The idea of riding from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, on The Coast Ride, has been on my must-do list for quite some time, but sadly my radar just seems to always go into auto-forget mode after that first slice of Thanksgiving turkey. I would like to blame tryptophan but that wouldn’t be fair to the poor turkey.
It almost happened again this year until I was chatting with Jim about whether he was going to Cyclocross Nationals in Reno. “Not going because of the Coast Ride,” he said. I casually mentioned to him that I’ve always wanted to shoot the Coast Ride and he told me I could shoot it from the inGamba car. A very enticing offer indeed considering the logistics were all taken care of, and an assistant wouldn’t forever hate me for hiring them on for the sole purpose of driving really, really slow along the California coast.
But what about cyclocross nationals in Reno? I mean RENO! It’s so close I can almost make it a day trip. I could even shoot for a day and spend some time on the slopes with the family. But a supported Coast Ride, or embed as I would call it, was pretty hard to turn down, so I agreed. Perhaps the predicted warm SoCal weather played a part in the decison as well.
(Full Disclosure: E co-founder Jim works for inGamba and in such that they provided me with a spot in the team car to shoot from, a bed to sleep in, and fed me whenever it was time to eat in exchange for a few snappies.)
After the wife and kids dropped me off in Sausalito early Saturday morning, it was time to work. Since I was neither staff, nor a riding guest, and I didn’t know anyone other than recognizing a few from the social medias, I was largely on my own. But that was perfectly fine. I was able to shoot uninterrupted. Or as they say in journalism school, I was a fly on the wall.
Support staff was already busy loading the cars and making last minute adjustments while riders were getting ready. We were off just as the first light of the day popped out of the sky. The team cars crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, reconnected with the riders, rolled past the Legion of Honor and off on our journey barreling along the coast with a few hundred other riders.
Life in a support car can be a pretty mundane affair but there was never a dull moment this time as mechanicals, flats, and tired bodies appeared as soon as we strolled past Lake Merced. We saw riders that ran out of juice in their Di2 battery, a dude that flatted on a Lightweight tubular… with no spare, broken derailleur cables (PSA: replace them every season), and compromised tubeless tire sidewalls. Highway 1, as gorgeous and picturesque as it was, mercilessly consumed both riders and equipment, figuratively, of course. Don’t get me started on the amount of middle fingers we got along the route either. I stopped counting after 5 during the opening hours.
Leaving the team hotel in Sausalito
Manuel riding in the good light.
Ralf picking up some warmers.
Relaxing behind the team car.
Somewhere between Santa Cruz and Monterey.
Riding across one of many historic bridges along Big Sur.
Mark taking a few snappies
Climbing Loma Vista.
Sweet socks, buddy.
Ted on the rollers.
The key is to stick together.
We got chased by this cute dog near Lucia... and it kept running
Special mid-ride snack
Hugs before tackling Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.
Raul and Katie descending towards the big climb.
Fort Hunter Liggett is pretty damn sweet
A couple of horses came by the RV to say hello in Lockwood.
Loading up the bags for the final day into Santa Barbara
Everyone's happy after Mark fixed his busted Di2.
Andrew having a blast.
Jim and Xico packing a guest's bike
Almost done with the Coast Ride.
Manuel chilling next to the team car.
Inasmuch as each Coast Ride participant had to go through their own version of sufferfest (we saw a guy on a singlespeed, true story), the view of the California coast and the camaraderie among riders made a huge difference turning the event from a shitty terrible idea to a fun one. Sure there were faces of people in pain, but there were also a ton of happy folks that seemed to be enjoying every bit of the ride, even on that monster 7 mile climb with 2,700 ft of climbing out of Big Sur on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. High-fives, hugs, and encouragement floated around which made the miles all the better. Definitely a unique take on them there base miles.
For the inGamba crew, though, a lot of these concerns were taken care of. Two team cars, a van and an RV staffed with pro mechanics. Cold in the morning? Here’s an inflated latex glove to stuff under your jersey for warmth. Need a wheel change? Need to shed your warmers or need to stop? The team car was there. In fact, the team car was everywhere for the three day, 400+ mile journey.
Then, there was the world-class guides of Eros Poli, Manuel Cardoso, Raul Matias, and Ted King who seemed to ride on the front for hours, take a few photos with their phones, drop back to the team car, and then go right back to the front for more.
The pro team treatment didn’t stop there though: Lunch and post-ride meals were ready to go at the RV. Recovery massages and suitcases were already awaiting inside each hotel room everyday. Bikes were also washed and checked daily.
One memorable moments was when one of the guests missed the turn for the Nacimiento climb so the team car promptly turned around to fetch him back to the RV full of semi-worried, tired, but cheerful riders. On day three, the Di2 battery on one of the guest’s personal bike battery went out and instead of getting stranded in the middle of nowhere between Morro Bay and Santa Barbara, the team cars pulled up and gave him a spare bike – measured, adjusted and installed with the guest’s own pedals, saddle and a computer mount – all done from the side of a road. See, they really mean it when they say they want you to focus on riding your bike and nothing else.
After three days of soaking up the inGamba x Coast Ride experience behind a camera from inside the team car, I most certainly would go with inGamba if I were to do the Coast Ride. Sounds like a paid statement, but no, I just want to ride and enjoy the view.