Located in the heart of Surry Hills within the old Bussell Bros. Tea Building. The Rapha Cycle Club Sydney is perched on the edge of the CBD on the ever popular Crown Street.
The first permanent location for Rapha in Australia and a home for the sport of road racing. Opened July 2013 on the first night of the 100th Anniversary of the Tour de France – serving the finest coffee, food and screening the world’s greatest races. Open from pre-dawn for the first shot of espresso through to late evening.
TOUR DES PLAGES – APRIL 2015
A review of April’s Tour Des Plages – Words by Courtney Bahr
Photo Credit: Jeff Curtes
Sunday morning dawned dark and overcast with the sky full of ominous rain clouds, but I was full of optimism and ready ride.
Arriving at Rapha I was overwhelmed by the large number of cyclists ready to brave all possible weather elements for the thrill of a challenge and the camaraderie that comes with being in a team and working together. With over 80 riders registered the Cycle Club was buzzing with energy at 6 o’clock in the morning.
The Tour Des Plages riders brief kicked off around 6:15am, presented on a screen above the pumping espresso machine detailing the route and checkpoints. There was emphasis on prizes to be awarded for the ‘most creative team checkpoint photo’ and to the team that rode the furthest distance, crowned the ‘Kings of Pain’.
Teams discussed tactics, options and ride routes. This included the number of stops for coffee, breakfast, lunch and whether or not to use the ferry to travel from Manly (checkpoint two) to Watson’s Bay (checkpoint three). The objective of the ride was to reach four checkpoints in any way possible: Palm Beach, Manly Beach, Watson’s Bay and La Perouse, which if fully completed by following the route comprised 160km and over 2,000m of climbing.
Hats with the impressive “CCSYD” emblazoned on the brim were handed out as more and more teams checked in. Espressos were flowing to ensure all were sufficiently caffeinated prior to start time. It was inspiring to see the groups of cyclists together comparing routes, ideas and providing food for those that may have not been quite so prepared – “just how far is it again?!”
Team names provided a few good laughs, particularly the ‘Fluffy Rainbow Unicorns’, ‘Drank the Kool-aid’, and ‘What’s for Lunch’. The sense of enthusiasm was palpable and teams were quick to depart, heading straight for the Harbour Bridge and the climb towards the northern beaches. Riding through the early morning quiet of the CBD with our voices echoing through the towering buildings brought to life the adventure we were embarking on.
Crossing the Harbour Bridge opened the sky that although overcast and threatening, had subtle hints of blue intertwined with the oranges and pinks that heralded the dawn. The air was crisp and the wind cooling. It was going to be a great day and the rain looked like it was going to stay away…. Or so we thought.
Riding two abreast incited discussions about rides, experiences and expectations of the day. How we thought we’d do on the hills, what kind of speed we were going to maintain and most importantly, how early we could stop for a coffee. The rolling undulation throughout was inspirational for me. As someone that struggles with hills I succeeded in climbing each and every ascent at speed and reaching the peak with a little left to spare. You couldn’t wipe the grin from my face, experiencing the elation of succeeding where I have failed so many times before.
Arriving at Palm Beach was a feeling of ordered chaos. We were dodging cars, kayaks, dogs, children, people and of course fellow cyclists. It proved that Sydney-siders were not going to let the threat of a little rain (or possibly hail) get in the way of enjoying their weekend.
Our first coffee stop was perfect. There was grass to lean against, toilets, the support car for cold weather gear and of course – good coffee. We checked the weather forecast. With an inevitable green cloud on the radar we braced ourselves for the rain expected to hit on the return journey.
The rain brought mixed emotions, I was cold, exceptionally wet and still had a long way to go. The beautiful coastal ride back to Manly was narrowed down to the consistent spray of muddy water in my face and how long until I could get dry and warm up again. I reminded myself that you can’t always have sunny days and beautiful temperatures, that these moments are there to test you. Grin, bear it, stick to your wheel and pedal on!
At checkpoint two we huddled together next to the espresso machine at the ferry terminal; wet, with numb fingers and toes, wanting warmth and the feeling of a thick hot chocolate, discussing whether or not it would be colder riding back over the bridge or catching the ferry. In retrospect, it was definitely colder catching the ferry.
The next 80km for riders were full of unrelenting rain and inclement conditions with biting winds picking up as the day wore on, less than ideal beach weather! The support car, Rapha tent and checkpoint crew were a happy sight to see at Watson’s Bay (checkpoint 3) – the tent and cheerful faces providing some brief respite from the rain before embarking on the final 45kms to complete the last checkpoint and trip back to the Cycle Club. It was a true challenge for all but made achievable with the enthusiasm and support of being surrounded by teammates.
Arriving back at Rapha gave a sense of relief and pride. Everyone inside looked how I felt, but there were small smiles and hilarious photos shared under the hashtag #tourdesplages on Instagram. Teams rolled up and completed the challenge over a space of three hours with finishing times varying from five to eight hours – some, like us, had jumped on the ferry and short-cut the course, some had stopped at Beer Cafes en route and others had stuck to the route and completed the full distance, impervious to the challenging conditions and able to boast that they completed all of Sydney’s beaches in one day. The camaraderie and shared experience is what makes something like this not only worthwhile but priceless, a brilliant way to complete the weekend.