Category Archives: Trips

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

 

Time flies and it flies especially when you are having fun and doing something you love.  It feels like yesterday we were saying that we were about to leave for our classics trip to see some of our friends at Roubaix and Flanders.  Today we are returning to Europe for our Summer schedule having completed five trips in six weeks in Belgium and Italy.

 

It is difficult to pick out one moment that stands out the most but its hard not to get excited about riding the last 100Km of Paris-Roubaix the day before the race with Roger Hammond and then getting the door to the Roubaix showers unlocked just for us.  Although Thor did not win Roubaix (this year) we still enjoyed chasing the race and thanks to our soigneur Bart were even able to sneak into the caravan.  That’s right, we got the van inside the carevan and our guests got to experience something that few people ever do.  The race from inside the race.   Jered Gruber who was shooting and leading rides for us puts it best in the recent Peloton Magazine article One Year Ago where along with our soigneur Bart and five guests we followed the race and even got in the caravan with the red van.

 

Following Belgium we were in Chianti doing what we have become known best for.  I’m happy to say that despite hundreds of miles ridden everybody gained weight.  Mission accomplished.  Both Ted King and Roger Hammond made appearances as did Giovanni Lombardi the legendary leadout man for Mario Cipolini.  It was great to spend time with these guys and share with them also what we love about the area.

 

The riding has gotten better and better and we enjoyed rides as long as 5 hours and as short as my favorite coffee shop ride from Lecchi to Castelnuovo Beradenga (2 hours).  All of our guests got to experience this amazing area and we like to think that we just made 25 new friends over the past few weeks.

 

Press
We’ve been fortunate to have some amazing press over the past few weeks. Our Portugal trip this September was named by Men’s Journal as one of the must do adventures of the year. You can see it here. In addition to Jered Grubers piece on Roubaix we were also featured in what I like to call Heidi Swift’s ode to our soigneur Raul as part of her Peloton Magazine* article on preparing for the Tour and we are greatful to slowtwitch for featuring us recently.

Mythic Soigneur

We talk about Raul often, our mythic soigneur but don’t take our word for it.  Read about him here as seen in Peloton Magazine.

 

Excerpt from Peloton Magazine article issue 13 by Heidi Swift

 

…I went to a town called Lecchi to meet a man named Joao Correia, I was there to write a story about his company, inGamba Tours.  Basically they package magic and wonder and long descents and massages and philosopher-shoemakers and pretty Pinarello bikes and foodgasms and great wine into one week-long trip.  By the end of the seventh day you’re so happy you can’t recognize your own heart anymore.  By the end of the seventh day you’re so tired that you want to weep and crumple and fall into someone’s arms.  So you do.  Those arms belong to Raul.

 

Raul

You come to inGamba knowing you will get massages from a professional soigneur.  It’s part of the package.  You think of this as a set of hands and a moment of relaxation.  You imagine yourself closing you’re eyes after a hard ride-a bit of kneading and pressure sorts you out.

 

Instead, you get Raul, Raul the leg whisperer.  Raul the clown.  Raul the mime.  Raul the comedian.  Raul the great.  Raul forever.
You fall in love with him.  You can’t help it.  Neither could I.  And he lover you, too.  Because that is why he breathes.  To take care of people.  To take care of you.  To take care of me.  The word soigneur means “one who takes care of others.”  This is not just about massage.  Everyone who meets Raul will learn that.  Everyone who meets Raul will learn something they did not know about how to love each other as human beings.  His is a selfless, devoted, invested kind of care.
Raul takes care of my legs every day that I am in Tuscany.  On some days he also rides with me, observing the way I climb or shift gears.  When we climb with fast groups, he puts a hand on my lower back and takes the edge off of my threshold effort.  He always ask for permission first.  When I run out of water, he hands me a fresh bidon from his cage.  When the fireworks go off in the front of the group, he sometimes gets caught up in the fray.  Then he sits up, supermans on his saddle and drifts back to me.  Laughing.

 

Later when he works my claves, he props my leg up on the table and leans his head against my knee-eyes close-and disappears into his work.  There is a conversation shared between fingers and muscles as he kneads his way into the very details of my pedaling, the shadowy forms of my doubts and insecurities, the secret hopes guarded in my heart.  By the time he’s done, he knows more about me than I intended.

