Film above: What makes Rapha

17 for 2017

2016 held many highlights for Rapha, with new Clubhouses, thousands of new club members and more organised Rapha rides than ever taking place all over the world. In racing, we celebrated a third Tour de France victory with Chris Froome in Rapha and watched Sir Bradley Wiggins become the most decorated Olympian in British history before rounding off his career with a joint victory alongside Cav, wearing Rapha at the Ghent Six. I celebrated turning 50 years old with 50 special rides around the world. It’s been a hard year to beat (at least for this British fan), but we have big objectives for Rapha in the coming year as well. Here are 17 of them.

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1. THE RAPHA CYCLING CLUB GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

The RCC is expanding across the world and now has more than 8,500 members, with new chapters launching wherever we open a Clubhouse. In 2017 we are adding at least a dozen more local ‘club chapter co-ordinators’, including in every city where a Clubhouse is due to open. We will reinvest membership fees and make the club even greater for the thousands of cyclists who have already joined.

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2. REACHING NEW SUMMITS

The Rapha Cycling Club (RCC) really comes alive when members from all over the world meet to race, relax and ride together in an amazing cycling location. In 2016 we held two of these RCC Summits in Tuscany and California. They were so successful that this year we’re adding another three to the schedule, with the first taking place in Byron Bay, Australia in March.

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3. THE FUTURE OF RACING

The sport of road racing is facing difficult times. Many teams are folding, the economics of the sport are simply not working and the bloated race calendar is becoming ever more incomprehensible, even to a fan like me. We are keen to do what we can to help the sport improve, including investing in events and teams but also by promoting a proper discussion about the future of professional cycle racing. We started the discussion with a special edition of The Cycling Podcast in December and I look forward to more conversations in 2017.

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4. OVER TO THE WOMEN

One part of the sport that is booming is women’s racing. This year the female pros will race the Ardennes Classics for the first time ever, on the same day as the men, and as the Women's World Tour continues for a second year it will be interesting to see if more airtime and coverage is dedicated to their racing. We have been delighted to work with the CANYON//SRAM women’s team and look forward to seeing Pauline Ferrand-Prévot in our distinctive colours in 2017. Away from racing, Rapha will continue to host mass rides for women all over the world, culminating in our annual Women’s 100 event. All of this will be supported by more new products for women than we have ever offered before.

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5. TEAM WIGGINS

As Sir Brad retires, we are looking forward to focusing with him on nurturing young talent at Team Wiggins. After successfully utilising a road programme to fuel gold on the track, the team finds itself in the position of being one of the best alternatives to the British Cycling system in turning raw talent into pro-potential. Owain Doull and Jon Dibben have both graduated and start their neo-pro season in 2017. We are looking forward to discovering who will be next to come through the ranks.

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6. LIVING THE DREAM

Next year, longtime friend and Rapha employee Rhys Howells embarks on the opportunity of a lifetime, riding with Team Wiggins while being supported full-time by Rapha. Everyone in the company will be following as he lives his dream. Give him a cheer if you see him on the road.

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7. NEW FACES

Perhaps one of the best hopes for the future of the sport is the new crop of young riders taking on the World Tour and ushering in a fresh perspective. Tao Geoghegan Hart, a long-time friend of Rapha, has stepped up to Team Sky. Lachlan Morton may not be a neo pro, but I’m particularly excited to see what he can do at Dimension Data. The Belgians will also be worth watching, with Jasper Stuyven continuing to push for Spring Classics glory and Wout Van Aert taking his cross success out on the road with pro-continental team Verandas Willems-Crelan.

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8. CROSS KEEPS COMING

Cyclocross keeps on growing and it feels as if all of my friends have finally decided to get bikes this winter. Cross racing and riding are a breath of fresh air and Rapha’s investment in the sport is growing. Jeremy Powers and Ellen Noble continue to fly the flag for Rapha Focus in the US and the world cups and now Sophie de Boer has signed to the Rapha Cross Team. The Dutch racer has a distinguished palmarès and we’re very proud to have her on board. Sophie’s debut race will be the Bpost Bank Trofee - GP Sven Nys in Belgium on New Year’s Day, when she will be racing in her newly-designed Rapha kit.

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9. MADE IN ITALY

May will be a big month for Rapha this year. As the Giro d’Italia, Italy's greatest stage race, celebrates its 100th edition Rapha has created a new collection that is made in Italy and designed to pay tribute to the enigmatic riding style of the Campionissimo. We will also publish a book of the key moments in the history of the race.

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10. EXPANDING IN THE US

Our commitment to the US market will be underlined this year with the opening of four new Rapha Clubhouses, including Boulder, Seattle and Los Angeles. We already have a great number of friends and club members in those cities and I am very excited to bring the Rapha experience to them and share our love of the sport.

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11. ASIA AND AUSTRALASIA

Asia Pacific is our fastest growing region and we are opening new Clubhouses in Melbourne and Taipei in 2017. We have new events planned across the region from Korea, to South East Asia to New Zealand and the RCC is bolstering its racing presence across Japan and Australia, bringing the brand to more people than ever.

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12. EUROPE AND SCANDINAVIA

After testing the water with successful pop-up stores, we’ll be opening permanent Clubhouses in Berlin and Majorca this year, adding to our existing Clubhouses in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Expect the usual mix of great local rides, excellent coffee, live screening of races, a full range of Rapha goods and a fantastic atmosphere.

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13. EXPLORATION WITH RAPHA TRAVEL

The fifth year of Rapha Travel promises to be a significant one, with a host of new destinations added. We have a new fleet of BMW support cars and a new fleet of Canyon bikes to support the trips. We’ll be hosting riding tours of the Basque Region, Norway and Andalusia as well as new destinations in the southern hemisphere. Trips are filling up so go online to have a look.

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14. THE CYCLING PODCAST PARTNERSHIP

The Cycling Podcast provides me with the most thoughtful racing coverage. We are proud to be working with Richard, Lionel and Daniel again in 2017, supporting all the podcasts and bringing some special content to RCC members as well. Look out for some Rapha-inspired challenges for the boys and Rapha + The Cycling Podcast merchandise this year.

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15. EVEN BETTER PERFORMANCE

Thirteen years after Rapha launched, there is now quite a lot of nice looking kit out there. But sadly few of the new entrants are pushing performance and quality to new levels. This year we have a total upgrade of all of our bib shorts, with new fabrics, new sized chamois pads and a host of new features to give you more comfort, whatever the ride. We will also launch a new glove range and luggage collection, new flyweight products for riding in hot and humid conditions and a fantastic new City range for when you’re not wearing lycra.

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16. FIVE YEARS OF FUNDRAISING

2017 will see Rapha's fifth year of raising money for Ambitious about Autism, a cause close to my heart as my son Oscar has autism and is severely disabled. We have raised a total of £750,000 over the past four years and next year we hope to pass the £1 million mark, all raised by the friends and family of Rapha. The next edition of the one-day, 220 mile Manchester to London ride takes place on the first weekend of September. Why not come and ride it with me?

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17. VISITING THE WORLD’S BEST RIDING DESTINATIONS

In 2017 we will set off on a quest to explore some of the world’s best cycling destinations, celebrating the local communities that we find along the way. We will document our journey along the way through a set of films. Our first stop is Colombia.