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I spent the better part of my career riding in support of contemporary giants of the sport. They all passed what I call the first name test — if you know to whom I’m referring just by their first name, they’ve made it. Carlos, Thor, Vincenzo, Ivan, and most notably a friend of mine named Peter*, all pass this test.

Wins are fun, but the celebrity, the microscope, and the spotlight are all pointed directly at them. The life of a domestique is comparatively drab. It’s one characterized as perpetually on the go, always riding around 85% of your capacity rather than being able to pick and choose your race calendar to target specific fitness peaks.

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Retirement was short lived for me, spanning the year 2016, as I’m donning my finest domestique attire and carrying bottles once again here in 2017. I am coming out of retirement to add the newest name to the list of captains for whom I’ve served. And that name is Correia, João Correia.

With the 2016 campaign #fitbyspring mildly derailed, the inGamba team captain picked the 2017 Coast Ride as the launch pad of his next comeback tour. Covering nearly 400 miles in just three days, this fun group ride, err… fierce three day stage race is not for the faint of heart nor weak of fitness. Here’s how the long weekend will play out.

Using hometown roads to our advantage, stage one will begin from just south of the inGamba North American service course in San Francisco and ride a straight shot south to Monterey. The neutral rollout is brief so a proper warmup is necessary as we literally pedal a few brief seconds from the staging parking lot and immediately climb through the lumpy neighborhoods of San Francisco. The first KOM points are awarded here and King and Correia will employ the “start before everyone else” technique to garner top climbing honors. Smoother and flatter roads along Highway One are met with stunning coastal vistas. A sprint (or stop for coffee) will occur in Half Moon Bay while Santa Cruz serves as one of the few urban distractions from an otherwise bucolic ride race. A few final rollers and sand swept bike lanes escort us into Monterey.

The lightweight and wide range of gears found on our SRAM eTap drivetrains are optimal for rugged stage two. Riders will strap on their climbing legs as 3,000 meters of climbing make the course profile resemble an electrocardiogram (edit thanks to Nelson B.) more than a route map. Big Sur is the crown jewel of this stunningly long stage as the riders pass through prehistoric forest, lush emerald green fields, and sheer cliffs plummeting down to the Pacific. Once the course finally flattens out towards the end, it’s still a long straight away leading into the fast and furious Morro Bay sprint finish (and burritos).

Walk into your local grocery store and take a stroll through the produce aisle. Nearly everything you see with USA printed on its sticker is from the roads we’ll tackle on the final stage. Flat agricultural farm fields segue to the rolling foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Except instead of finishing in sporty fashion amid big rigs and 75mph traffic along the 101 as we’ve done in years past, inGamba resident route guru Nate has us turning inland and up towards Paso Robles. Called the greatest place not yet overrun from the cycling community by none other than our own Mr. Ripperton, we can raise a toast to João’s massive performance with big earthy reds from the Paso region before packing up and heading to the next race.

Should be a great week. Thankfully I put out a hefty draft so Joao should be coasting most of these 375 miles. Stay tuned to this channel for a daily update from the road.


*Sastre, Hushovd, Nibali, Basso, and some dude named Sagan.