 

He pats my shoulders after he finishes, pausing sometimes to sit on the couch and chatter at me in his broken Italian, which is the language where we meet.  Somewhere at the intersection of my 70% comprehension and his 30% speaking proficiency, he tells me things about my riding and my legs and how I’m going to be fine when I get to the Tour.  He knows it.  He taps a closed fist against his chest emphatically, closing his eyes and shaking his head side to side in a way that actually means yes.  Yes, Heidi, yes.
I’m almost certain that Raul thinks I’m batshit crazy, but as our time together winds down I can see that he loves the Crazy in me.  And isn’t crazy love, the only kind of love worth loving?  In some sense, if I can pull this off, it will be because of that man and the way that he took care of me for four short week sin May.

And We’re Off To a New Season

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2012 was an amazing journey for us. Although the foundation of our company started with one ride in Chianti during the autumn of my 2010 season [read more about it here], inGamba has really become the work of a few people whose shared passion for riding a bicycle, eating great food and drinking fantastic wine have one thing in common. Sharing it with amazing people. I think Peloton Magazine summarized it best by saying:

“The concept of InGamba is simple: combine the best riding with the best of everything else. What life would we live if we could live perfectly every day? Eat and drink as if this is your last day, ride as if you won’t ride again, open your eyes and see the world, feel with every part of your heart. InGamba is not just about cycling, it’s about accessing a passion that most people might never get to engage. With InGamba, everything is personal. Everything is special. Everything rises above. These tours are created from intimate knowledge of places and decades-old friendships” ~ Heidi Swift – Peloton Magazine

If we do one thing well it’s creating experiences that you will never forget. Whether it’s spending a few days with a pro whom you may have read about, introducing you to the man known as the philosopher shoemaker or the woman who single handedly revolutionized what Chianti wine is today. With us you will see life through the lens of what relationships and passion do for people.

We run trips in Chianti in the Spring, Summer and Fall (8 total) and this year will again do our award winning Portugal Trip in September.
Each one of our trips is unique and is built around our passions for Chianti and sharing experiences that you can only have in this magical region. It’s a combination of the great roads, people and food & wine that you will only find there. In the middle there will be surprises that one of my partners summarized best “being open to what the road has to offer”. We never know what those are but some of our best memories come from those surprises this year.

What is similar with each trip is the level of service and attention to details. We limit our trips to 8-12 people. Our partnerships are built on relationships we have had for years.

We ride Pinarello bikes because those are the bikes we love and our relationship with the Pinarello family has allowed us unique access to a fleet of their top line Dogma model.

When you arrive you will be greeted by a kit from Giordana. We like their clothing. In fact we like them period. We think you will as well. You will meet the mythic soigneur Raul, who will not only fix your body after each day but he’ll touch your soul as well. And of course there is always Luis our mechanic to make sure your Pinarello is not only clean but is also running perfectly each day.

These are some of the things I enjoyed most about being on a pro team. Great bikes, amazing kit and a soigneur and mechanic to make sure the body and machine are running smoothly. I brought those to inGamba because I thought you should have them as well.

We hope you have the opportunity to travel with us this year and we have the opportunity to meet you, below please find our calendar for the season.

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The Fool

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You had to be there. We were frolicking up yet one more long, gentle grade under a soft sun, the six or seven of us. We were laughing now and then, or sometimes talking for a few earnest minutes about our families or some memory sparked by the landscape, or going on in a companionable silence punctuated with smiles and shakes of our heads and even sighs at our great good luck of being cyclists. We were sweating a sheen onto our arms and legs without dampening our jerseys or socks. In a few miles, we would be at the top of one more small mountain in a day full of them, and we would stop at a café or a bar or a market and sit and sip at Cokes in tiny bottles, or ristrettos in tinier cups, or a different vintage of the local Chianti wine than we’d sampled last time. Then we would do it all again, just like we’d done it all before.

