What exactly was a Grand Tour?

Grand Tours Project Team

Feb / 17 / 2021

A Grand Tour. What comes to mind when you think about a Grand Tour? For me, it’s a cycling grand tour. But back in the day…. a long time ago, a grand tour was a just as arduous voyage across the European continent for young men of the upper and aristocratic classes.

Unlike today, the aim was to allow the young men to pursue their interests outside their society norms, to meet with similar families of social standing, to spread their oats, to pilfer antiquities from ancient sites, and to have a portrait painted before they returned home to take up roles in the family and society. Often it would take a couple of years or so, and require retinues of servants, mentors and invariably, large trains of luggage.

Above: Grand Tour tourist carried over the alps in a sedan chair

Nowadays, it could not be more different! You do not need to be aristocratic, the aim is to travel lightly because who has servants these day! And rather than rely on ships, horses and carriages (yes this was before the era of trains) one only needs their trusty steed – a bike…and a bike computer! Of course, a good friend driving a support vehicle is an advantage.

Above: Colle delle Finestre, Giro d´Italia 2018

Today riding on an epic journey, crossing and discovering “new worlds” or riding one of the 3 Grand Tours is possible – either #Ride Every Kilometre or choose to dabble in the experience, especially in the mountain stages. It's an opportunity to see parts of Italy, France and Spain that you wouldn’t normally go to.

But there are other places in Europe that can qualify as a grand tour. There are other races that can be ridden and followed, as well as personal journeys through several regions and countries, with friends and family, exploring the best kept secrets of amazing European countries. Like the princely voyages of the past, these are journeys that can educate, introduce you to a wide cross section of people – both comrade cyclists but also locals. Perhaps it's an opportunity to practise some remnant language lessons from school years on the local population!!

Above: Grimsel Pass, Switzerland Explorer Tour

Grand Tours are about escapism, an experience and soon a memory never to be forgotten.

Above: Lofoten Islands, Tour of Norway.