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Women’s week, a note from Heidi Swift

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I’ve been receiving questions about our “Best Week Ever” (women’s week!) which is now just a few months away, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to answer some of the most common inquiries I get about the tour. We’re headed to Portugal this year for a point-to-point style randonée through the south.

Why Portugal?

For the past three years I’ve hosted the women’s trip from inGamba’s home base in Lecchi, Italy, but we decided to change things up for 2016. First and foremost, the people spoke so I listened! Last year while cruising through Tuscany, the girls and I got to talking. None of them had ever ridden in Portugal, which I thought was a terrible shame. I wondered out loud if it would be cool to do a women’s trip starting from Lisbon and the answer was a resounding yes.

There are a few other reasons, too. First up, good friend and inGamba founder João Correia is from Portugal. Despite the fact that he roots for the wrong football team (Down with Sporting! Benfica forever!), he knows an incredible amount about the country. His history, connections and impeccable taste mean that he can craft an experience unlike any other you will get in this country. Secondly, the riding in Portugal is still somewhat undiscovered.

In December 2012 I spent a week riding in the south while I covered the Specialized-Lululemon pro team launch in the Algarve region. The roads are quiet and longing, the landscapes serene, the climbs challenging and respectable, the castles and monasteries majestic. It’s a wondrous place that captured my imagination immediately. I want to share that wonder.

 

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 What is the riding like?

Variety is the spice of life on this trip. We will ride open, flat roads near the ocean. We will climb on forested routes up through the mountains. We will probably see a little bit of cobblestone. We will probably ride in, around or through a castle or two. We will see sprawling vineyards. There will be sun.

 

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Yeah, but how far?

I fall into the Goldilocks camp when it comes to riding; I like a ride that’s long enough to feel challenging, but not so long that I’m laid out afterward. We strove for this balance when we planned the routes for this trip. Our point-to-point rides during the Portugal Randonée will be between 45 and 70 miles (there are just two 70-ish mile days and they’re worth it, I promise). These distances allow us to take ample coffee stops and really enjoy the surrounding countryside and small villages we will pass through.

We’re staffed to support varying levels of fitness and experience. You should be comfortable with the distances on the schedule, but by no means do you need to have experience doing a week of back-to-back days. The brilliant thing about a solid week of riding like this is that you can pedal into form as you go; the women who have joined my trips in the past are always blown away by how good they start feeling on days 3 and 4. The cadence comes around, you start to get that silky “souplesse” feeling that makes you think you can ride forever (you can!).

Yeah, but how fast?

How fast do you like it? Generally we roll as a group, but with several guides on the road, there’s always enough support to accommodate a grupetto if some decide to Sunday-stroll it and another group wants to hit the gas a bit. Some like to get all “gloves off” on the climbs, and that’s cool too. Or if you prefer, shift your beautiful Pinarello into a cozy climbing gear and spin your way to the top. You don’t need to be fast to have fun on this trip, you just need to love great roads, wonderful food and better scenery.

 

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How should I train?

No need to get crazy with training – as long as you’ve been riding a bit, you’ll be just fine. I’m doing two 60 minute rides during the work week (rollers indoors before work) and two 2-3 hour rides on the weekend (one long ride on the weekend would definitely be plenty). All this said, I’ve done the past three women’s week trips basically off-the-couch. It isn’t the most comfortable way to do it, because it will take you a day or two to start feeling good, but it’s absolutely do-able. I’m happy to talk more about training and preparation if you have specific questions.

What’s covered in the cost?

Basically everything, except your plane ticket and tip (should you choose to tip our super hard-working crew). All accommodations, meals, wine, full inGamba kit, coffee stops, outings, snacks, massages, Pinarello bike, daily bike maintenance and cleaning by a pro-tour mechanic, follow car for support, laundry service, fully guided routes, Garmins pre-loaded with route maps. The list goes on and on. Did I mention massage? Yes, we have a soigneur who not only keeps your legs in tio-top shape but also prepares all of our bottles and ride food ahead of time. For more details, see here. 

