Cycling is fast becoming one of the bigger draw cards for visitors to New Zealand looking for an active holiday in a country of ever-changing landscapes. And, for those who also enjoy the finer side of life, there’s the opportunity to combine beauty and action with some of life’s temporal pleasures along the way.
Cyclist Tim Gudsell, one of few New Zealanders to reach the Pro Tour of professional cycling, has come up with a winning combo of cycle touring and luxury experiences in some of the country’s best wine regions.
Gudsell spent many years competing in France and Italy where, while pushing his limits physically, he learned a new appreciation of quality food and wine. On returning home, he discovered New Zealand’s own top class food and wine and came up with a way to share it with the rest of the world. The double-Olympian and Commonwealth Games medalist has spent his last few seasons guiding the New Zealand pro team Pure Black Racing to numerous victories – and snatched a few wins of his own during that time.
“We are creative and are pushing the boundaries in cuisine which is keeping us ahead of other countries,” Gudsell says. “We have a lot of good raw ingredients, and without the restraints of tradition, we are delivering the food and wine to the customer in so many different ways which really helps add to the whole experience.”
Coupled with his extensive knowledge of New Zealand’s ‘back roads’ - for many years his training ground - Gudsell saw an opening for what has become Ventouro Tours.
Ventouro Tours offer three to six-day luxury cycling tours through New Zealand’s most beautiful landscapes, centred on the wine regions of Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough, Central Otago and Martinborough. The tours cater to riders of all abilities, combining scenic routes with world-class eating and drinking.
Not just your average cycle tour guide, Gudsell knows how to deliver a ‘pro’ treatment no matter the ability; he has made this a signature of Ventouro Tours with participants benefiting from the same treatment that pro riders enjoy. He and his team willingly provide tips and techniques to help improve performance while on tour.
“What sets New Zealand apart is the scenery and low volumes of traffic,” he says. “Whether it’s the east coast beaches, Canterbury high country or West Coast rain forest there is always something to keep you occupied.”
Tour of Hawke’s Bay
For those who enjoy a little luxury, there’s a four-night retreat with Ventouro at Black Barn, a beautiful little vineyard in Hawke’s Bay wine country that’s been voted one of the top 10 vineyard visits in the world.
“I love regions like Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay which have so many hidden gems, and amazing people who help take our experience to another level,” Gudsell says.
As cyclists explore the region there are stops at the growers’ market to experience regional food and fresh produce – the very same seasonal ingredients that Blackbarn’s chef will be using to prepare dinner that night.
A visit to the Hawke’s Bay is incomplete without tasting the award-winning wines created there. The Ventouro experience includes exclusive wine tastings at both Blackbarn and Ngatarawa Vineyard, personally guided by head winemaker Peter Gough.
Napier, the main city in the Hawke’s Bay region, is famous for its Art Deco architecture.
Tour of Martinborough
The Martinborough wine region – about an hour north of Wellington – has earned a reputation for its distinctive boutique wines, with a particular affinity for producing world-class pinot noir.
The Ventouro tour passes through the South Wairarapa, where you’ll find over 30 locally owned, family-run vineyards. The roads around the region are perfect for riding, from the picturesque town of Martinborough to the historic village of Greytown, where the architecture reflects its colonial Victorian beginnings as New Zealand’s first planned inland town.
There are so many gems to discover in this area, from quirky shops to cafés serving delicious food made from locally-grown ingredients, as well as acres of quintessential New Zealand pastoral scenery.
Tour of Queenstown
For those wanting a slightly more relaxed riding holiday, there’s a four-night retreat with Ventouro in Queenstown, staying at the Sherwood – a newly refurbished property that offers a funky retro setting for relaxing and unwinding.
Queenstown’s stunning scenery, huge range of activities and vibrant hospitality scene cements its reputation as New Zealand’s favourite visitor destination.
Surrounded by majestic mountains and set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the natural beauty of the region creates the perfect backdrop for a cycling holiday of adventure, exploration and relaxation as you travel winding roads and quiet lakeside trails to picturesque destinations like Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Wanaka and Cromwell.
Ventouro Tours can also create bespoke cycling itineraries designed to accommodate the wishes of private individuals and groups.