Luckily, Rapha cycling does not only target those who think of the world as a place of endless consumption. They are not only for those who want to boost their social status on Instagram by posting pictures with their perfect outfits with their first road bike being precisely the one currently used by someone from the pro tour team.
Rapha considers the cycling enthusiasts who don’t necessarily think of cycling as just an inventory of cadence. It is not only for those who count the number of cardiac muscle contractions and expended wattage but also for those who seek out new experiences while enjoying the wind blowing through their hair. It is for those who love exploring new places, architecture, good food, coffee, design, and, last but not least, getting to know new friends both in the peloton or among people they randomly encounter throughout their journies.
This is one thing I really like about Rapha (I actually liked them, even more, when they ran a printed quarterly called Mondial). Their signature style was also apparent in one of the RAPHA PRESTIGE events called BOHEMIA, which took place in Czech-Saxon Switzerland in an area around the Czech/German border. The starting point of the event was situated in Schmilka, a popular tourist village on the right bank of Labe curiously squeezed between rocks full of climbers.
Our four-member ASPHALT / REPETE cycling crew stood at the start of the 180 km circuit with 37 other teams, including the 8bar team and the steel frame manufacturer, Standert. The route featured an interesting mix of road and gravel sections. They weren’t particularly challenging, though many roadies didn’t appreciate the gravel stretches. Most of them joined the ride after 100 km, in the second half of the “competition”. The first section included a climb that promised: “if you keep going, there is food waiting for you at the top.” The climb let to a futuristic, architectural gem. A landmark of the region at the top of Ještěd mountain, the iconic television tower, hotel, and restaurant was built right on the top of the mountain (1012 m above sea level) in the early 1970s by Karel Hubáček. If you ever find yourself near this gem, do not hesitate to get a room. For the price of a new tire, you could spend a night in a rocket flying through the clouds, giving you an experience you will not easily find anywhere else.
All of the gravel segments were chosen so that cyclists’ experiences and riding skills could be on display, unfortunately with the exception of the first one. The organizer’s recommendation was clear: ride a gravel bike with optimum tire width. However, that first stretch went over a huge, sharp rock and it didn’t really matter how cautious or experienced you were. All riders could do was to hope to avoid disaster. Our team was not so lucky as one of our riders had to drop out when he couldn’t fix a destroyed tire. After all the preparations, getting to the event, and looking forward to a fun ride together, it was a cruel end for our friend around the eighteenth kilometer. If I had been the organizer, I would have left out the first segment, or at least wouldn’t have had it at the beginning of the trail.
There were many more surprises for the riders, though. One came from a vintage motorbike race whose circuit crossed our competition route at one point leaving some participants, myself included, wondering if we had been slipped some psychedelics. I remember lugging my bike over my shoulder through road traps (I couldn’t click my muddy cleats in the pedals afterward) in a nearly impenetrable forest somewhere on the German side of the border, trying to get in touch with the rest of my team. All the while being deafened by the incredible noise from the motorbike race. Have you ever heard the sound of a vintage racing motorcycle? Oh well. We all know the proverbs about how life begins when we start stepping out of our comfort zone.
I would like to extend a big thanks to Rapha for this experience. Special thank yous for the near-perfect organization, the royal entertainment after the finish and at the top of Ještěd (including an incredible mobile Rapha-Van-Espresso), some tasty treats from Czech sports nutrition manufacturer Chimpanzee, the stylish bottle cages and slick designed event-themed caps.
The entire event, from start to finish, was amazing.
The participants then enjoyed a tasting of the different kinds of beers each team brought from their respective regions and the festive atmosphere demonstrated the spirit that I have been missing in today’s speed and profit-oriented society. Eventually, the organizers presented the awards to the team that had the most defects during the difficult journey through the remarkable landscape of Czech Switzerland.