Guide Profile: Inez Visser
Strava is how I met Inez Visser.
The internet, when used with discipline (namely when entering the sinkhole of social media), is a treasure trove of connections and discoveries. “You’ve Got Mail” is one of my favourite movies because something’s exciting and serendipitous about meeting people online. It’s most likely how you and I met, too.
Inez is on most top ten leaderboards, and Visser is anything but Italian. She started following me, then with some basic internet research I friended her on Facebook. People with a common mindset or interest are all you need to feel “at home” wherever you are. She’s determined, thoughtful and drives an antique Fiat 500.
Her background to cycling is much different than mine. Unlike myself, she knows exact distances of climbs, gives you moments of glory, and won’t gloss over ride stats. Her palmarès include several important Strava segments, keeping her lemon and tomato plants alive, building a global business from scratch and having a zen-like generosity with her time.
* * *
Amsterdam, where Inez is from, bikes are must-have accessories that outnumber people. But Inez’s experience of cycling in the Netherlands certainly wasn’t of dodging flower pots and meridians or moving up on gravel shoulders in a peloton of 185 feisty pro cyclists like my own. She instead escaped the flatlands bike touring with a friend as a way to civilly spend her vacations. Weeks on holiday meant discovering Spain, Italy, Austria, Indonesia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Panama and South Africa by bike. No cell phones and no GPS devices with a Lonely Planet and luggage in tow had its own mixed bag of exhilaration and adventure. Starting at 6am to ride 80-120km per day on a touring bike is excellent base training for most of us. For Inez, it was an outlet for a fearless and adventurous spirit that’s carried her through life.
Inez was most significantly introduced to Italy when she and her then-husband went to visit her parents' friends near Parma. She felt limited not being able to speak Italian, so she enrolled in language classes after the trip. There she met other people with the same passion and interest for Italy. An opera singer, an owner of a travel company, and an Italian homeowner. These people inspired her and shaped dreams that were about to come true.
Most of us reach a point in life and ask “is this it?” Italy is an effective way of answering this question. Merely being in Italy teaches you what love is. Love for yourself and in turn for others. There’s no hidden agenda and no insincerity. Ask that question, and you’ll figure out the answer.
Inez and I both had a breaking point before committing to such a non-linear path as moving to a far less economically and politically stable country than our own. For Inez it was divorce. We both discovered our darkest days can lead to our brightest opportunities. A coach helped her find enough courage and self-confidence to dust herself off, pack up her silver Peugeot 206 and drive from The Netherlands to Italy.
Lucca was where she wanted to be because “it actually has it all: hills, mountains, and sea within a few kilometres distance. Apart from that, Lucca is a beautiful historic town. Florence is only 65 km away and Pisa Airport on 35 km's, so it's very easily accessible.”
When push comes to shove we can get things in motion pretty quickly.
Shortly after setting up camp in Lucca, Inez coincidentally bumped into an English man with the idea of starting a leather bags and wallet company. In ten years she built up a global business from a couple of chance encounters.
The bike was set aside until she moved to the hills where she took notice to the groups of cyclists passing by who began to whisper “the bike…. Inez… the bike!” She listened, and cycling became a way to clear her head on the weekends as the business began to take on a life of its own. Slowly but surely she spent less time working and more time riding. Coincidentally this is when Inez and I met.
Now it seems unimaginable not having the bike as a tool for mental well-being and a way to calibrate.
I like to think I encouraged Inez to ride and she inspired me to make a business out of it. Inez is not only a riding partner but a dear friend who I hope you’ll have the chance to meet. She’s occasionally on a guided ride, bespoke trip and most definitely on Giro Donne. Giro Donne is our woman’s only trip with the idea of sharing stories, encouraging, and empowering each other to keep growing and evolving.