to alienation from his friends and contributed to a romantic breakup, which spurred him to change. "It took all that to happen for me to take a step back and think 'do I want to get quicker at running and alienate people I care about? Or do I want to do something about it?'" he explains. All smiles at the @bournemouthmarathonfestival running the half marathon with my teammates. #bournemouth #bournemouthmarathon #halfmarathon #run #running #runner #team #fit #fitlife #health #wellbeing #healthylifestyle #motivation A post shared by Peter Thompson (@marathonsforthemind) on Oct 9, 2017 at 4:48am PDT After briefly considering stopping altogether, and feeling "lost", Thompson turned his passion for running into a positive – for his own mental health, and to raise awareness. Gone was the obsession with shaving his PBs, heart rate monitors and ultra-meticulous diets. In their place came running for the joy of running. Then, in 2017, Thompson embarked on his European challenge. It was a huge struggle, hampered by injury, but one he got through with the help of strangers and running clubs across the continent. "I got a muscle problem in my quads. They just gave out. I only had 30pc of range of motion, and couldn't bend my leg much, I was scraping it on the floor. I definitely wasn't breaking any records!" But he succeeded, raised £19,000, and decided he'd do something similar again. Which brings us to the Tour de France. How does he feel about increasing his daily output to 30 miles, and keeping that up for 70 days? "It's scary. I wish I'd said 80," he jokes. There's no shortage of insane running challenges; Thompson himself was inspired by Ben Smith, a runner who completed an astounding 401 marathons in as many days. The Tour de France, however, holds a special place in his heart. "I just love it as an event. It goes through some amazing scenery, through the Alps, the Pyrenees. It's got something about it, a real iconic sporting race." Apart from the 70 days, he won't be timing himself, and his new girlfriend may even join. "She's not running, but will cycle a bit. We'll stay in campsites and B&Bs along the route." Peter Thompson's tips for long-distance running Thompson now focuses on the many positives running can bring to mental health, while remaining cautious about taking it too far. "The benefits of just being outside are huge. It can give people focus, something to hold on to. There's such a community element now, which is a huge factor if you're struggling and you hide away. And doing exercise can have a knock-on effect on other aspects of your life, you might eat better, for example. It's an outlet." Since his nadir in 2015, Thompson's runs have changed drastically - "the mindful aspect of running is something I try and do now." No more staring at his wrist to check the time: "It didn't used to matter where I'd run because it wasn't about anything other than the times. Now I take in my surroundings. I run more with friends, even if they're slow. It's a much better experience than being on your own." Peter Thompson is running for Marathons for the Mind. To donate, visit his Virgin Money Giving page.
Not as easy as riding a bike: why one fleet-footed Briton is about to run the Tour de France
Not as easy as riding a bike: why one fleet-footed Briton is about to run the Tour de France
Not as easy as riding a bike: why one fleet-footed Briton is about to run the Tour de France
Not as easy as riding a bike: why one fleet-footed Briton is about to run the Tour de France
Not as easy as riding a bike: why one fleet-footed Briton is about to run the Tour de France
Not as easy as riding a bike: why one fleet-footed Briton is about to run the Tour de France
Chris Froome has had his adverse doping test at the Vuelta a España sent to a tribunal.
Chris Froome doping investigation looks set to go beyond Tour de France
Chris Froome has had his adverse doping test at the Vuelta a España sent to a tribunal.
Chris Froome doping investigation looks set to go beyond Tour de France
Chris Froome doping investigation looks set to go beyond Tour de France
Chris Froome doping investigation looks set to go beyond Tour de France
Chris Froome doping investigation looks set to go beyond Tour de France
Chris Froome doping investigation looks set to go beyond Tour de France
Chris Froome doping investigation looks set to go beyond Tour de France
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Men&#39;s stage winners, Team Trek Selle San Marco 2 riders, Fabian Rabensteiner (L) and Michele Casagrande (R) during the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the &#39;Tour de France&#39; of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Men's stage winners, Team Trek Selle San Marco 2 riders, Fabian Rabensteiner (L) and Michele Casagrande (R) during the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Men's stage winners, Team Trek Selle San Marco 2 riders, Fabian Rabensteiner (L) and Michele Casagrande (R) during the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- The professional peloton race during final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the &#39;Tour de France&#39; of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- The professional peloton race during final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- The professional peloton race during final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- The professional peloton race during final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the &#39;Tour de France&#39; of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- The professional peloton race during final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- The professional peloton race during final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Men&#39;s stage winners, Team Trek Selle San Marco 2 riders, Fabian Rabensteiner (L) and Michele Casagrande (R) celebrate after the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the &#39;Tour de France&#39; of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Men's stage winners, Team Trek Selle San Marco 2 riders, Fabian Rabensteiner (L) and Michele Casagrande (R) celebrate after the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Men's stage winners, Team Trek Selle San Marco 2 riders, Fabian Rabensteiner (L) and Michele Casagrande (R) celebrate after the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- A bike riders number is seen after the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the &#39;Tour de France&#39; of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- A bike riders number is seen after the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- A bike riders number is seen after the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Team BUFF SCOTT MTB team mates, Francesc Guerra Carretero (L) and Luis Leao Pinto (R) embrace after finishing the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the &#39;Tour de France&#39; of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Team BUFF SCOTT MTB team mates, Francesc Guerra Carretero (L) and Luis Leao Pinto (R) embrace after finishing the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Team BUFF SCOTT MTB team mates, Francesc Guerra Carretero (L) and Luis Leao Pinto (R) embrace after finishing the 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- A rider celebrate&#39;s after crossing the line after the final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the &#39;Tour de France&#39; of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- A rider celebrate's after crossing the line after the final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- A rider celebrate's after crossing the line after the final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Ciclismo, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Women&#39;s stage winner, Brazil&#39;s Raiza Goulao celebrate&#39;s after crossing the line after the final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the &#39;Tour de France&#39; of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Brasil, Ciclismo, Laos, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Women's stage winner, Brazil's Raiza Goulao celebrate's after crossing the line after the final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Brasil, Ciclismo, Laos, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Cape Town (South Africa), 25/03/2018.- Women's stage winner, Brazil's Raiza Goulao celebrate's after crossing the line after the final 67km stage 7 of the 2018 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, Cape Town, South Africa, 25 March 2018. The ABSA Cape Epic race, often called the 'Tour de France' of mountain biking, sees 1200 professional and amateur riders race in a distance over 658 km and climbing over 13,530 meters in height during 8 stages. (Brasil, Ciclismo, Laos, Sudáfrica, Francia) EFE/EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

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