It's 217 miles to Paso Robles, we’ve got a full tank of gas, a Tour de France stage winner, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses.
Ok, it wasn’t the Blues Brothers, but as far as road trips go it was pretty damn cool. Taking the inGamba show out into the wild in California, with enough pasta to feed an army, 15 of our closest friends and a plan to hit some of the most beautiful roads in North America. But what else can you do when the kind folks at Giordana offer you a truck full of high-end Pinarellos?
Living in California, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to awesome riding. You could go north to the Russian River and all the old Tour of California routes – King Ridge, Coleman Valley – or south to San Diego and ride all the La Jolla rides. Or you could go west into Nevada and ride Greg Lemond’s old training rides near Carson City. All solid options.
But our own resident ride expert, the fearless and fatless Nate Ripperton, decided the best bet was Paso Robles, a small town just north of San Luis Obispo known for its vast number of wineries, some amazingly smooth roads, scenic climbs and not much else.
We decided we needed a central meeting place. A clubhouse of sorts. Some place to park the truck, set up the bikes, cooks some meals and celebrate our good fortune at the end of those long, happy days. After a quick scan on Airbnb provided the perfect base not far from downtown, we loaded up and off we went.
“We picked Paso because it is the best roads with lowest traffic volume and best scenery and variety in the state,” said Ripperton. “It’s hilly with climbs in the coastal range to the west of town in the oaks and rolling terrain amongst the farm lands to the east. And I think it’s special because it’s one of the only undiscovered and unspoiled regions for cycling left in California.”
Having Eros Poli, winner of a legendary Tour stage over Mont Ventoux back in 1994, along for the ride always adds a bit of colour. The big guy loves the Golden State because he won an Olympic gold medal for Italy in LA back in ‘84, and he loves to cook. Which was convenient, because the rest of us like to eat. When not hammering on the front of the bunch or regaling us with tales from his decade-long career in the pro peloton, Eros was in charge of the menu and the wine. Because it’s good for you.
Keeping the pro theme going, we were also joined by our old buddy Ted King, who was more than happy to enjoy our slightly [very – ed.] relaxed pace now that he’s fresh from retirement from the World Tour’s Team Cannondale.
Xico, inGamba’s young but experienced mechanic, was flown in from Portugal to keep it all rolling smooth and thanks to some stellar scouting from Mr. Ripperton, what unfolded was four days of unforgettable riding in our own backyard that, sometimes at least, the US of A can hold its own in terms of providing a genuine alternative to Europe’s revered roads. Rolling hills, tough climbs, gorgeous descents, foggy mornings and sunny afternoons. And tacos. This week had it all.
“I was born in the United States and I have traveled quite a bit,” said Mark Bianchi, a long-time friend of inGamba, “but I had no idea there was a little bit of Italy tucked into that corner of California.”
Denise Edwards, another regular, echoed the sentiment. “Going to Paso Robles, it was so gorgeous and cycling in new terrain is always awesome, but what I really loved was gathering at the house everyday. There is something about being together and seeing the same people everyday and bonding. And every time we ride now, my husband Ross says: ‘these roads aren’t like Paso Robles.’ The roads were so nice.”
“It was a typical inGamba trip,” added Mark. “It exceeded all expectation.”
Learn more about inGamba and their upcoming trips on inGamba.pro
Words and images by Jim Merithew / inGamba
6828 Olney-Laytonsville Rd.
Laytonsville, MD 20882