Rapha Rising Round-up

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“You should be able to play the piano on a steep climb”
Bernard Hinault (possibly apocryphal)

This year’s Rapha Rising saw participants scale a staggering 157,871,940 metres – and we hope that, during their quest for elevation, the riders of the challenge were able to live up to Hinault’s old maxim, however briefly. The Badger embodied a style of climbing that seemed utterly effortless, much like a pianist taking to his bench at the start of a concerto. To wrap up the Rapha Rising challenge, and to set you on course for the rest of the summer’s riding and climbing, we sought advice from a rider who regularly races with the best of the British peloton.

The problem with advice on climbing is that it often comes from riders already good at climbing – that is, those who are preternaturally skinny and none too challenged by gravity. Their advice, though useful, is based in a natural affinity for the pursuit, not in a constant and conscious fight against adversity. In the hope of offering some truly hard-won advice, we turned to Rhys Howells, elite racer with British team Richardsons-Trek, who stands at 191cm tall and weighs 85kg.

Feel light, go fast

Riders focus on diet. I hear stories of guys who rode on the Continent in the 1990s, and their managers would turn up to their houses with skin-fold calipers for impromptu body-fat tests.

I’ve found the biggest difference comes from watching what I eat the day before a big ride. I used to think that I had to cram in as much food as possible, trying to get as much ‘in the tank’ as I could handle. The problem is that if I eat a giant bowl of porridge, I feel like a giant bowl of porridge – slow and stodgy.

Now I eat less before a ride and just make sure I start eating rice bars around 30 minutes into the ride. If you feel light, you go fast.

The common core

When you’re in the peloton you can see the guys who are going to try to ride away from you on the climb – there’s something in their form and pedal stroke that sets them apart. You can limit your losses but it means spending time doing boring things like sit-ups and ‘the plank’.

When you have core strength, it’s like someone is pushing your hips into the saddle, letting you put all your strength through the pedals. Of course, when you’re really digging deep you end up wrenching on the bars and weaving across the road like a total novice.

The hills in your head

The effort required to climb well isn’t too far removed from the effort required on the flat – I think the main difference is psychological. There’s no escaping a climb, no freewheeling – any momentary pause and you’ll stop, so there’s this pressure to keep on going. The only way to get used to this is to always remind yourself of what climbing feels like, to become well-acquainted with the pain. Keep your head up and keep pedaling – when you start thinking you’re a in a bad way then you’re definitely in a bad way.

A pat on the back

The Lincoln Gran Prix goes over a climb called Michaelgate more times than I care to mention. It’s 20%, and it feels like more. There are always huge crowds, and the peloton will hit a bottleneck, then you have to put your foot down on the cobbles, and it’s a nightmare. It’s carnage – there are riders leaning on each other and balancing off the barriers.

I had to get one of the crowd to hold me up while I clipped in. I spotted a bloke leaning over a barrier and I shouted: “Hold me, hold me.” He looked a bit confused. “Hold me like it’s a time trial!” He got the idea and kept me upright.

I don’t think it’s in the rulebook, necessarily, but don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand from time to time.

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  • Tour de force Todd

    any news on the climbing shoes rapha are working on ?

  • http://www.davidleonsmith.com David Leon Smith

    This was a great challenge and got me and many others out doing far more climbing then I would normally. Its just a shame at the end of it there is only a T shirt to buy and not a proper cycling shirt that I can wear with pride whilst struggling up the steep climbs of the Yorkshire dales……….

    • Min Hong

      I totally agree. I joined the challenge regardless of T-shirt. However, It would have been much better if we could purchase something we could use while we are riding.

    • http://iamstuartwilson.com/ Stuart Wilson

      If you like, you can make a little stat page here to show off to your mates: http://iamstuartwilson.com/rapharising/

    • Matija Vojsk

      Might be that the organisers were a bit surprised by the number of participants. Kudos to all.

      Still, this is an excellent direct-marketing oportunity for the organisers to upgrade the campaign and have proper cycling shirts offered to the finishers. This challenge is among the more demanding ones and the community would certainly be pleased. Postage should not be excessively high, indeed.

  • http://thegentlemanrider.com Kurt Cornell

    Yesterday was my first ride in Miami after completing the challenge in Georgia. I was tapping out tempo two cogs down from my usual. Awesome power boost complements of Rapha Rising. Now how to keep it!

  • Jon Gould

    I loved the challenge and was chuffed to complete it, which made it really disappointing to find out the t-shirt would cost $35 (which is reasonable) and then $25 for packaging (which isn’t). If it’s a Rapha t-shirt, can’t we order one from England to save packaging costs?

    • Alastair Fleming

      I too baulked at the $25 shipping. I’d get the t shirt otherwise but shipping does not cost that much.

      • Hyedie

        I, too, would have to pay the $25 shipping fee living in Canada … So I didn’t order the Womens100 tshirt. Just FYI at least for the womens100, the tshirts are Alternative Apparel and not Rapha brand so you may not be missing out that much after all!

  • Chris Masters

    hey! just back from 10 days solid riding in the pyrenees, including the etape. Been looking forward to uploading my garmin data – no pc while away – only to notice that there was only three days after the challenge to upload – which i obviously couldn’t do and on returning to the uk this morning I see that I’m just out of time. really disappointed – and I guess that others will be similarly affected due to the holiday period. help Rapha!

  • fran sanchez

    where I can leave my data to get the embroidered patch from the Rapha Rising: Three Ranges?
    thank very much