Tour de France

The 98th Tour de France came to a close this past weekend as the competition had reached fever pitch.  Despite the much hyped matchup between Alberto Contador, winner of the past two TdF’s, and Andy Schleck, runner-up in past years of the Tour, Frenchman Thomas Voeckler looked to be the man to beat for the Yellow Jersey at the start of stage 19.

This year’s Tour was markedly turbulent early on.  The first 9 stages saw a number of alarming crashes resulting in some very serious injuries.  However, calamity had steadily dissipated as the competition rose.

The leader board in this year’s event featured several surprise contenders for the GC competition for the overall best time, adding even more excitement to cycling’s most celebrated tour.  Thomas Voeckler remained in contention for the Yellow Jersey much longer than most had expected.  Fans also saw a second place appearance by Andy’s brother, Frank Schleck.  Frank gave up his second place spot to his brother, but he remained close to the top, as he finished in third, two and a half minutes behind the Australian leader, Cadel Evans.

By the end of stage 19 on Friday, both Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans of Australia managed to overtake Voeckler, with Evans in first and Schleck following in second.  Alberto Contador made several surprise moves uphill over the course of the Tour, but managed to finish no higher than fifth place in the competition for the Yellow Jersey.

With no shortage of twists and turns, this year’s Tour de France certainly delivered the intense competition that the race is known for.  Congratulations to Cadel Evans who took the GC competition, Samuel Sanchez who won King of the Mountains, Mark Cavendish who took the Sprinter’s Green Jersey, Pierre Rolland who was this year’s best young rider, and Team Garmin-Cervelo who won the team competition.

Meet Ivan and Marita—10-Time VBT Travelers

You might think it’s ironic that our friends Ivan and Marita’s most memorable moment from all ten VBT trips they’ve taken … happened right here in Vermont. But the retired couple don’t call it ironic – they say it’s par for the course that their Trip Leader Gerry Slager– spontaneously knocked on the door of an old friend for a tour of his barn.

Spontaneous Stops Make the Trip

The way Ivan tells it, “Gerry said we were going to ride to his friend’s house to see if we could get a peek into this amazing barn full of antique machinery.” This sounded right up the Oklahoman’s alley, and he was glad he tagged along. When the barn door opened, his eyes flew open like a school kid’s. “That barn was huge, and it had all sorts of old farm equipment – bailers, combines, tractors, and machinery I remember seeing when I was in grade school.”

Why par for the course? “It doesn’t matter where you are in the world,” Ivan goes on. “Trip Leaders are always making unplanned, spontaneous stops and going the extra mile for VBT travelers.”

And he should know. They have taken 10 VBT vacations in 10 years. At first, they stayed in the U.S., cycling through Vermont one year, Prince Edward Island the next, then on to Maine and California. Since then, they’ve ventured to Austria and Tuscany and some other domestic destinations.

Of them all, they agree that California and Austria were their favorites. “But it’s very difficult to choose,” Marita says. “I loved Austria for the beauty and the tiny villages and for how much we learned about the culture.” Ivan counters, “California was wonderful for the biking and the discoveries we made at wineries.”

Down to a Science

But they agree again that they have VBT Trip Leaders to thank for the top-notch quality of all their trips. “They are phenomenal,” says Marita. “Each one is unique and each one finds special things to do in their country, so the discoveries they’ve shared feel very personal to us. They know exactly where to eat and where the little-known museums are. They genuinely want to share their home.”

“We can depend on VBT,” Marita concurs. “Every trip is professionally run. I know that when we arrive we’ll experience everything that’s been promised to us.”

One thing they promise themselves is to take full advantage of cycling options on every trip. “Biking vacations let you see things up close,” Marita says. “It’s not like a bus trip where you see things from a window and fly past them. On our bikes, we get a taste of local life, and we get out and exercise! That’s important to us. We always come home feeling invigorated.”

Any advice for first-time VBT travelers? “Be prepared to ride so you can get the most out of your destination,” she recommends. And Ivan adds, “You’re going to meet and get close to a lot of people. Be prepared to have a lot of fun with a lot of new friends!”

For their next trip, Marita and Ivan are torn between two very different Bicycling Vacations: The Czech Republic, Germany & Austria or Mississippi: The Natchez Trace. One thing is certain no matter which trip they choose: They’re sure to have excellent Trip Leaders on hand!