Have other questions? Shoot them my way. Or click here for more details or to book. See you in Lisbon!

 

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Ted king talks coast ride 2016!

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With the three days of The Coast Ride now in the rearview, let’s summarize it in a really abstract, backwards-to-forwards with a little arbitrarily jumping around, Quentin Tarantino type of way. To begin, here are the 13 hearty souls who survived our front group to the finish line on the final day.

 

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“Finish line” is a vague term in this regard, because the Coast Ride is certainly not a race. Therefore the line could be the threshold of your motel room, jumping in the shower to clean off a day’s worth of road grime, or curled up into bed like a cocoon getting ready for the next day.

I don’t know how to describe this ride, other than to say it’s 300-some-odd people (and growing) setting out on a bike ride from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Any and all abilities are welcome, but over the three days one must be wary that we’re riding rolling hills and considerable climbing accomplished over the 120 miles in each day’s to-do list.

Weather dependent, fast groups finish in about six hours while some people soldier through for upwards of 12 hours. And hats off to every one of them.

Did I mention weather? Yes, I did. And we had it. Look at this happy crew, for example, who is not just drenched and chilly, but coated with a noteworthy amount of sand gritting in every orifice of one’s body, bearing of one’s bike, and square inch of one’s chamois imaginable.

 

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Most of this crew seen above is from inGamba Tours with my dear friend and creator of inGamba, Joao Correia to my right, lifting his thumb skyward in joyous celebration. He’s saying, Stop taking selfies Ted, we made it.

Day two started much like day three, which looks something like the picture below. The aforementioned ambiguous finish line is the next day’s ambiguous start line. There is no fanfare, there is no pre-race sign in, there is no institutionalized buffet breakfast provided by the folks at Cisco. Instead, it’s toying with the hot water from your motel’s bathroom coffee maker and an Aeropress, plus a yogurt and granola purchased the evening before. It’s freestyling and shooting from the hip and piecing it together on the fly.

With the very large asterisk to this adventure in the form of a tall German fellow named Ralf. Ralf lives in the Bay Area and I’m lucky enough to have had him wrench on my bike from time to time. He’s the former Jelly Belly mechanic and often does the wrenching for inGamba Tours on their domestic adventures.

And precisely when the clock strikes 7:00am … or 7:15, or 7:12, or 8:02, or 6:59, or really whenever you want to roll out, the start occurs. Pockets filled, fingers crossed that it stops raining, lights flashing since it’s literally pre-dawn, the start looks a bit like this.

 

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The size of one’s group — which I still refer to as a peloton — ebbs and flows depending on who wants to join the paceline, who’s getting dropped, who’s getting swallowed up, so that it ranges anywhere from about 50 to 1. Here, for example, we’ve just engulfed a large group, whereupon we met young Daniel. This 17 year old ripper asked for a selfie, which I’m sure he thought he was going to take, but quick-draw-mcgraw that I am, I beat him to the punch. My goofy grin and scrubby hair can only be on account of being as wet at a jellyfish for the previous 36 hours, coming on the immediate tail end of driving coast to coast. HI DANIEL!

 

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Pretty much everything was beautiful. Like, stunningly beautiful. Gorgeous vistas, enormous cliffs dropping down from Highway 1 to the craggy Pacific Ocean, blankets of fog, buckets rain, rolling lush green hills, it was all beautiful. Geeze, even when we had ridden through the breadbasket of America and we’re soaked in road poo with driving rain and a heinous headwind and our angst is starting to ping up into the red, a flippin’ rainbow would come out and we couldn’t help but put on some semblance of a smile.

The riding was fantastic, but it’s the camaraderie that makes this trip a blast. Of the 300-some-odd starters, I knew probably a dozen. And by the end, I’d exchanged hellos, high fives, hugs, handshakes (weird how they all start with an h-) with dozens.

All that’s left to say is thanks to everyone involved. Thanks to Jim and Ralf and Raul and Eros and the entire inGamba crew. Thanks to my homies and friends and acquaintances all along the road. Thanks to Daniel for stoking my ego and Andrew for being a great roommate, and everyone for making this ride awesome. See you on the Coast Ride in 2017!

