a few words with andy mackie of la corsa italian tours

la corsa italian bicycle tours

the last time i recall a spate of sunny weather like the one scotland is/was currently experiencing, was when i was still at school. and though i'd be the first to admit that while i can scarcely remember what i had for tea last wednesday along with a sneaking suspicion there's a smidgeon of looking through 'rose-tinted' glasses, i'm pretty sure i'm right. possibly. sad to relate, however, well over two weeks of that warm, cosy sunshine has been occupied by non-velocipedinal activity, leaving pangs of missed opportunities, despite finding endless sunshine a less than desirable alternative to wind and rain.

la corsa italian bicycle tours

i know, i know...

but, you have to feel at least a few condolences for those who have saved their hard-earned pennies to enjoy a few days of cycling in more commonly warmer climes. or at least, that would be the case were i 100% sure that these foreign cycling trips were all about the weather. if you'll forgive me for once again mentioning my travel trip of a few years back, despite it taking place in french france, the weather was decidedly un-french. or at least not what i expected french weather to be. in which case, perhaps i've underestimated the value of the cycling parcours, and the weather can go take a running jump.

because i figure there's every chance that the decision to book a cycling holiday is not one taken at the last minute; at least, not for most of us. though we're slap bang in the middle of summer right this minute, i've little doubt that velocipedinal thoughts have already strayed to summer 2019 and the cycling joy that awaits one year hence. in the light of which, this hardly seems an inopportune moment to have a few words with andy mackie, a fellow scot whose day job is looking after pelotons of cyclists with the presence of mind to book several days in italy on a la corsa tour. and, if like me, this tuscan-based enterprise doesn't ring any bells, that might be due to its relatively recent appearance.

la corsa italian bicycle tours

"La Corsa started proper in 2016. I intended to start it sooner but broke my leg pretty badly."

though cycling's three grand tours take place in italy, france and spain, arguably the european heartlands of the competitive side of the sport, i'm sure i'm not the only one to put my hand up and point out that their previously unassailable position in the uci's firmament, though hardly in danger, is not what it once was. for the chaps at aigle, ever in pursuit of the sponsorship dollar, have invoked the spirit of globalisation and taken their finish line to a wide variety of less than traditional cycling corners of the world. potentially, that means that the market for cycle holidays surely ought to follow suit? with the so-called globalisation of cycling, why has andy decided to remain in the historical heartlands of tuscany?

"I think the answer actually lies within your question. Tuscany literally is the heartland of cycling in Italy and steeped in cycling history. Tuscany has always been a hot bed for producing some of the best Italian cyclists, stretching back to Gino Bartali. It is also perhaps the reason Mark Cavendish, Taylor Phinney and many others use it as their European base.
"The main reason La Corsa took base in Tuscany is that I still view it as my second home. I lived in Florence for eight years and from there operated a successful one-day bike tour company. It was a natural progression to operate in Tuscany. To boot, it has everything that makes it a cyclist's paradise: great roads, landscape, cuisine, wine and we have a great network of people based there. It's with this knowledge that we are able to confidently say we possess the expertise and knowledge to make Tuscany the ideal cycling destination."

la corsa italian bicycle tours

it would likely be something of a stretch in terms of personnel and resources to offer a continuous range of cycling tours from the first hint of spring, till the falling of the autumn leaves. thus, la corsa tours tend to be a bit more selective when it comes to available dates on which to book your tuscan cycling holiday. currently, there remain only three outings for 2018: a tuscany classic commencing in around a month, a de rosa factory tour and pedal round the lakes in late september, rounding off the year with l'eroica week in october. suffice it to say that the earlier months of this year have already featured a couple of rides in fausto coppi's back yard.

but are there any plans to offer more tours, or are la corsa's resources already strained to bursting point? "Yes absolutely! Currently Tuscany still offers us so much scope for more tours. Even as we speak, we are putting together itineraries for trips in Umbria under the same style of staycation holiday. We're refining and tweaking our Lakes trip in the North of Italy and through our brilliant partnerships with De Rosa and Campagnolo, we are able to offer private tours of both factories. Guests also have the chance to meet Ugo De Rosa and his sons over lunch."

i cannot deny that thoughts of cycling through the vineyards and hills of tuscany are those that have flitered through my psyche on more than just a single occasion. though i've cycled in france and in the usa, ticking the italian box is one that is mentally at the top of the list, one that i rather hope receives a tick sooner, rather than later. however, i'm well aware that my comparatively sheltered existence means that my foreign cycling experiences lag well behind those of many of my peers.

la corsa italian bicycle tours

but though i'm happy to suffer for your art, i also have your best interests at heart, concerned that at least one or two of you may have your oakleys pinned on further horizons. if andy has similar observations, has he any plans to stray further afield?