What more could a cyclist ask for than a day like that? I suppose there is always more that could be requested or desired, no matter what. But right then, on that hill under that sun, none of us even cared to ask, let alone try to give an answer. Until Raul started hitching his tow-rope to us.

Our inGamba tour group’s Portugese soigneur would pedal stealthily up to someone’s rear wheel, slip a string around the horn of the unwitting rider’s rear brake, then ease backward until the line was taut and he was getting a free ride. It was a ludicrous and brilliant enhancement of the old trick of surreptiously grabbing someone’s saddle rail. When the rider felt the increased effort and glanced backward, there was nobody right there to betray the ruse—Raul was four or five feet away, and the string was hard to see.

A few of us had happened to be at the back of the group when Raul started playing around. We worked hard to keep our expressions neutral as we watched his victims one by one check to see if their tires were leaking air, shift gears for relief, examine the road in puzzlement over how the slope had steepened without changing appearance, and, astonished at their sudden collapse, gape at the rest of us spinning easily along. Meanwhile, Raul would be surfing the road from side to side like a waterskier, whipping the string like a wagon boss hectoring his horses, holding the line in his teeth and snapping his head like a hooked fish. Then, with impeccable comic timing he’d accelerate while winding in his string, unloop it from the brake and, tapping his index finger to his lips to indicate secrecy, reveal the trick to the tricked then move on to snare another rider.

He was a clown loose in a church, a harebrained guru with a silly and senseless sense of play set on reminding us that a stupid guffaw can be sharper than euphoria, and no less valuable even when the joke is cheap.

Eventually, Raul got what he deserved. While retrieving the string after a particularly long and hilarious snaring, he got it tangled in his cassette. His rear wheel locked up.  The whole ride stopped. The sting was wound and bound and meshed and snarled and twisted a hundred ways through teeth and cogs and chain and pulleys. We were going to be here a long time. And we were all smiling like fools.

You had to be there. You ought to be there. Get there if you can.

As Printed by Bicycling.com in Bill Strickland’s The Selection

Missing Home

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I often miss Chianti when I am home. And often miss home when I am away. I think that comes from being born Portuguese. A melancholy and yearning for things that we can’t have.

What does this have to do with a bicycle tour? Nothing. But recently I was thinking about Chianti and reminiscing with the writer Heidi Swift about Castelo di Ama and it’s owner Lorenza Sebasti. A woman who helped revolutionize what Chianti wine is. A woman who has so much passion for her work that you can’t help but be inspired and want to be better at your own work.

Thinking of her and her husband Marco, their wonderful three children. All the people whom we’ve met at Ama like Donatella, Sigrid, Paola and the amazing food that Giovanni has prepared for us over the years. The food that serves as the opening act for the wines we drink in that wonderful place.

Just thinking about it gets my taste buds going, and when that happens I cook. I cook a lot. I invite friends over to our house and well it gets a little out of hand with course after course and bottle after bottle. So one morning I phoned my friend Eric Genau at City Wine Merchants and asked him how many bottles of Castello di Ama he had? Apparently there’s quite a few.

Below is an excerpt of a piece that Heidi Swift wrote for Peloton Magazine that talks about Lorenza as well as a few of her photos from that day.

If that inspires you and you want to have some Ama the next time you cook or have friends over click on the links at the end of this newsletter and use the code INGAMBA20 at checkout for a 20% discount from us to you, your family and friends.

Click here to read about a recent Castello di Ama L’Apparita Retrospective 1985-2009 by renowned wine writer Antonio Galloni.

Lorenza By Hedi Swift

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“…Last week when my hosts from InGamba Tours took their group to visit Castello di Ama, a local winery, I tagged along. I was tired from training and wineries traditionally aren’t really my thing, but I rallied and went anyway. I’ll spare you the exhaustive description of the organic symmetry of the vineyards or the way the sun backlit the group as we walked east across the grounds. It’s a magical place, but what part of Tuscany isn’t?

More striking than the sprawling estate, ancient buildings or intimate collaborations with specific artists, was the woman at the head of it all: Lorenza Sebasti. Refined, articulate, gracious, elegant, warm and passionate, she seemed to embody everything I’ve begun to fall in love with in this part of Italy. I sat at her right hand throughout dinner and watched her command the table full of men with a presence that was soft and firm at the same time. When Lorenza speaks, you get quiet. You listen.

