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Guest opinion: What makes inGamba special

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Mark Bibbey is an inGamba regular. He lives in Chandler, Arizona, his adopted home of 20 years after growing up in Wyoming. He has been riding bicycles all his life, but developed a real obsession for the sport in the last 10 years. He enjoys riding many disciplines involving tire widths ranging 23c to 3.8in, on any and all surfaces. And luckily for him, his job as an airline pilot allows many opportunities to ride in varied locales.

“An inGamba trip is more than just a nice bicycle ride in a pretty location,” says Mark, who finds his inspiration for riding in the fact that he can enjoy the world around him at a slightly slower pace than an automobile or an airplane.

 

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“The experience is greater than the sum of its parts. When I think of inGamba, I think about camaraderie, and having as much fun off the bike as on. The real joy of these trips is when your abs are sore from laughing your ass off at the dinner table.

“It’s also fun to keep tabs on your new friends via social media and Strava, and every so often catch up to reminisce on that shared suffering, the shared celebration of life, just hammering, cursing, drinking, eating, laughing. I choose inGamba because of the people: the staff, the hosts, and the guests.”

Every guest’s feedback is invaluable, but hearing positive things from a familiar face – someone who’s seen us in action more than once, and is still impressed – means the world to us. And as Mark’s a veteran of several Donkey Week and L’Eroica trips with us, he knows a thing or two about the inGamba way. You can find him on Twitter @mbibbey, and on Instagram @markbibbey. And hopefully, some of you will find him on another inGamba trip sometime soon.

 

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Singing in the rain

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Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. It’s a cliché, but as hackneyed phrases go it’s a pretty useful one to remember as a cyclist. This sport is hard on the best of days, but cold winds and hard rain can make it insufferable. Even a little drizzle can turn a fun spin into a misery march if you leave the house in the wrong kit.

That’s why pros have rain bags. Neat little black receptacles that are labelled for each rider and stacked like bricks in the back of the mechanic’s car. They can carry shoe covers, gloves, arm and leg warmers, hats, different glasses, a gilet, a raincoat – all the precious things you could want when you crest that hill and see dark clouds looming large on the horizon. They also have a space for spare shoes, something that every veteran of the peloton will tell you that you’d rather have and not need than need and not have.

 

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Being properly equipped for anything that the elements can throw at you makes a huge difference. It can be the difference between enjoying your ride and just hanging in until home. Sometimes, it can be the difference between making it to the line and surrendering to a DNF.

 

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Everyone at inGamba likes to think that we do a pretty good job at providing the best possible cycling experience for our guests, but we can’t control the weather (not yet, anyway). What we can control is that our riders are prepared for any forecast. Our partners Scicon provide everyone with their own personalised rainbag, and once it’s in the back of the support car, all you need to do is raise your hand and let the mechanic know what you need. Assuming you’ve packed right, that little black bag will come to be a huge source of confidence. And when you feel those first drops hit, you can just smile and know that you’re ready for anything that the road can throw at you.

 

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“When watching rainy races on television—and before the drops are visible on camera—you’ll see a small cadre of riders quickly slip to the back of the peloton to collect appropriate attire for their teammates. Each rider will radio to their team cars the clothing request—a jacket, arm warmers or cycling cap—and the mechanic will dig through each riders’ bag for the clothing. After the subsequent handoff, the rider will pedal into the cold or wet weather coming from all sides to get back to the peloton.”

Ted King, pro rider for Cannondale-Garmin & friend of inGamba

 

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inGamba by numbers: what’s involved in an unforgettable week of riding

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It’s impossible to quantify the inGamba experience. The escapades, friendships and flavours of a week with us all combine to form the kind of memories that you can’t measure or put a number on. Those kinds of treasures are priceless.

 

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But, we can give you some quick figures to whet the appetite. A trip such as our Portugal Randonée is a logistical challenge and creating an unforgettable vacation for our guests requires careful planning and a lot of hard work. It also needs some crucial ingredients: unique hotels, unforgettable restaurants and most importantly, fast riders who know how to have fun. Once all those components are in place, we have a recipe for adventure.

Here’s what went into our recent Donkey Week season opener.

Tour de France stage winners: 1

Castles slept in: 3

Support vehicles: 6

Rides: 7

Tubulars changed: 10

Massages given: 160

Longest ride: 206km

Bottles of wine drank: 230

Bike washes: 325

Distance ridden: 1,010km

Total elevation gain: 12,000m

Sound like fun? Yeah, we thought so. Check out our calendar to see where we’ll be this summer.

 

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Donkey Week, stages six and seven

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Only on Donkey Week could 276 kilometres over two days count as taking it easy, but after our mammoth stage five, the final two days of this season’s opening trip were comparatively easy.

Day Six took us from inland from Alvito to Cercal near the coast, covering a distance of 166km with 1,650m of climbing. Home for the night was Herdade da Matinha, one of the most intimate, charming and comfortable hotels you’ll ever find. In keeping with the coastal character of this part of Alentejo, the Herdade da Matinha is a secluded development of single-story beach huts built around a working stable, not far from the ocean.

 

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The final day’s 110km roll back towards Lisbon allowed the more energetic riders in the pack to burn whatever matches they had left before returning to the Palacio Belmonte to unpack, unwind and hit the town for some late night, off-the-record celebration.

The curtains have now officially been drawn on Donkey Week 2015, but it might take a while for the dust to settle … and for some livers to recover. Bring on the rest of the season.

 

Image from inGAMBA Portugal Randonee 2014

Image from inGAMBA Portugal Randonee 2014

Image from inGAMBA Portugal Randonee 2014