Meet the team of Grand Cols Cycling Tours: Rinie Sminia and Joop Forster. Rinie, our Chef d’Equipe, brings heaps of experience, excelling in entrepreneurship and expertly organising high mountain cycling tours. Meanwhile, Joop, our Directeur de Course, is an experienced mountain cyclist, who knows Europe’s most breathtaking routes. This squadra is ready to take your cycling adventures to the next level!
Rinie: ‘Climbing the Grand Cols together with other cyclists provides experience, confidence, pride and (cycling) friends for life!’
I have been following professional cycling (‘de koers’) since I was young. The radio reports of the famous Dutch reporter Theo Koomen (yes, so long ago) played an important role in this. I also cut out the results of the Tour de France for my scrapbook. A cycling career was not (yet) in the cards. However, I have practiced other sports at a high (national) level. I had my first experience with the Grand Cols when I went to the Alps with some fellow students; an unforgettable trip that was not followed up because family and work came first.
In 2018 I decided to return to the mountains to cycle cols. A trip to Gran Canaria turned out to be a deception; I couldn’t get over a single hill! Then things changed radically: new bike, bikefits, Tacx, Zwift, Wahoo, Watt Bike, better nutrition, heart rate monitor, power meter and coaches; the cycling fever had got hold of me. After that things went quickly. The weight flew off and six months later I ‘flew’ over the Canary mountains. In the years that followed I climbed the Grand Cols in the Alps, Pyrenees, Vosges and Apennines. I also took part in the Nove Colli together with 11,000 Nibalis; magnificent! The Grand Cols in Andorra have recently impressed me the most.
At the same time, as a business consultant and former entrepreneur, I immersed myself in the business side of cycling. At other organisations, I gained experience organising and guiding cycling tours, including the Coast 2 Coast Pyrenees, Across the Alps (South) and on Mallorca. The next step could only be starting my own business in cycling. Meeting Joop provided the decisive push. We got on well together and our experiences matched perfectly. What could be better than pooling our experience, knowledge and skills and sharing them with other cycling enthusiasts?
Joop: ‘Nothing beats the shared pain and joy on the Grand Cols, and of course you have to have a cup of good coffee along the way.’
Directeur de Course
In 2012 I climbed my first Grand Col with cycling friend Rob. We chose a Tour classic: Alpe d’Huez! We had little knowledge and were poorly prepared. In Le Bourg-d’Oisans I jumped on a rented road bike without worrying about the settings and started the climb. It was very hot and by chance we ended up in the climbing time trial of Le Haute Route! I let myself be pushed by the experienced riders around me and started way too quickly. I reached the top completely devastated but intensely satisfied. This left me wanting more!
Since then I plan two or three cycling holidays every year during which I tick off Grand Cols. This has become a kind of obsession, partly due to the Mountain Guide of ‘Fiets’. In the meantime, I have climbed more than 200 cols and cycled the most iconic cycle routes through the European high mountains. Before I go into the mountains I always have a lot of fun preparing the routes. Also I have learned a lot about clothing, nutrition and pacing in recent years. I like to use my experience to help others experience the pleasure of cycling in the mountains. I live in Venlo, close to the Dutch ‘mountains’, and cycle fanatically all year round. I follow professional cycling closely, and I especially enjoy the Italian cycling culture. I love classic cycling jerseys and am a fan of the Bianchi brand.
My most beautiful Grand Col is Colle della Fauniera. Together with three cycling friends I climbed the Fauniera for the first time in 2016, from Demonte. This col has everything that makes cycling in the mountains so beautiful to me. We climbed a narrow, deserted road to a beautiful, rugged alpine area. The climb was long and tough. At the top (2,481 metres) Marco Pantani, immortalized in stone, was waiting for us. When I prepared Across the Alps South together with Rinie in 2022, I knew one thing for sure: the Fauniera had to be included!