The Rapha Prestige is not a race; it’s an unsupported, unsanctioned, and unmarshalled adventure across stunning terrain, and designed to bring out the camaraderie and suffering of road riding. A team of four women rode two Rapha Prestige rides in two days in Vermont, New England — the mixed participation ride on Saturday and the women’s only ride on Sunday. Lentine Zahler was in search of vibrancy, and she found it on the old county roads of New England.
Something happens over even a short lifetime of being a cyclist. You set out to make your heart beat – loudly and often – and eventually you start to hear it. And then you hear it louder. And if you ever find that it has pulled the brakes on its intensity, or lowered the volume of its beating, you miss it. You miss the vibrancy in your veins. The thing you were initially afraid of — the hurt and the loud beat — is the thing you now search for.
Exuberant riders of the Rapha Prestige New England descended upon a tiny speck of Vermont, a corner of authentic, early Americana, and tackled the challenge of navigating an unknown territory together. Riders filled its forests, talked between its trees and gobbled up its unsanctioned, unsupported, unmarshalled curves and twists.
Our women’s team rode both days, Saturday in the mixed participation ride and Sunday in the women’s only ride. Rapha North America had never hosted two Prestige rides in one weekend before, and we couldn’t pass up on the chance at riding both.
The choice was a bold one. The fact that we enjoyed ourselves was perhaps even bolder. We covered 240 gravel-riddled-miles without much pomp or circumstance, and without much planning or preparation. With respect to how we would actually tackle such a thing, a single Prestige race is typically recognized as being “enough.” But we wanted more.
We rolled out on country roads on the morning of the Women’s Prestige having already covered the 116 miles of the previous day’s ride. And the story of the seeking — the hunting of a heartbeat — began again for each of us. Riding our bicycles together, quickly, gracefully, powerfully, makes us feel alive. We don’t need to prove this to any one else, but we did want to prove it to ourselves.
The thing about that vibrancy in the veins is it’s addictive. The realities of life have started to sweep back in, halting the memories of perfect Vermont on loop in my head. But I’m going to try my best keep the movie on replay; tranquil green farms, sleepy horses, and bales of hay casting shadows in the early morning sun. The ache in my legs fades against the ache of emotion that comes from somewhere in my heart.
Waves of breathlessness floated us up the hills, and goosebumps rose on our arms as we ripped over their tops. From the middle of the street you could feel the surge of grace as the wind blew flags of stars and stripes, and swooped us into town like a flock of birds finding formation, heartbeats loud again. Women alive, challenged, but inspired and well.