True bliss for cycling enthusiasts comes in the form of long, gradual climbs and descents, sparsely traveled biker friendly roads, and scenic byways speckled with natural beauty. Cap the day’s ride at a genteel, European-style luxury hotel with a complete bike program, cyclist-centric staff, and innovative farm-to-table dining, and returning home may become problematic.
Welcome to South Carolina’s upstate, just 120 miles from Lake Norman.
Legendary professional cyclist George Hincapie, 41, found the Blue Ridge foothills and surrounding roads outside Travelers Rest so like the climbs and routes he rode in the famed Tour de France, he moved to nearby Greenville so he could train here.
Looking to share his love of cycling and create an experience rarely enjoyed by nonprofessional riders, Hincapie and his brother Rich, 45, developed Hotel Domestique in Travelers Rest with the goal of creating a premier cycling destination.
French TwistGuests at the 13-room, Country French Chateau-style hotel find elegant and accessible dining, amenity-laden accommodations, and a staff that celebrates the art of hospitality. Opened in fall 2013, the property was dormant for several years, victim of a prior developer’s bankruptcy.
Hincapie and his design team re-invented Domestique as a stylish oasis of civility and comfort featuring contemporary public spaces, a Mediterranean style terrazzo with fountains and breathtaking mountain overlooks, and a 25-meter saltwater lap pool. Ample guest rooms are complete with iPad concierge service, luxe bathrooms, fireplaces, and hallway pantries stocked with homemade snacks, drinks, and gourmet coffee.General Manager Ben Webster, 30, is particularly enthusiastic when sharing details of the hotel’s bike program.
“Guests can bring their own bikes or enjoy one of our ultra-light carbon fiber race bikes, complete with electric shifters and gearing designed especially for climbing,” says Webster. “We provide GPS with pre-programmed routes personally developed by George that take guests on routes to best match their skill level and interest.”
One popular ride is the “Bakery Run,” routing riders on back roads to nearby Saluda. Cyclists climb rolling hillsides, past farmland, and through the scenic watershed and tree canopy. A stop at the local bakery for fuel, and riders return home for the day well sated.
Cyclists looking for a distinctive experience take advantage of the signature “XD – Experience Domestique” program, an exceptional four-day ride camp offered frequently by the hotel. Small groups ride daily with Hincapie, enjoy family-style meals together, morning yoga sessions, strategy debriefs, post-ride massages, special gear, and more.
Not to be outdone by the quality of the cycling experience, dining at Hotel Domestique takes center stage when the sun goes down. Restaurant 17 seduces hotel guests, locals, and visitors rendering a light French and Italian influenced touch to area farm supplied proteins, vegetables, grains, dairy, and herbs.
Executive chef Adam Cooke, 33, has assembled a collaborative team of like-minded colleagues who tend to a seasonal and constantly evolving menu of small and large plates, innovative pairings, and a fresh twist on contemporary Southern cuisine.
Try the crispy pork belly, an elegant starter elevated by accompanying agnolotti stuffed with eggplant. Look for the Bethel Trails smoked pork crepinette, a unique preparation plated with turnip mostarda and spicy sweet potato mascarpone. Sides should not be missed. Grits with brown butter cauliflower crumble is a menu staple with good reason—they are sublime.
Pastry chef Adjryche Channing, 40, manages the bread program at the restaurant, preparing around 20 varieties for service and sale at the nearby Travelers Rest Farmers Market. His starter for the restaurant’s tangy, crisp-crusted sourdough is more than 8 years old. A wizard with chocolate, Channing wows with his dark chocolate praline and espresso napoleon. Don’t miss it.