Photo: Our group, plus one journalist (not me). I’m somewhere hiding in the back. Credit: Jeremy Dunn

It’s a rather long story about how this came about, but on Monday I embarked with five other Rapha ambassadors on a mission to ride the stages of Tour of California, for which I have been training for about two weeks (!). If you are a cycling fan, you’re laughing your chamois off. If you’re not a cycling fan, watch the video below. Then pretend you own a pair of lycra shorts with a big pillow in the crotch, and that you are laughing them off.

One of the biggest cycling races in the United States, this 8-day stage race starts in Sacramento and makes its way to Los Angeles, covering around 750 miles in stages that include multiple-lap loops, point-to-point races, and an individual time trial. It is  We’re riding it in reverse order, from L.A. to Sacramento, in 7 days (skipping the TT). We are not racing. We are riding it to experience a race course open exclusively to male pros, and to inspire women across the country to try something that scares them.

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Today’s ride was a 20-ish-mile loop with 2,000 or so feet of climbing (this ride profile didn’t exactly match what our Garmins reported). We rode it four times for a total of 80 miles and 8,000 feet of climbing (I’m rounding here).

The first lap, I was nervous. It was flat, then rolling hills, and then a long sustained climb, as you can see in the elevation profile above. You wonder what’s around each blind curve, and on every climb you think, “When will it end?” The last pitch was the toughest, but after a false summit and another climb came a swooping, roller-coastery descent that gave me an involuntary pie-eating grin and a fit of the giggles. I mean, I think I swallowed a bug because I was laughing.

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The second lap felt better than the first. The third lap, I thought, “I’ve got another lap in me!” The fourth lap hurt. And on the steepest pitch of the long climb, the filmmakers who are producing a film about our journey drove right in front of me and my riding partner, probably zooming in on the involuntary lip twitch that happens when I’m in the Pain Cave. These short films are one of the reasons I love Rapha, because it is just as much about storytelling as it is about being the Prada of road riding apparel. If you haven’t seen them,here’s one of my favorites, about a ride in Yunnan, China.

Follow us in real time on Facebook, Instagram (@kimhcross, @mmcyclist, @raelambo, @abbylwatson, @bikebeth, @krasniakjulie, and @rapha_n_america) and Twitter (@kimhcross, @rapha_n_america) – more handles later. Rushing to breakfast! Also follow the hashtag #RaphaTOC.

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By Kim Cross – Birmingham, Alabama – Competitor, writer, editor, mother, wife, all around bad ass. Learn more about Kim at Spokeswoman.me.