United We Are Italy 2022 - cycling tour for women
Sat in our office as we look back at the United We Are tour, there are certain numbers that stand out on paper: 32 women from 11 different nationalities riding 600 km with 5,000 meters of elevation, from the Dolomites to Chianti in Tuscany.
But the United We Are tour was so much more than this.
Here’s a message from Milly, our founder:
“Through all the charming villages and historic Italian towns we rode through, through vibrant countryside and imposing mountains, we left our colourful mark, grabbing people’s attention in unexpected ways.
The truth is that it’s still rare to see 32 women cycling together. It’s funny to think of how many people’s smartphones we’ve ended up on as roadside supporters caught unawares by our presence whipped out a camera to take home a photo as proof that we exist, perhaps to inspire a daughter, sister, parent or friend to do the same.
For us – and for you reading this – cycling is an integral part of our lives, and something that’s become second nature… but unknowingly, via this tour, we sent out a strong message about the emancipation of women in the sport, about gender equality, about women empowering other women. I hope that, through our colourful peloton we touched women of all ages, and perhaps inspired a few to approach cycling, in an attempt to build a legacy of women who empower other women.”
What does it mean to be a good cyclist? What brings a group of strangers together better than sharing highs and lows? What does the incredulous reactions towards our group of 32 riders say about Italian society? How much do age and ability influence the way in which we engage with each other? With the inaugural edition of the United We Are tour now in the books, we want to take stock of the lessons we learned and muse over answers to the many questions that went through our minds.
There’s no limit to a woman’s aptitude for empathy. We outdid ourselves each day. What we witnessed amongst the group was a profound sense of care and understanding that often didn’t even require words. This set a magic atmosphere through the tour and cleared the way for a light and fun spirit within each one of us.Takeaway #2 🍨
Never attempt to ride a long distance without stopping for gelato! In the scorching heat of central Europe’s early June heatwave, stopping for gelato became as second nature as refilling our bottles with water, electrolytes or glutamine powder!
Takeaway #3 📱🪡🚲
Always bring spare items, which may or may not stretch to include a spare bike computer so everyone can navigate independently, a spare bike computer mount (what use is a map if it’s in your jersey pocket?). Not to mention spare tampons, aspirin and hair bobbles.
Logistics can be a pain, but if you invest the time beforehand, you can pull it off. Here’s where we need to thank our great partners (Oakley, Pelotan, NamedSport and Bend36), the lovely hotels, and our wonderful chefs. We’re a very small team at No Gods No Masters, so organizing a premium multi-stage bike tour was no walk in the park. But even then, there’s always a small chance that hiccups could occur—we’re in Italy after all!
Takeaway #5 👇🏽👈🏾👉🏿✋🏽
Cycling culture and the idea of safety and group riding is a mixed bag depending on where you grow up riding, but we loved being part of this safety-conscious, self-aware, uplifting group of riders that rode together like a well-oiled machine. Tell us about oncoming cars, potholes, and when you want to slow down ("slowing!") – it’s the smart thing to do and you were all a fine demonstration of this.
Takeaway #6 🌬🌧⛈
Being precautious always pays! There’s a science to picking your outfit for summer riding in the mountains, where unpredictable is the best way to describe the conditions (whatever the forecast says). Your best bet is to start each morning with a gilet and arm warmers, but make sure you’ve got a rain jacket tucked into your back pocket. Descending from the Passo Giau, we got hit by a torrential storm way before the forecasted time. Layered up with a shell and the multi-functional foulard that we slung around our necks to keep our throats warm and dry, we were well protected against the chill factor as we dropped over 1,000 meters of altitude in one go. Takeaway #7🤩🙋🏽♀️🙋🏾♀️🙋🏼♀️
They say that cycling flows through an Italian’s bloodstream, but what really piqued our interest was the reaction we got as a group of female riders from people on the roadside. If there’s one thing we hadn’t counted on, it’s the incredulity that we encountered throughout cycling’s heartland. If we can only leave one lasting legacy from the Tour (other than your happiness and joy), it’ll be the thought that we’ve inspired one, two, or many women and young girls to get on two wheels in a sport that’s so dominated by men.
Takeaway #8 🚴🏿♀️🚴🏼♀️🚴🏾♀️
Age is just a number. Just like weight, gearing, and calories. Don’t ever let them hold you back. We managed to keep together a very diverse group ranging from 28–60+ yrs old and while we’ll never know how much of it was sheer willpower or everyone’s pre-Tour training, it was a great effort. We learned a new respect for our individual endurance and that of others who gave us a wheel when we needed it, and clung to ours when they needed to.Takeaway #9 👯♀️👯♀️
The very values that we hold so dear at No Gods No Masters found their way into existence during the tour. Think collaboration over competition, a focus on inclusivity, women empowering other women, and ensuring there’s a space for everyone.
Takeaway #10 🦸🏽♀️🦸🏼♀️🦸🏻♀️
Yes, we’ve talked about it before, but empathy is a woman’s superpower and everyone on the tour was up to their neck in it.
Who's in for 2023? 😃