Yesterday marked my fourth Rapha event. Two years ago I had a random invite to come roll with the boys on a half dirt/have paved 110+ course through the Angeles mountains - from there I went to San Fran, and then to my home state of Colorado - finally finding myself rolling similar roads to when my dirt-grinding road biking obsession began in the City of Angels.
Compared to events past the format had a slight change, aside from the name - which was semi confusing if you had previously been to a women's event which used to solely be dubbed "prestige". Now there were teams of 4 instead of six; some teams of just men, and some of just women. No cinematographer, just the extremely talented photographer, not to mention - kindest person on the planet - Kevin Batchelor, hailing from Boulder. We still ate donuts and sipped on espresso. We were greeted by the bright smiling faces of David and Tim from Rapha; who knew it was only a matter of time until our team was spewing with sarcasm and giggles. Our jerseys were still packed to the brim with rice cakes and Skratch Labs. Per usual my team still had to ask which way we started; as we toyed with the Garmin trying to figure out how it actually would give us directions - we have taken wrong turns out of the start previously.
This year, the team I had the pleasure of being a part of consisted of the amazing: Abby Watson, Julie Krasniak and Lindsay Knight. We only get to see each other a few times a year, but, we always tend to make the most of our time together - I am so thankful to call these girls my friends. They are a very inspiring & successful group of women, both on and off the bike.
There were 20 teams that decided to take on, or at least attempt, to take on the first 2015 Rapha Prestige in the States. Mr. Ben Lieberson was the course designer, we knew we were in for a doozy. Water, sugar, salt, chamois cream and sunscreen quickly became your friend that day - and Coke never tasted so good - dreams of ice pops and cold beer would haunt us through the mid-day sun. When we saw the Bike Effect support station and the bright smiles of Steve and Alison - we all cheered.
But, like I said above this is a post about camaraderie.
I have probably spent more time in the saddle with these three girls that anyone else, we have figured out a special way to communicate while on the bike - whether it is a simple hey dial it down a notch, or the tell tale head shake on a decent motioning: time to haul ass.
We always start these rides out the same way, we agree that we need to let each other know how we are feeling, we remind each other that it is imperative to eat and drink, and reiterate that this is not a race! I trust these girls - we ride together well. During every event that I have done with these women we are commended for our communication skills - and our agreements of when and where we can separate and where to regroup. Making sure everyone has had there time to recover and are fully stocked with water and snacks at the rest-stops - keeping the conversation and laughing level high, because that is what these are about. We are making memories.
We understand that events like these don't stop until everyone crosses the finish-line - and if someone has an issue, whether it be a mechanical or just needing a rest, we all stop.
These events are not a race, they are a challenge about how well you get along with others, how you can provide support when your teammates may need it and a true test on your communication. Your bike handling skills are put to the test as you face taxing terrain.
These events are about cheering people on, making friends and encouraging fellow teams out there who are suffering these daunting courses too. If you consider this a race, fine - you win. Because to tell you the truth, the real victory isn't who gets across the finish first - but it is who can look back and say wow, I had a kick-ass time with some of my friends and that is a day I will never forget. You realize what you just conquered; something that most people couldn't even fathom taking on.
With limited setbacks we crossed the line just before sunset. We motored up the steep climb to Zorthian Ranch - happy to know the ride was over - feeling successful for what we had accomplished. Out of the 20 teams there were five teams comprised only of women - out of those same 20 teams, only two of the full women's teams finished the 125 mile course. To those who finished the big loop, I commend you - it was hard. To those who had to turn at the time cut, you're stoked....trust me. Our team was one of the teams that made the long course (our fellow Rapha Women's teammates finished just before us). Over all we unofficially finished 5th out of 20 teams...not bad.
I can't wait until we all meet again and ride bikes.