InGamba and World Bicycle Relief have been partners for a long time. We’ve done a lot of good together, for some of the most vulnerable people in the world’s poorest countries.
So far, we’ve raised over $160,000 with the help of our guests – you can read about more that here and here – but we’ve also made a lot of friends along the way. The WBR crew now come on an annual inGamba adventure, and whenever we get together it’s a lot of fun.
There’s also some healthy competition. That’s about to get pretty hot, because WBR’s Katie Bolling has laid down the gauntlet and challenged our fearless leader João Correia to a race. Up a really big climb. In his native Portugal. Given that he raced as a pro across Europe, we’ve got to hand it to her, because whatever happens on the bike, this lady has guts. Or rather, #Grinta.
The challenge is the Penhas Douradas climb, one of our favorites deep in the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela, an area that we think is one of Europe’s best kept cycling secrets. It’s a first-category ascent, with around 1,000m of elevation gain over 20km, but with sections that top out at a 15% gradient. Put another way, it’s not for the feint of heart, especially when you’re going full gas.
There’s nothing on offer other than bragging rights – but around these parts those are all that matter.
“João is probably not used to being the underdog!” jokes Katie, when we catch up with her to discuss the upcoming WBR randonée in Portugal.
“This relationship is very special,” she continues, getting serious for a moment (there’s more trash talk to come). “I think it’s very rare to have a partner’s culture be something that you admire and want to emulate. For both World Bicycle Relief and inGamba, you sense a deep purpose and passion to create the best results and experience and I think this creates a strong bond for the partnership. Be it for a road cyclist traveling to Tuscany or a student riding to school in rural Kenya, I feel both organizations are achieving the same thing: a raised quality of life.
“As for the trip, it’s always very special when you can gather an extraordinary group of people for a higher purpose. I’m so grateful to the many people joining our trip. It’s particularly humbling to know that they are dedicating their time to World Bicycle Relief in ensuring that as, an organization, WBR continues to give time back to those who truly need it. That’s really what the Power of Bicycles is about.
And how did your bet with João about the Penhas Douradas climb come about? No one is sure – but they’re not backing out either.
“It might have come about when João said that #fitbyspring had turned into #fatbyfall,” says Katie, laughing. “Or it may have come about when I realized I was consuming far too many donuts on a weekly basis. The important thing is that the challenge was issued and I quickly accepted.
Since then, I’ve been training Tuesdays and Thursdays. No, kidding. You could say that I’ve gone from a cyclist JRA (just riding around) to someone seeking professional advice. I’ve never actually raced my road bike before so this is all quite exciting. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve really enjoyed formally training and rolling out with a little plan each day. I added power to my bicycle and wow, that upgrade has been awesome!
“I absolutely think I can win. I really love a good contest and adventure! Never mind that João raced his bike professionally for years. I once beat a Indiana Colts player in a push-up contest and I ran the Ironman World Championship with a broken foot. João might have grinta but I’ve got more. I feel my training has been very good – for the last six weeks, anyway! – and I haven’t had a single donut in several days so weight just might be on my side for the climb. I also intend to have a beer waiting for me at the top so that will also keep me motivated!”
Weighing in on the challenge, long-time friend of inGamba and former teammate of João, Ted King had this to say.
“Katie is as hard charging as João is experienced. So basically, I picture Joao attacking and Katie following each move with her ear to ear smile and characteristic 110rpm spin. I know for certain that Katie has been riding a lot. I wouldn’t go so far as call it secret training, but it’s no secret that João is not training much right now. He does have ProTour races in his legs and knows how to suffer like a pro. Whatever happens, I think it’ll make for at least a top eight highlight on SportsCenter that night.”
And as for the boss? He’s looking forward to the challenge.
“Katie’s a good friend,” says João, “and she rides hard. But she’s not going to beat me. She says she likes a challenge? I love one. That climb is my home turf, and I’ve got my professional pride to think about. I have a feeling that there are at least a couple of members of the inGamba team who’ll be hoping to see me lose, but that’ll just make it all the sweeter when I reach the top first! They can say what they want about the size of my gut – I might have put on a pound or two since my racing days – but there’s still a fire burning in that belly and I’m out to prove that while form is temporary, class is permanent. I just hope I don’t hurt her feelings.”
To find out more about World Bicycle Relief’s Portugal randonée, check out the trip page here. And be sure to keep an eye on our social channels for all the action!