She spoke of history and innovation and soil and inspiration – and of her instant love affair with the land when she first visited at the age of 15. She discussed the grapes and processes with the knowledge of a scientist, the fervor of an artist and the affection of a lover. She has changed fundamental things about the production of Chianti. She’s challenged convention while respecting tradition. Together with her husband, the winemaker Marco Pallanti, they have constantly elevated, innovated and evolved every aspect of their work and life. She never said it directly, but the point was taken: never settle.

We were talking about wine, but we were also talking about life and love and family and inspiration and an existence so permeated with meaning that most of us can only begin to understand it. It’s about ambition, but not as we understand that word in the United States: it is about ambition balanced with real, honest respect for passion. It’s about making your life the way you want it to be while honoring a calling that exceeds your own existence. Have a purpose outside yourself. For godsake, do what you are meant to be doing. And do it well.

At the end of the meal, someone revealed that I was riding all of the stages of the Tour de France. I’ll be honest, in the presence of such a woman and such a life, the Tour seemed inconsequential and a little trite. To my surprise, she expressed not only respect but also jealousy: explaining that this “focus on sport” is something that she would like to have more of in her life. I joked that I was quite taken with her work as well and perhaps we could trade for a bit, to which she replied, “I think this would make my husband very happy,” and winked…”

L’Eroica

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by Colin O’Brien

Glue. Gravel. 22mm hand-sewn tyres. Downtube shifters. Squealing brakes,

That perfectly pitch-black nothingness that you only find right before dawn, still draped over the Italian countryside, is being pulled back slowly by the coming day. An old, thick chain elicits a rich, rhythmic rattle from the yellowed steel of a Regina. A lot’s changed since it was new. You can almost count the teeth while it spins. You’re over-geared, and perhaps a little over-excited. Don’t worry. There’s only 200km to go.

That opening stretch comes and goes in a fog of anticipation and trepidation. With sparse light and sparser company, friends call to one another out in the empty, inky darkness and except for scattered replies and whirling freewheels, the roads are silent. It’s all a blur, like the tarmac racing past under wheel.

On any other day the weathered and crumbling stonework and the grand old gates of the Castello di Brolio would be a welcome site. It’s a fine property that makes finer wine and past the walls and the woods that surround it, the vineyard gives way to the Tuscan countryside in all it’s glory – rolling swathes of ochre and olive and green as far as the eye can see. On any other day, you might stop for a picture.

Not now. Tiny flames flicker and light the route through the still-black Brolio, up the cypress-lined ascent away from the familiar comfort of tarmac and up towards the dusty, uneven, ragged hell of the gravel. The Strade Bianche. What you came for. What you thought you were ready for.

Loose dirt and the scars cut deep through the grit by heavy rains mean that the strade are never easy. Even when they’re flat, they’re testing, coaxing you to go faster than you should. Inviting a puncture. Begging you to put a wheel wrong. And when they go up? Chianti’s hills are far from the malicious extremes of the north, but farther still from benign. Climb up a 15% stretch of uneven gravel on an antique with no compact and you’ll know all about it.

It ain’t all bad though. The highs are sweeter than the lows are sour and just when you’re almost broken, the road relents. A stretch of tarmac, perhaps, or a rest stop. Wine. Cakes. Coffee. Ribollita. There’s some grappa under the counter if you’ve really had a hard time.

Those moments spent on the grass, or stretched out on a low stone wall beneath the gentle warmth of October’s afternoon sun, will last a lifetime. The rose tint of hindsight will take care of the rest. After the finish line, the struggle will seem heroic. After a day or two, it will even seem … fun. This sport’s hilarious like that, in a peculiar, twisted way. Not everyone’s idea of amusement, perhaps, but if you’re into it there’s nothing better. Samuel Beckett called it dianoetic. It was the laugh of laughs to him, saluting what he thought was the highest joke: Suffering. He’d have made a good cyclist.

 

Colin O’Brien is a freelance cycling journalist based in Rome, Italy. He was invited to come on an inGamba trip once, and never left. He can be found staring at blank pages in Borgolecchi.

