GREEK CYCLE HOLIDAYS: THE STORY BEHIND A FAMILY ENTERPRISE
We all know that there’s much more to cycling than riding a bike, but what do you do when you no longer need a villa on a beautiful Greek island? Turn it into a bike business, of course, in "a cycling paradise an hour from Athens."
Well, that is exactly what the Frost family did. Steve Dyster chatted with Peter Frost, one of the founders of Greek Cycle Holidays.
Greek Cycle Holidays is a family business, run by Richard (Dad), Steven (Son) who lives in Greece and manages the business day-to-day, and Peter (Son) who lives in the UK and “helps out with marketing.” Even better, Steven is a top-line chef as well as a keen cyclist, and he does the cooking at the villa!
Peter explained, “Having worked as a Chef in London for a few years, Steven, my brother, met a Greek woman in 2000. When they married they moved to Athens to raise a family. With two grandkids in Athens, my Mum and Dad decided to buy a holiday home to enable them to spend more with them.”
Having looked at several properties the Villa on Eretria was ideal and they purchased the property in 2002.
Sadly, family circumstances changed. In 2013 Richard’s wife, Anita, passed away which inevitably meant that the house wasn't being used as much. Selling was not an option because of the financial crash and its severe consequences for Greece.
The brothers were both keen cyclists, Peter initially as mountain-biker around the North York Moors; Steve as a commuter and keen Audax rider. Peter said, “Steve is active in the Athenian cycling scene through The Saints Club, often taking part in regular "free day" events - these take place through the night when the Athenian roads are quiet.”
“By the summer of 2015 Steven was beginning to become disillusioned with kitchen-life and whilst having our first family summer holiday in Greece for a couple of years, the idea of using the villa for cycling holidays was developed over a few beers,’” said Peter. The family thereby joined a long and noble tradition of entrepreneurs discovering inspiration.
Fortunately, next morning they could recall their discussion. “Having survived the hangover work started in earnest,” said Peter. “Our first guests arrived in March 2016.”
“The Island of Evia offers the best of Greece,” says Peter, “Spectacular scenery without an overdeveloped tourist industry so prevalent on many of the islands.” The villa is situated near the small resort town of Eretria.
Peter continues, “It is ‘real’ Greece with agriculture being its main industry. You are just as likely to meet a shepherd and his flock on the road than much in the way of traffic. That’s not to say Eretria doesn’t have the facilities expected of a tourist island; small hotels, cafes, tavernas, beaches and bars. Being only an hour from Athens it is popular as a summer destination for Athenians in the summer months.” That is a selling point for visitors seeking a quick start to their cycling holiday.
In Peter’s opinion, the best things about cycling on Evia is the island itself. He points to, “A low population density, 200,000 on an island of 3700km square, the roads are very quiet. The spine of the island is a mountain range, topping out at 1743 metres at Mount Dirfis. That’s not to say it is all uphill, there are several flatter coastal routes for easier days. Add the spectacular and diverse scenery and you have an undiscovered cycling paradise.”
Many of the villages are remote and not yet used to many visiting cycle tourists, but don’t fret. Peter assures us that this doesn’t prevent them from giving a traditional Greek welcome, with some bakers making cakes especially for visitors. “Picturesque Steni, at the base of Mount Dirfis, has several tavernas with spit-roast lamb a speciality. Ideal for a rewarding lunch stop after tackling the seventeen hairpins of the Steni pass. After the ride, relax with something ice cold in one of Eretria's bars or treat yourself to a visit to the local winery.”
All this cycling pleasure, on and off your bicycle, in unspoilt Greek countryside, just goes to show that, even for the conquerors of mountain passes, there’s much more to cycling than riding a bike.
For more detail take a look at http://greekcycleholidays.com where you can learn more about the area, the rides, and, of course, the great food.
Images courtesy of Greek Cycle Holidays.
PUBLISHED DECEMBER 2017