Get comfortable, get fit, have fun with Conte’s at Williamsburg Winery’s Tour de Virginia
Chris Duffy rode his bike everywhere growing up in picturesque New England. Today’s Director of Road and Fitting for Conte’s Bike Shop competed for teams in Spain and Italy.
As glamorous as international cycling sounds, it’s physically taxing. The flatter areas in Europe are more urban and less inviting for cyclists. The best routes tend to be full of laborious inclines that challenge the most fit cyclist.
“Cycling shouldn’t be hard unless you want it to be,” Duffy stresses.
That’s among the reasons he’s excited Conte’s signed on as one of the sponsors for the Williamsburg Winery’s first-ever Tour de Virginia. During the four-day experience from Sept. 23-26, cyclists will explore the Virginia countryside while raising funds for Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels.
“One of the nice things in this area is that everyone can ride,” Duffy says. “I can put my mom on a bike and she can do it. Here, you’ve got amenities like the winery, a lot of open space and relatively quiet roads. It’s a really nice pleasant place to ride bikes, and it isn’t going to break you. You can ride without suffering. That’s one of the things I really like about the Tour de Virginia.”
Conte’s mission is to change people’s lives through cycling, which certainly applies to Duffy’s path. In his elementary school days, he struggled with focus and simply sitting still. A fourth grade teacher suggested he bike consistently to improve in all of those areas. When he discovered cycling, he found a level of concentration that carried over to his academics. His grades improved. His mindset became healthier. He soon realized he’d rather bike than walk or run. Instead of relying on medicine to improve his attention span, he chose two wheels and never looked back.
“Anyone who’s been bitten by the cycling bug knows the bike changes lives,” he says. “I used to run and I was good at it, but I never really enjoyed it. When I found mountain in high school, I actually liked doing it. It’s just fun.”
Earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Southern California, Duffy started racing collegiately and spent two years competing with a team in Italy. Another stint in Spain allowed him to savor the wonders of that country on his bike.
Even a heart failure diagnosis at age 25 followed by a heart transplant at 29 didn’t deter Duffy from cycling. Within days of the transplant, Duffy was back on his bike.
During one of the first races he completed in Spain, he crashed going 40 miles per hour. A mechanic arrived with another bike before Duffy got up, and there was no hesitation. He got aboard the bike and continued.
In both instances, “There was no question I was going to get back on the bike and go,” Duffy says. “You apply that logic to everything else.”
He favors the sensory experience cycling inspires that car travel can’t emulate.
“There’s a perspective you gain moving yourself to a place rather than being moved to a place,” Duffy says. “Tour de Virginia is really cool because we’re bringing people to explore places where maybe they’ve been before, but they’ve driven there. Something is lost when it’s always about getting there. When you’re riding, it’s about the time where you are.”
Tour de Virginia cyclists will linger at multiple points of interest along the route, including Jamestown Settlement, Colonial Capital Trail, Libby Hill in Richmond, High Bridge Rail Trail, Bear Creek State Park and Petersburg National Battlefield Park. The ride culminates on Sept. 26 with an after-party back where everything started — at the Williamsburg Winery in the middle of Wessex Hundred, the 400-acre farm that features open fields and 150 acres of woods.
One caveat from Duffy — if you’re not riding comfortably, you’re not going to enjoy the journey. You might get tired after a ride or be sore from exercising muscles that aren’t used to it, but “riding shouldn’t hurt,” Duffy says.
If it does, Conte’s professional bike fitting program can help. Multiple options are available and extend to cleat fitting and advanced foot support and leg alignment.
“If you’re going to cycle, you should be comfortable,” Duffy says. “You get three things from a good bike. You get fit, you get comfort and you get fun. If the bike doesn’t fit, it’s not going to be comfortable and it’s not going to be fun.”
Duffy encourages cycling interested in a better fit to sign up for an appointment at one of Conte’s locations. And register for the Tour de Virginia, of course, and enjoy the ride!