Once again, we set the bar high and you rose to it. An impressive 72,283 of you took to your bikes over the festive period with the aim of cycling 500 kilometres – a huge increase on last year’s 48,000 participants. As many know, or will have found out, the Festive 500 is harder than it seems, so to the 13,311 who were successful this year, we doff our caps.
Some made it to 500km early on, and simply kept riding. Kurt Searvogel of Arizona travelled the furthest, clocking up 2,457 festive kilometres during his final push to break the long-standing highest annual mileage world record. Chapeau. Even a few pros used the challenge to inject some life into their winter training regimes. LottoNL-Jumbo’s Robert Gesink put in 1,100km, while Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), Davide Malacarne (Astana), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Iljo Keisse (Etixx–QuickStep), and Jasha Sütterlin and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) were just some of the others who totted up big distances.
The Festive 500 isn’t about who rode the furthest, however. At the challenge’s heart is a celebration of the spirit of road riding, of the ups and downs, both figuratively and literally, and of the stories that inevitably arise from hours spent turning the pedals. Thousands of you sent in submissions documenting your attempts and we are pleased to now announce the winners:
A Very Festive Family
The charming Cebula family from Poland provided the perfect response to those who complain that the Festive 500 takes people away from spending time with their families, by doing the whole thing together. With 12-month-old daughter Magda in tow (quite literally), Justyna and Arek rode every day between 24th and 31st December. Facing below freezing temperatures of -9 degrees Celsius, their consistent riding and endearing video perfectly channeled the spirit of the Festive 500. Congratulations.
Prize: A custom-built bike frame by Rapha Continental framebuilder Tom Donhou.
Panettone for the Pope
A lovely idea lay behind Simone Dovigo of Italy’s entry: he and two friends would ride the (almost) 500km from their home in Ferrara to deliver a local Christmas delicacy, a Pampapato cake, to the Pope in Rome. Setting off from the Ferrara Cathedral at 3am, they spent two long days in the saddle before finishing in the Vatican City to hand over their humble offering. Interspersed with delightfully mundane moments in the cafés, bars and restaurants on the way, Simone’s effort is truly bellissimo.
Prize: A Rapha Raid Travel trip.
White Rose Riding
An intrepid bunch of chaps from Yorkshire in England decided to ride the route of the 2016 Tour de Yorkshire professional race for their Festive 500. The daring plan, to be undertaken in the middle of storm and flood weather, even saw them interviewed by the local BBC News. Of the group, only James Ward, who told the story on his blog, and John Baston, whose sweet illustrations brought their journey to life, rode the whole route, and for that we reward them with third prize.
Prize: Two memberships to the world’s finest road cycling club, the RCC.
Against all Odds
21 into 500
Fariduddin Atthar of Indonesia had to divide his Festive 5oo up into 21 different outings, such were the odds stacked against him. With work, near-crashes, blistering temperatures and torrential downpours all making life difficult for him, Fariduddin’s dedication to completing his 500 kilometres was impressive. “What kind of man rides at 10.30pm?”, he asks at one desperate point in his picture-book submission. A man who fully deserves his award, Fariduddin, that’s who.
Prize: Pro Team Lightweight Bib Shorts, Pro Team Climber’s Jersey, Lightweight Cap.
Jake Maedke of Washington’s start to the Festive 500 was given a frosty welcome by Mother Nature as snow blizzards swept in the days before Christmas. On dangerous-looking roads and in temperatures of -8 degrees Celsius, Jake and his crew were still getting out for some serious riding. A fresh snowfall on 27th December forced him to draft behind a snow-plough for fear of falling off, but he still made it to 500km with a day to go. .
Scott T. Whiteman set out to enter the ‘Against all Odds’ category this year, riding in typically inclement Maryland weather. He even completed his 500km a day early. But riding in bad weather isn’t why we’re awarding Scott a prize, because while undertaking some basic bike maintenance on the second day, he managed to chop the tip of his thumb clean off. Once out of hospital, he got back back on the bike and completed the Festive 500 “in 7/8ths of the time, and with 7/8ths of a thumb”.
Prize: Glorious failures aren’t limited to chopping your thumb off. Occasionally, Rapha undertakes its own glorious failures, and the prize for this category is a jersey celebrating a legendary cycling feat that was developed without the necessary approval beforehand. Scott, on its way to you is a beautiful one-off: the only jersey of its kind in the world.
Warning: the images of Scott’s severed thumb are extremely graphic.
Flipping this category on its head, father and son duo Alec and Raniel Babala from North Hampshire took the word ‘excuse’ to mean ‘reason’ to ride the challenge, and their motivation was to be able to eat as much as they wanted over the festive period. Their excellent blog caught our eye for attractively displaying every item of food they ate: guilt-free feasts, well deserved.
Prize: A leather musette and the Velochef cookbook, signed by Henrik Orre.
A Festive 500 wrap-up wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Mini Pips, the young gun who first completed the challenge aged 7 in 2012. This year, Mini Pips was knocked off his bike with one day to go. Thankfully unhurt, his bike didn’t get off so lightly, but after a plea for help on social media by his Dad , he received a response from kindly stranger Helen Pinkers. Not only did she provide a bike for the youngster, but joined the duo on their final ride to complete the challenge. A gesture to warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.
As usual, we were sent in a number of physical entries, from places as far flung as Japan and Slovenia. Annotated maps, charming photobooks and even special Festive 500 trinkets all kept us entertained at Rapha HQ. Of further amusement was the gentleman who wrote in the ‘Proof of Completion’ submission box that he “could provide the divorce papers from my wife”, while another felt so guilty about cycling so much over the holidays that he proposed to his girlfriend after the final ride – an interesting logic.
Creativity abounded in the selection of bikes to ride. One man did the whole challenge on a Brompton, while another used 12 different two-wheelers, including a Penny Farthing. Some adopted the latest trend of ‘Strava art’ to draw pictures with their routes, from Christmas Trees to spelling out Festive 500, while others used the challenge as comeback from illnesses or injuries such as a broken ankle, a hip operation and even cancer.
Finally, to the 14-year-old boy who broke down in tears after his Garmin deleted the ride that would have taken him to 500km – don’t worry, we would have sent you the roundel for completion anyway.
Well done all, here’s to a great year of riding in 2016.