Backstory: How an inGamba guest made the cover of peloton’s photo annual

 

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ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER

Heidi Swift is a freelance writer and photographer, Editor at Large for peloton magazine, author of the monthly “Joy Ride” column for Bicycling magazine and frequent inGamba guest. This fall, she joined us in Lecchi to witness the spectacle of l’Eroica and though she originally planned to ride the route, she eventually opted to tag along as a passenger in the inGamba support van to make photos instead. At the time we couldn’t help but call her out for this conveniently comfortable decision, but we’re glad she made it as one of her l’Eroica images now graces the cover of the 2014 peloton magazine photo annual. Here she shares a bit of the backstory.

 

THE STORY BEHIND THE IMAGE

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Matt Hughes is changing a tyre. It is a quintessential part of the experience of this ride; the sharp white stones of the strade bianche pressing through too-narrow tyres, emptying them of air, forcing riders to the side of the road. Matt Hughes is tired, but he has the lungs and legs and fortitude of an Olympic rower (he is one, after all) so he’s familiar with the pleasure of discomfort—with the idea of making things harder than they need to be for the simple satisfaction of the pain.

 

We make a few jokes while João works at stretching out the replacement tyre and Matt removes the spent one. I have been sitting in a van for the better part of 7 hours, so I take the opportunity to stretch my legs and point my camera at the riders who are trickling up the hill.

 

Minutes ago, before the rock and the hissing sound, Matt had been in a group of three, holding onto the wheels of his friends, Jay Liddell and Paul Daniels. The three men are part of a group referred to as “The Donkeys”. This crew is the stuff of inGamba legend and I have asked many times about the origin of this name, but have never received a straight answer. Having finally met them, I understood. I can tell you only this: If you ever get the chance to ride with them, bring an extra set of legs. And if they invite you out to drink, bring an extra liver and prepare yourself for the possibility of drinking out of a shoe. I’ll say no more, but next time you are around the dinner table in Lecchi you’d be wise to see if anyone has spent time with these animals. If they have, fill every wine glass on the table and then ask for stories.

 

BACK TO OUR FLAT TYRE

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Jay and Paul don’t hear Matt yell, “Flat!” and so they continue up the grade, out of the saddle and standing over their oversized, vintage gears. This moment would become a point of great contention among the men and the topic of a heated debate later at the celebration dinner in Lecchi 1. Moments after I make the cover photo of Matt, a fourth donkey—the one they call Dunny—arrives on scene, hesitates for a moment before deciding to stop and then promptly falls over sideways, landing hard on his left arm. I do not make a picture of this, though all parties later agree that I definitely should have.

 

Matt and Dunny finish the ride together and I go on hanging out the passenger window of the inGamba support van. Later in Castelnuovo Berardenga I make a photo of them huddled under a blanket, eating ribollita. I’m sure they both hate it, but it’s one of my favorite images from the day.

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TRIANGLES AND TENSION

When the photo annual was released, someone asked me what makes the cover photo of Matt “good”. That’s a fair question and one I won’t try to answer. I can’t say I understand what is in the mind of the photo editor when he looks at a set of images. My goal when I shoot is simply to make better photos than I made the last time I picked up my camera. I send an edit in and forget about them. I’m always curious and surprised to see what makes the cut. This time I was extra surprised to see what made the cover.

 

I like to think that you can read a little of the underlying tension in this image without knowing the backstory. Matt’s fingers: the white knuckles betraying the delicate effort of pulling the tubular. Then there are all the little details; the uneven socks, the quads slightly fired, the replacement tyre in the upper right corner disrupting the frame, the triangle formed from the line of his forearms to the point where the bidon bulges from under the back of the jersey.

 

Do those things make the photo good? I don’t know, but those are the things I saw and wanted to put onto the film (Rollei retro 100). Below are photos from the cutting room floor—those that didn’t make the annual at all. They fill in some of the gaps in the day’s story, reveal Dunny’s rock-pocked elbow, and prove that João actually can change a tyre (or at least help stretch one out).