"We are looking to add more territories, but currently we're likely to be busy with Italy for the next year or so."

if there's one thing that pretty much every cyclist has in common, it's an appetite that would equal that of two normal people. all that frantic pedalling in italian sunshine is pretty much bound to engender the need for frequent face-stuffing, an inherent necessity that surely the land of the tuscan is more than agreeably constituted to fulfil. la corsa tours, even in the short time they've offered their campagnolo chorus equipped de rosa bicycles, have become renowned for the quality and quantity of their daily repasts. was this gastronomic aspect of la corsa a cunning plan from the beginning, or has it simply worked out that way?

"Call it a plan and an intention! On a recent tour, one of the guests commented that we really needed to make more of a noise or fuss about the places we eat and drink. I was always adamant that when I created La Corsa that the ethos of the tour wasn't going to be that of a slog fest. The area that we are in is far too beautiful not to appreciate.
"Staring at your handlebars and keeping to a set wattage isn't our style. The nature of the terrain is fairly demanding, so riders will get a work out regardless of that choice, after which the logical thing to do is to go and eat! This has to be the reward. Living in the area and having local knowledge shared with ex-pat Chris, who lives in the area, we wanted to share all these amazing eateries and let guests be fully immersed in not only the cycling culture, but the fabulous cuisine that the area offers."

la corsa italian bicycle tours

however, there's little argument that nipping off to foreign parts for a week of glorious cycling on roads steeped in velocipedinal history, taken at face value, might well be seen as a somewhat superficial activity. yes, it's nice to go pedal on hitherto unvisited roads in countries where the indigenous language is that of cycling itself, but i figure most of us would like to think that there's more to it than that. there's always the fervent hope that some of that history and culture will have its own effect, making the end result greater than the sum of its parts.

what does andy hope that his guests will gain from one of the longer la corsa tours? "Without sounding clichéd, I want people to go away with an amazing life experience. We want to offer our guests a chance to ride in some of the most beautiful countryside, stop and eat at some of the best places we have put together and not have to think about a thing. From the moment people touch down at the airport, we are there to take control and look after everything.
"Ultimately, we hope that guests will experience everything amazing about the area, food and lifestyle in the space of a week, an experience which has taken us years of trial and error to put together. As a side note, it's also nice to be told that many of the guests who have met one another on one of our tours, are still in touch with one another long after they've all returned home."

la corsa italian bicycle tours

this is, of course, the modern world, where equality allegedly rules the roost, no longer simply the province of the self-professed dominant member of the household. for if the latter has every intention of spending a few pounds on one of andy's holidays, there's every likelihood that their non-cycling spouses or partners hold the intention of tagging along. let's not lose sight of the enviable food spreads to be appreciated. that considered, are there any alternative activities provided for the non-pedallers in attendance?

"This is an interesting question. We've trialled two tours already this year with pre and post yoga, which seemed to be a massive success. We had two non-cycling partners who joined us for these tours and seemed to love it. This may be something we offer more of in the future. Additionally we are able to accommodate non-cycling partners by visiting various nearby towns along with a winery tour."

la corsa tours have not, however, thrown all their italian eggs in the one shopping basket. in addition to the week-long tours described above, it's possible to book and participate in a one-day scoot about the tuscan countryside. but i'm assuming that those one-day excursions are designed to attract folks already on holiday in the region? surely no-one actually flies out for a day?

"Yes! We have Chris based in Florence who operates our one day tours in Chianti. He 's able to offer guests the opportunity for a mini La Corsa taster tour providing the opportunity to experience some of the roads and places we do on our five-day and week-long tours. This has been an extension of my previous business and has proved very popular. Tourists have the opportunity to ride a £4.5k De Rosa road bike with a local guide showing the best of the roads and once again, taking away any concerns the guests may have. This service includes lunch, as well as pick-up and drop-off at the hotel. So far, no-one has flown out for one day, but you just never know! Never say never:)

la corsa italian bicycle tours

is there any chance of a hustle to italy with la corsa this year?

"We have limited spaces left for our last tour of the season which runs during L'Eroica. This is a brilliant time of year and the temperature is still usually lovely, in the mid-20s. Guests have the opportunity to try a little of the Strade Bianche (white roads) on their De Rosa and then watch all the riders ride their pre 1989 road bikes and rattle over the roads. I still haven't been brave enough to do it, but one day!
"Next year we are also going to be adding the Gran Fondo Milano-San Remo, based on the same course that the professionals race on. Luckily the ride is in the month of June, so we should skip the snow and icy wet conditions."

if you've a few days to spare later this year and fancy joining andy mackie for some fabulous cycling in tuscany, check the la corsa tours website. if it's looking like 2019 is a better option, i'm pretty sure mr mackie will be more than happy to avail you of his plans for next year.

la corsa cycle tours

thursday 12 july 2018

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................