 

Don't let that rainbow fool you. When you ride by a farm, that "mud" isn't mud. #TheCoastRide soaks into day 3.

A photo posted by Ted King (@iamtedking) on

 

Ted King is an ex-professional with a decade’s experience in the peloton at the highest level. He rode for Cannondale–Garmin before retiring in 2015. You can read the original blog, with more photos, on his website, or follow him on Twitter and Instagram

 

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#FitbySpring: Put yourself out there

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It all started about 10 years ago, when I was racing long distance triathlons. There was a humanitarian crisis in Uganda that I couldn’t shake from my mind, until one day I had the realization that I could use my athletic platform to raise awareness and funds for the cause at an upcoming event.

A few months later, I raced Ironman Wisconsin in freezing rain for 11 hours but it was one of the most vivid and special experiences of my life. I carried a lot of people with me that day and realized journeys are best when they’re shared.

There was a strong purpose to my event beyond the clock and I knew it had changed me. I was fortunate enough to snag a slot for the World Championships the following year and knew that I’d want to organize another fundraiser.

Given the importance of bikes in my life, I started researching the various organizations focusing on the bike as a development tool and I discovered the work of an infant organization, World Bicycle Relief.

Fast forward a decade and the story has played out well for me. I raced in Kona representing World Bicycle Relief, realized that I didn’t need competitive athletics in my life to be fulfilled and approached the organization for a formal job to see if we could “spread the word” about The Power of Bicycles. It worked out in my favor and I’m proud to share that when I started working with the organization we had distributed about 40,000 bikes and now that number is honing in on 300,000.

 

 

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As for how this relates to #fitbyspring, a lot of my personal journey over the past 10 years has been focusing on building the organization and raising a family which I’ve been totally content with.

There were a few years when exercise took a back seat. I remember showing up at one of our events in Boulder and having to actually dust off my bike, and another time when I arrived at our century ride in Chicago and did it without having ridden for many months prior. I was happy to define myself as a casual exerciser in those days. It was all worth it – time is finite and we all make decisions on how to best invest it.

More recently, I’ve started to redefine myself as an athlete and cyclist. Still casual, but I’ve spent more time on the trails – and specifically the bike – and have really (re)discovered the joy of riding. Two years ago I was fortunate to participate in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB and earned myself a small buckle and I’ve also really enjoyed myself at a variety of WBR cycling events where I felt fit and ready to be there.

For me, there is nothing as enjoyable as spending time with World Bicycle Relief supporters whilst pedaling. That brings me to this year and #fitbyspring. Like many of you, towards the end of one calendar year, I spent time thinking about the 12 months ahead and how I hoped to define myself and the experiences I wanted to have.

2016 is a bit of distinct year for me as I have a big birthday (okay, I turn 40), so I want to put a little more thought into what I’m doing. During this process I identified a few things that were really important: I wanted to do epic stuff, I wanted to be really fit and I wanted a new opportunity to redefine myself as an athlete (again).

When João and inGamba started using #fitbyspring and sharing the concept, it really resonated with me, so I interpreted it in a few ways that worked with my goals.

I signed up for a January race – the Fat Bike World Championships here in Colorado – that would give me the chance to do something epic and a reason to be dedicated to winter riding.

I also decided to embrace #fitbyspring when it came to my diet. I accepted that I probably shouldn’t eat handfuls of M&Ms throughout the day and that I could have a better dinner than a bowl of cereal. Eating cleanly = #fitbyspring.

Mind you, that #fitbyspring still earns me a beer each evening. The commitment has also given me the chance to plan out my year a bit. For my birthday, I wanted to tackle an athletic event that was epic and that would really test my endurance and ability to suffer again (like the old days).

So, once again, here I am prepping for the Leadville 100 MTB. Like in 2014, I don’t anticipate writing a formal training plan because I need flexibility in my life with my job and family (and I like spontaneity) but the #fitbyspring mindset has given me a sharper idea of how I want to approach the race and has also put me in a place to set a lofty goal that I’ll need to work hard for in the approach Leadville.

