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.
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.
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.
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.
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.