Clip-In has become an annual tradition at The Little Nell, celebrating 10 years this summer with Christian Vande Velde as the lead pro since the very beginning
A Q&A with former World Tour Cyclist, Christian Vande Velde, and Little Nell General Manager Henning Rahm
What is Clip-In Cycling Camp?
Henning: Clip-In has become an annual tradition at The Little Nell, celebrating 10 years this summer with Christian Vande Velde as the lead pro since the very beginning. One of our former general managers at the hotel created the camp as a way to offer a special, active experience for guests - riding Aspen’s most scenic routes with wining and dining at The Nell and luxurious accommodations included. Over the years, we’ve welcomed repeat guests and new guests. We couldn’t put on a camp like this without the generosity of our partners like Ventum who provides bikes, as well as bike fitting and mechanical support along the way.
Christian: No, it is not a religious camp. It is an incredible experience and opportunity to get together with like minded people, ride on gorgeous roads and climbs, stay at the premier hotel in the heart of Aspen and eat and drink outstanding food and wine.
What makes Aspen a unique place for cycling and upscale hospitality?
Christian: Aspen is always thought of as a ski destination but summer time there, for me at least is easily the best. Endless sunshine, mixed with challenging climbs both on the road and mountain bike make it a Mecca for cycling. The laid back community, highlighting the outdoors, makes it hard to not appreciate.
Henning: Aspen has some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere and especially so in summer with the surrounding peaks, the Roaring Fork River and various creeks and high-country lakes and more. The Little Nell is renowned for impeccable service, award-winning wine and culinary programs, exciting adventures, and of course, luxurious guest rooms and suites. Combining an active day biking with the group and a relaxing lunch and dinner afterward makes for a fabulous visit. Aspen, cycling and upscale hospitality go hand in hand.
In its 10th year, how has the camp grown and/or changed since the first year?
Christian:The first year we only had a few guests….I might be overstating the numbers at a “few”. Then word spread quickly and we had to pump the brakes with too many people. We have found our groove now, numbers wise and also with what experiences we create during the week. We’ve found that the experiences that The Nell creates are almost impossible to replicate. We like to keep this process simple but yet incredibly memorable in their own way. I’m looking forward to celebrating ten year with the friends that I have made over the years through this camp..many of them have attended every year.
Henning: While Christian has always been the lead pro, it’s been fun to have others join him over the years - from retired pro cyclists George Hincapie and Craig Lewis in the past to Tyler Farrar and Travis McCabe this year. The focus has always been on cycling though we’ve also brought in other elements to keep guests engaged such as a cooking class and competition coordinated by our culinary director to a wine tasting class led by a master sommelier. For meals, in addition to dining on property, we’ve also hosted several offsite over the years such as a riverside Mexican fiesta for lunch once to a Veuve Clicquot-themed dinner in a barn. This year, we’re taking the group to Casa Tua for dinner one night and up the gondola to the ASPENX Mountain Club for a lunch with a view one afternoon. Helly Hansen gear bags filled with custom cycling kits by Pedal Mafia, helmets and sunglasses from Sweet Protection, fuel from SkratchLabs and more are a highlight this year.
Having raced in The World Tour, across the globe, and to many victories and podiums across your decorated career - What advice do new cyclists commonly seek from you?
Christian:A common question new cyclists ask is something that I commonly ask myself these days. “What was racing the Tour de France like, how did you race 21 days in a row?” Now, it is so hard to comprehend riding, let alone racing one stage let alone 21 of them back to back. What I commonly respond with is very simple and cliche but true. “Consistency over time on the bike will pay massive dividends. What you feel is impossible today, can and will change with consistent work. You’re much stronger than you think.”
To anyone reading this - what would you say to someone trying to get into the sport?
Christian: To be adventurous and be willing to try and experience new things through the sport. We’ve had riders come to the camp who have only ridden Peloton and next minute they are summiting Independence Pass on a beautiful new Ventum bike! Opening their eyes to their capabilities, then comparing their times to previous years later on as they grow stronger. Seeing this progression from taking one of my classes on Peloton to riding to 12,000 feet is pretty surreal for myself to see, let alone what they feel!
What is your favorite part about CiC at the Little Nell?
Christian: My favorite part of Clip in is seeing old faces and “wowing” new ones. The time spent off the bike is as good if not better than on. Being spoiled with outdoor lunches at the bottom of Ajax mountain or taking the Gondola up and eating above the clouds is pretty hard to beat. In addition to the fine dining, this year we will have the privilege of riding with a special guest, Tyler Farrar. Tyler is one of the few riders in history who has won a stage in all the three grand tours. (Giro, Tour and Vuelta) I’m looking forward to reminiscing with Tyler of the years we spent together in the pro peloton and sharing his history with our guests.
What are you looking forward to most for this year’s camp?
Henning: We always love seeing our repeat guests and making new friends as well. And we sincerely appreciate our relationships with Christian and the pros, Ventum and our brand partners, and bringing everyone together.
Who would win in an arm wrestling match? You or Ventum’s CEO Diaa Nour?
Christian: I love Diaa too much to beat him at everything…I’d put up a good fight and succumb to his mighty powers.