No flat pedals and 12 pound camelbak this year. I want to drop 100 minutes from my time (about 1 minute per mile!) so I’ll need to train hard but also focus on the small things in training that I’ve brushed off in the past.

Things like improved mechanic skills, a sharper awareness of fueling and putting considerable thought into my bike fit/race position are all details that are part of being #fitbyspring.

And, while Leadville is important to me, I don’t see one athletic event defining my year. My #fitbyspring means a variety of other things. It means that I’ll be able to enjoy an assortment of WBR cycling events throughout the year. As I said above, there is something so gratifying for me in spending time with WBR enthusiasts while cycling.

It also means that I’ve put some thought into what other experiences and opportunities I want this year. For example, taking my son to Africa with me is something I really want to do in 2016 so it’s been important for me to acknowledge that and start planning to make it happen. It also means that I should apply that same mindset to my family and professional life. Preparation, defining goals and creating a road map for all sorts of things counts as #fitbyspring.

So, let’s do it. Not just so we can race but so we can really get out there. Let’s be ambitous, let’s set goals, let’s live well and let’s be happy. Here’s to being #fitbyspring – so we can be #fitforlife.

Katie Bolling is development director at World Bicycle Relief. 

 

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#Fitbyspring: The road less travelled

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It had been a while since I’d done anything that was more than three hours. And if I did, a nap would follow pretty quickly. I’d hit the pillow as if I had done a six-hour race. But then Nate, inGamba’s head of field operations, suggested we do his favorite ride ever.

If you’ve met him on one of our trips, you know exactly how he was describing this to me. He bounces when he’s stoked (as the kids say) about something and his eyes get really big. The grin is ear to ear and you just can’t help but say: “Yes, I want some of that in my life.”

Next thing I know, I’m on a 17-mile Mountain Bike trail riding a Pinarello F8 with Zipp 202 wheels. The ground felt like quicksand and it was very slow going. To say I cursed him for those two and a half hours on that trail is to put it mildly. Fortunately for Nate, I was alone most of that time and so could only take my frustrations out on the pedals.

The route that Nate chose started innocently enough, down Carmel Valley Road. There was a chill in the air, the traffic was light at first and before long, non existent. After three hours I stopped for water at a fire station, and when the fire chief found out the road I was taking he pointed to my tires and said: “What, with that?”

Clearly he didn’t know that, well, I had been a pro rider, so yeah, I’m going to do the fire road “with that.” I made it to the camp site, around the closed gate that said “no bikes” and up the mountain on the fire road that quickly turned into a goat path.

I remember at one point thinking, “All that’s missing is a river to hike through.” Not long after, I found one. There were grumbles, but I just kept trucking we were sleeping at Fort Hunter. I had to get to the other side of the mountain and this was the only way to do it.

As I’m pulling to the end of the ride, I just caught up with our friend Jim, who had driven ahead with the gear and as I’m handing the guard my driver’s license, I turn to him and say: “I’m gonna kill that little Fu#$%.” Did I mention that Fort Hunter was a military installation? Luckily, Jim was quick on the draw and got me out of that mess.

Six and a half hours in the saddle, some cyclocross and a lot of swearing – it all added up to one of the best rides ever. And the next day, we rode out of Fort Hunter, down one of the most beautiful descents I’ve ever seen onto Highway One before heading up the coast past Big Sur into Carmel. Here’s that ride.

It’s funny how the mind works, and how quickly all the bad stuff fades. I look back on it and think, “that was awesome.” It’s not that I enjoyed the goat path, but two days of point-to-point riding and two 130km rides – my first in a long time – feels really good.

This #fitbyspring thing now actually has some momentum. I’ve already lost 10 pounds and am riding pretty regularly, starting to control what I eat better and feel I’m well on my way to getting to Donkey Week in some sort of fighting shape. It’s great to start 2016 on such a high.

 

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