Rapha 12 Hills, the dozen-climb scavenger hunt that celebrates the pains and pleasures of climbing, had its second edition this year. Ninety teams of two hunted down twelve stamps, positioned on different hill crests scattered around the southern shore of Lake Vättern in Sweden, in an arduous pursuit of vertical metres. How to link those ascents and tick them off the stamp card was completely up to the teams.
While one group prioritised coffee and went to the halfway feed zone without detours, my team mate David Klasson and I soon realised that our group had quite a different mind-set. We joined the breakaway and fought and conquered hill after hill with them until (and beyond) the point our legs went sore.
On tough rides like these, it often takes a while before the physical exhaustion blurs into some sort of rhythm – or equilibrium of suffering and delight – in which it’s suddenly possible to sense the environment again. After passing on to this phase, we gladly appreciated the smooth tarmac, washed-out gravel and rewarding views of the Alps, Cols and Muurs that La Lepre Stanca, the organising cycling club, had picked for us.
Scavenger hunt complete, the teams rolled back home to Kulturhuset Spira at Jönköping’s waterfront to round off the day with burgers and to watch fellow Swede Jenny Rissveds claim Olympic gold in the women’s cross-country mountain bike race on the other side of the globe.