Sideline Stories: Bella Hincapie, Gran Fondo Hincapie Bangor Cyclist

I have grown up my entire life around the sport of cycling. My uncle, George Hincapie, is a former professional cyclist and my father, Rich Hincapie, has created his career and his life around a company that puts on cycling events and sells cycling apparel, Hincapie Sportswear. Despite all that, I was not a cyclist until about a year ago. You would think with growing up around cycling it would be easy to get into, yet cycling can be a very intimidating sport. You need bikes, kits, special gear, and I was always just fine watching from the sidelines. I also knew that I was not built like a female cyclist – my body type is just different. Plus, I’m slow! I never considered cycling because I knew I could never keep up with the pace my family keeps on rides.

In May of 2023, I joined my family at their annual Gran Fondo Hincapie-Chattanooga event as an employee. I had been to previous Gran Fondo Hincapie events yet didn’t really know how much people love these events. After the event, the Hincapie Team and I went to dinner and got to talking about how Gran Fondos are one of the best cycling events there are because it provides the same great experience for every rider, no matter their skill level. Sitting around the table that night we all wanted to capitalize on our love for the event and share it with as many people as possible. I thought to myself, I surely am not the only person who is intimidated by cycling, right? So, we came up with the idea to share my story on social media in hopes of inspiring others to get out and ride! I felt lucky to have such a great support system and I knew we could inspire others by sharing my story.

A few weeks after Chattanooga I started riding. I had zero knowledge about the logistics, bikes, or gear. I started out on a borrowed bike, a helmet my father found in the garage, shorts, a T-shirt, and tennis shoes. I knew the basics, but riding a bike on the beach and cycling are two very different things. It was June and I had until October to train for Gran Fondo Hincapie – Greenville. My plan was to ride the Medio course; all 54 miles and 4,500ft of elevation. I love a challenge, but after that first ride, I was not feeling so sure of myself. I rode less than 10 miles that day and I was so uncomfortable that I just figured I would not get any better.

I learned how to clip in (after failing many times), I learned tips and tricks from former pro cyclists, I focused on nutrition, I learned how to change a tire, and got serious about my training. Every Saturday morning my father and I would go out on long rides with climbs so I could prepare for the big day. I felt myself getting stronger but not necessarily faster. The good  news was I didn’t care to be fast. As long as I finished it didn’t matter what my speed was. October arrived and my family and friends came out to support me. I kept telling myself that I just had to finish. I was so nervous; thankfully I had my Dad riding alongside me.  I truly did not think I was going to finish. The countdown began, confetti flew into the air, the music synced up with the beat of my heart and the next thing I knew I was riding across the start line. They say adrenaline carries you the first couple miles and it sure did! My father stayed by my side and we headed to the first long climb – six painful miles uphill. There were so many friendly people who encouraged me along the way. The last two miles were unreal. I could hear the crowd screaming and you knew I was close. I remember turning to my father saying “No way!! I’m about to finish!” Next thing I knew, I was crossing the finish line.

I felt exhaustion, exhilaration, pride and relief. Every single training ride and sore muscle led up to that moment. It was surreal.  But I did it! All the fear I had vanished and I felt proud of myself and the training I put in to accomplish my goal!

I want to keep inspiring people to get out there and ride! Take it from me, you can 100% do it! This year I will be training for Gran Fondo Hincapie – Bangor and Gran Fondo Hincapie – Greenville. I don’t know everything about cycling, yet, I know that I can do anything I set my mind to and so can you.

Best luck at the Gran Fondo Hincapie Bangor on June 22nd. MSC is excited to welcome you and your family back to Maine!