Mix white roads, singletrack and little-used back roads with 25 women, and you get the second-ever, women-led United We Are Gravel Camp.
I knew it’d be special, but I didn’t know it would turn out this extraordinary.
It began with the welcome chat–cum–briefing by Milly, NGNM’s founder, who now shares her immediate thoughts and emotions about the United We Are Gravel Camp:
UWAG stands out in the male-dominated cycling world for its ability to create bonds between new friends. Now in its second year and curated around three full days of riding, our aim with UWAG is to reimagine gravel to make it more accessible, inclusive and – yep, we’ll say it – cultured.
Did we succeed? Past olive trees, walnut groves, harvested fields, rich forests, ancient villages, roman ruins, Fiastra Abbey and up the final vineyard-lined hill to the hotel, the riding made us lose track of time and history. It reminded us that limits exist in our heads, how bikes can be ridden on all terrain and that when you bring a group of women together, they can achieve great things. The climbs wore us out, the nature wooed us, and the feel-good endorphins from riding felt more intense than ever.
On the bike
Prior to the event, here at NGNM HQ we had sweated over each route, calculating every single stretch of the courses to make sure that the terrain would both immerse ourselves in beauty and challenge each of our three ability groups. We took winding routes through the foothills of the famous Sibillini Mountains in the southern part of Italy’s Marche region (if you don’t yet know it, now is the moment!) and refuelled with vibrant local food under pomegranate and lime trees. We then rode alongside the women as we all picked line choices, kept balanced, and cheered each other on.
Off the bike
Yoga and dining took up the bulk of our off-the-bike time, with a session on "bike reassembling after traveling 101" by Hammerhead wizard Casey Wytaske, and a wine tasting at the 42 acre wine resort estate Officina del Sole that gave us a fresh perspective on the nature we’d been riding through.
What we rode
We're very grateful for an amazing lineup of partners that made this gravel experience even more special for everyone.
As 3T travel partners, the camp was supported with their award-winning high-end Racemax Exploro bikes that made not only the travel a lot simpler for many of the international riders, but gave an opportunity to properly test a super race machine on a perfect gravel terrain!
Hammerhead provided their handlebar bags coupled with Karoo 2 bike computers that thanks to Casey's onboarding support made navigating off-road and tackling the steep hills a lot easier, while Oakley supplied everyone with Aro 3 All road MIPS helmets (safety above all!) and super colourful sunnies that shielded eyes from the late summer sun.
Italy’s Marche region is an unknown gem for gravel riding. As other areas of Italy steal the limelight for their gravel roads, we definitely felt smugly proud to share this secret spot with the UWAG Camp riders. Sat in sight of the foothills of the Sibillini Mountains, the rolling hills were more than enough to push each of the riders out of their comfort zone, made cheeks ache from smiling, and created bonds that will last a lifetime. We all had to step off our bikes on a few segments, but portage is such an inherent part of the gravel experience, that UWAG was just at par.
As always, UWAG is about sharing. It’s about creating a community through riding bikes over testing terrain. Knowing that we all raised our own individual bar and pushed what we can do on two wheels in a supportive environment, whilst sharing unique off-the-bike experiences, the camp has left a mark that is much more than the riding.
We bonded in more ways we thought possible, made new friends and turned again into reality the vision for a borderless inclusive community of women who share the love for cycling (and much more).
Topping off the experience, we had daily cookies and an NGNM pie prepared by one of our dear participants, daily yoga classes and massages, female guides and a female mechanic who shared their skills and knowledge to take this – the second edition of UWAG – to the next level.
See you in 2024!