The stereotypical bachelorette party includes many things, often sparkly and alcoholic, but eight days of hammering on the bike are not usually on the agenda.
Not so for Team Sunweb’s Coryn Rivera and four of her closest friends. A few weeks ago, the group of five Californians, which included Alison Tetrick, Katie Hall, Kaitie Keough, and Justin Williams (more on how he crashed the party later), traveled to San Francisco to embark on a 937 kilometer bikepacking trip down the coast of California in honor of Rivera’s upcoming wedding. The trip, which had long been on Rivera’s bucket list, wasn’t necessarily intended to be a celebration, but since she planned to be in Europe racing this summer during the months before her wedding she decided to embrace the bachelorette theme.
“I picked a small group of closes friends who ride enough and could enjoy and benefit enough from a bikepacking trip,” Rivera told VeloNews. “I thought, ‘screw it, I’ll call it my bachelorette biking trip!’ I’m not gonna get belligerent, I just wanted to do something cool. It was a good way to celebrate that, get friends together, do something cool and just ride our bikes.”
For a rider who turned pro at 16 and has 72 national titles to her name, it’s no surprise that Rivera’s best friends and chosen companions for the trip included such a list of heavy hitters. Nevertheless, being a pro cyclist does not equate being cool with a loaded bike, route detours, and long days in the saddle. Yet, everyone Rivera reached out to was keen for the adventure. Especially Williams, who wasn’t initially invited.
“We were talking, catching up, he was like, ‘Oh man I wanna come,'” Rivera said. “I was like, ‘Hmm. It was supposed to be all girls, but guess I’ve known you longer than everyone else.’ He’s like a big brother, and I lean on him for so much. We’ve been through a lot. I was like, ‘Sure you can come, no problem. I’ve known you for so long, you’re like one of the girls.'”
The other girls on the trip are all former teammates or competitors of Rivera’s. She got to know Keough when they were teens and racing as juniors. The two then roomed together as freshman at Marian University. Tetrick was like Rivera’s “big sister” when they raced together on Peanut Butter & Co., and TWENTY12 from 2011 onward. Rivera says they have similar taste in food; “meat and BBQ stuff.” Finally, Hall, who now races for Boels-Dolmans, has been a teammate of Rivera’s on the U.S. National Team and the two grew close during Rivera’s last year on UHC.
Although the five all have various specialties in cycling, from crits to climbing to gravel to ‘cross, Tetrick says that they managed to keep a “calm endurance pace” for most of the miles.
“When it was safe to ride two abreast, the talking and laughter were endless,” Tetrick said. “We caught up and connected. It was real and raw and everything you expect when you get a great group of friends together on bikes.”
Nevertheless, Hall couldn’t help but put the hurt on everyone when there was a hill to climb. Although Rivera had worked out the route, pace, and daily mileage with her coach, she said that there was an early deviation from the plan when Hall sprinted up a climb on day one. What was supposed to be a four-hour, zone-0/zone-1 kind of day turned into a more earnest effort.
“I got in trouble for riding too hard to keep up with her,” Rivera said. “Not that I can’t, but it’s out of my zone. I remember looking at Katie at the top of the climb and asking, ‘Are you cracked?’ And she goes, ‘Nope!'”
The trip was mapped out so that the crew would stay with family and friends along the way, avoiding the need for hotels. In fact, after leaving San Francisco, Hall’s house, 80 miles and 7,800 feet of climbing later, was the destination. Getting there included a slight detour on singletrack to Pichetti Winery for some rosé.
The majority of the miles were on pavement and most of them on California’s storied and scenic Highway 1. This is what the group’s bikes were best suited for anyway: Williams and Tetrick were on Specialized Roubaix’s while Hall chose her Tarmac; Keough rode a Cannondale Synapse; and, Rivera used her Cervelo S5, “this aero bike with bike racks on, and barely enough clearance.” Given that the accommodations were taken care of, no one had to bother with camping equipment or lots of extra clothing in their bike bags; furthermore, the trip’s route was similarly structured around culinary excursions, so no one needed to pack a ton of snacks.
Rivera said that she wanted to start the trip out with a dinner at San Francisco’s SPQR where her friend and fellow cyclist Matt Accarrino is head chef. The restaurant had been doing takeout and delivery throughout the pandemic, and she’d long wanted to check out the pro cycling turned Michelin-Star-rated chef’s eats.
“He stuffed us,” Rivera said. “I think we had everything on the menu. We carbo-loaded for the whole week.”
As the group traveled down the coast, they had similar gastronomic highlights. Fish and chips for lunch. Burritos in Carmel, and coffee and avocado toast at Cat and Cloud, in Santa Cruz.
“We went to the Big Sur Bakery and had this amazing maple bacon twist thing,” Rivera said.
Yet the trip was not without its challenges.
Tetrick, whose grandmother passed away shortly after the bikepacking trip, says she will be forever grateful that she and her friends took the time to visit her granny in Carmel.
“We did a bike parade around Granny’s porch and chatted with her,” Tetrick said. “She had met Kaitie K. and Coryn before, but not Katie H. or Justin. We waved goodbye and rode off. She called while we were riding to make sure we made it to San Luis Obispo and left me a sweet message.”
As the group left San Luis Obispo for Santa Barbara on the fourth day, Rivera’s course would alter dramatically.
Before the trip, Rivera had been in touch with her team director and other riders about getting back to Europe. Rumors of a European travel ban for Americans was flitting about the news, but Rivera felt confident that with her work visa and Dutch residency, she would be fine. However, as she was riding along the coast, she received a text from Team Sunweb’s director that indicated otherwise.
“It said, ‘I think you should go, you can get this flight for tomorrow with no transfers.’ He told me to ask around other Americans, as well. So I was on the road, asking friends to call Tejay [van Garderen], and I’m trying to reach out to other Americans who’d flown back. No one had any issues, but they thought that after July 1 it might be harder. We stopped and had a coffee and some food in Pismo Beach, I booked the flight, Justin and Ali booked me a rental car, we turned around, went back to San Luis Obispo and picked up the car.”
The wonders of technology.
Back in San Luis Obispo, the group had to say some early good-byes. Hall and Tetrick had already planned to end their tour there. Keough wanted to finish the trip, so she booked a room in Santa Barbara and carried on. Rivera and Williams headed south in the rental car.
“I’m so glad I have good friends who are so easy going and can fly by the seat of my pants,” Rivera said. “I dropped Justin off in LA, went to Newport, dropped the car off at the airport, my fiancee picked me up, I did laundry, packed a few things, and flew the next morning.”
Ending her bachelorette bikepacking trip after 523 kilometers wasn’t what Rivera imagined, but then again, 2020 has thrown nothing but curveballs to the champion rider. As hasty as her departure back to the Netherlands last week was, Rivera had a similar travel story in March, when she escaped from Europe just as the threat of the coronavirus reached fever pitch there. Now, the rider is sitting with the uncertainty of which races will go and who will actually show up for them.
And then there’s the question of her early-October wedding and how to squeeze that in between quarantine and racing sessions around the globe.
It sure makes riding down the California coast with your best friends seem like a fairy tale.