 

If you’d like a copy of the photo annual, you can order a subscription to peloton or simply request a single copy. They can also be found at Barnes and Noble locations around the country and various stockists throughout the world. Visit the website to order or for more information. (The photo annual is Issue 27 and is just hitting newsstands now, so it may not be immediately available.)

 

1. For the record, the Donkeys have since worked through underlying dude-ride disagreement tension and are once again out terrorizing the world together, a force unlike any other. You’ve been warned.

 

B ROLL

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2014 ingamba calendar

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JOIN US

 

We’ve officially finalized our full calendar and we’re excited about what the new year will bring. In addition to our classic Mangia Beve Bici trips based out of Lecchi, we’ll also be traveling to the Dolomites, tackling the Pinarello Granfondo, riding across Portugal and rolling through California’s wine country with pro cyclist Ted King. And let’s not forget the vintage beauty of the famous l’Eroica sportive. Several of our trips have already sold out, so be sure to reserve your spot earlier rather than later—we look forward to welcoming you.

 

For more details including sample route profiles, the cast of characters, regional information and travel details, we invite you to dig into the digital versions of the trip books we created for the 2013 Chianti and Portugal experiences.
 
THE INGAMBA DIFFERENCE
 

Our goal is to create moments you will never forget by sharing my favorite places, people and passions in a way that other touring companies simply can’t. Each inGamba destination is a place that I am deeply connected to; the Portugal of my youth, the Italian countryside where I lived and trained as a professional cyclist, and the immeasurable beauty of northern California where I currently reside. Because of my history and relationships in these places, I’m able to craft an experience that takes you beyond the guidebooks and into the heart of a place.

While we’re at it, we also make sure that you enjoy the kind of treatment traditionally reserved for world class professional cyclists; from daily massages to homemade ride food to top-of-the-line Pinarellos that are washed and tuned each night, you’ll want for nothing while you ride with us. Of course, we apply the same attention to detail to each day’s culinary events, because it wouldn’t be an inGamba trip if we weren’t counterbalancing all that spirited cycling with a little indulgence at the table.

Check out our Mission page for a full overview of the inGamba details that make all the difference.

I hope that you’ll be able to join us in 2014. Please find our complete calendar included below.

Happy New Year.

 

2014 CALENDAR

 

Click the image to download our current trips calendar for 2014:

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MICHAEL CHIARELLO’S BOTTEGA GRAN FONDO

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I love this photo. It’s everything great cycling is about [after the ride]. You’ve got chef in an amazing place sharing an epic tale, surrounded by beautiful food, wine and laughter. Chef is Michael Chiarello. Just named Esquire Magazine’s Chef of the Year he’s been a household name to food lovers for a long time. He also happens to be a hell of a bike rider and a personal friend of inGamba.

The Ride

An intimate two-day food, wine and cycling experience unlike any other. Share Northern California’s Napa Valley roads with world class chefs, winemakers and riders for the weekend of April 12-13. Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Gran Fondo is where you can ride with-not-only Chef Chiarello, but Matt Accarrino, Jody Adams and Daniel Humm. Winemakers Doug Shafer, Larry Turley, Joel Gott and Pro Cyclists George Hincapie, Bob Roll, Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriske, Chris Carmichael and Lucas Euser.

The Cause

The event is dedicated to supporting three important causes that impact the community of Napa Valley, Clinic Ole, Napa Bike and the Vine Trail. From healthcare services to bike safety to improving the roads of Napa County, these non-profit organizations are critical to residents and tourists alike.

Click here for more information and to sign up and join us for an incredible weekend in Northern California.

Chianti, home of good food, wine and strade bianche

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We are happy that Irish writer Colin O’Brien has a strong liver and survived Donkey Week last year. Thanks for coming and playing in the inGamba sandbox Colly and a great piece in Rouleur with some Jered Gruber Photos:

 

“João Correia was not the man I’d expected to see centre-stage at the winner’s press conference in Florence for the 2013 Worlds. But there he was, having been volunteered to translate for the resplendent-in-rainbow Rui Costa. The Portuguese delegation, it seemed, hadn’t thought to bring an interpreter. “Why not stick around and join us for dinner?””

 

You can read about Colin’s adventures by clicking HERE now…