The first organised Rapha event this side of the country was open for entry’s, teams of 4 riders are challenged to complete 100 miles across the West Country armed with a sense of humour, tools and spares for the day and A brevet card to have stamped to prove you have completed the ride.
Matt Reynolds, his twin sister, my mate Steve from work and myself picked up the torch for this event and as there was limited spaces just had to wait to see if we made the cut. A few weeks later the good news arrived, because of the demand Rapha was going to be holding the event over a weekend and we had been selected for the Sunday event.
24h before the event was to start each team had a map emailed over with the rules, he had been given free rule over the route we just had to get to each check point in order, but some roads had to be used to add a bit of fun and others for safety and to stop people cutting to much of the route out had to be avoided. Several painstaking hours of route planning later and we had it all sorted.
The Big Day
So being just a bit excited a good night’s sleep just wasn’t going to happen, but up at the crack of dawn I was, and to fuel the day a big bowl of porridge with honey bananas and peanut butter (Rapha did say make sure you had enough food). With spare cloths packed and everything I thought I would need for the day To town I rode. Really not knowing what to expect (let’s face it some people would say Rapha isn't good value for money and at £20 per head I wasn’t expecting a lot) I arrived at Muddock the venue for the start finish. Bike secure I walked in for sign on to find food a plenty, fruit serials, pastry’s and coffee, this was looking like a good start.
With the rest of the team arriving and me feeling now a bit to full we finally got ourselves ready, several teams at a time we crossed the start line heading for our first destination, the Rapha outlet store in Shepton Mallet, the route I had plotted took in some great road’s I had never ridden before winding out of Bristol then in to the country side teams split up to go routes they had planned. The sun was out and the sky clear as the day warmed up we began to approach Shepton Mallet, this is where we had to solve the first mechanical of the day, and it wasn’t even ours, another teams rider had dropped a chain and it had got stuck, not a problem for a team with 2 bike mechanics and engineer in its ranks.
The hardest part of getting to the first check point was getting across the road to kilver court, once inside water bottles filled and more snacks taken \my wallet was made a bit lighter with some new goodies that where promised to be back at Muddock for me to collect at the end of the ride. Brevet card stamped and on our way to the next stop Weston Super Mare. Another cross country trip into the unknown and this leg involved the route we had to do, a small diversion down a dirt track, that turned into a gravel road and then into a full on of road decent, Stephen and myself took this in our stride, Matt wasn’t having so much fun.
Weston Super Mare
Sometime later after the spin across the Mendip Hills we found ourselves descending towards Shipham before the flat run in to Weston. On arrival at checkpoint 2 on Uphill beach, we were greeted by riders just taking it easy, taking time to talk with each other about how the day was going, and of course the Rapha H van dishing up fresh coffee, ice lollies and more cake and snacks for the trip (I’m sure they said this was going to be unsupported). Legs rested belly’s once again full, card stamped and one idiot in a car sternly talked to, we made our way to destination 3. the top of Cheddar Gorge. Not wanting to go back on ourselves and having to stay of the A38 and the Old Coach road we meandered around some small villages with names such as Eastertown, Rocksbridge and Mark to name a few, all as picturesque as their names would suggest.
Cheddar, simply gorgeous
Cheddar was getting closer and we were all still smiling, spirits where high and we couldn’t believe we had already ridden 70 odd miles, but we had and I’m not sure what you would think when 78 miles in the legs you get to Cheddar but I stupidly had the idea "I wander how fast I can do this in". Of I went, ok not the fastest time I have been up there but I wasn’t taking prisoners either, several riders overtaken the top was in sight, and so are men holding large cards with slogans saying "full gas " and "cheddar gorgeous". Malt loaf for the win and another stamp on the card, still haven’t touched any of the food I had packed for the ride.
A bit more climbing to be done before we got to Bristol airport the last checkpoint. There we had to be photographed with Bristol airport in the back ground, but before this could be done a fast descent to Blaggdon had to be negotiated made more interesting by the fact that the bottom section had been freshly tared and chipped leaving a movable feast of gravel on corners that wanted to claim all control from front wheels. Once past this another climb to Butcombe and then up to the airport, this is when my legs first decided that the fast ascent of Cheddar may not have been such a good idea, but the climb was rewarded by an ice-cream at the side of the run way as we watched flight coming in to land.
All that is left now was the short homeward stint back to Muddock for a refreshing beer. One last climb up Bellmont hill, this time Matt was up for it gliding past me and on to the top, my slow climb of Bellmont hill was only made more entertaining as at the top I was overtaken by a member of a team who was competing on fixed wheel bikes? One last drop into Bristol past Ashton Court and back along Coronation Rd and all stop at Muddock. A final Climb up the stairs and platters of salad and pasta awaited to be devoured.
£20 each, for a well-planned ride, great food and people at each stop, teams of riders who are just out for the crack what more could you ask for? How about a further discount on the day for riders in the Rapha shop and caps and musettes for the riders as well as free beer. If the opportunity arises in the future this is a ride you should consider.