Photography: Andy Bokanev | Words: Tobie DePauw

Rough roads curdled the milk

The Rapha Prestige Midwest

As those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are banishing our winter jerseys to the back of the wardrobe, we thought we’d take the chance to tell the tale of the Rapha Prestige Midwest, which was, by all accounts, a hardy expedition through Wisconsin’s worst wind, rain and terrain.

For those of you hearing about a Prestige for the first time, here’s a quick recap: teams set off at two-minute intervals to cover a course of 120 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing, and each team must cross the line with its full complement of riders in order to count as true ‘finishers’.

Glaciers invaded much of the upper Midwest on multiple occasions, grading and gouging the earth beneath them. For centuries they sat like mother hens, shielding the ground from wind and rain. As they retreated, the upturned sediment and stone, called drift, caulked the gaps and healed the gouges in the land.

But the area of this state that hosted the route of Rapha Prestige Midwest was left untouched by the glaciers. Exposed to the elements for thousands of years, erosion cut away the soft tissue of this land to create ridges and ravines. Only that which was most solid remained, and those remains make for some very good riding.
The day began and ended at Cress Spring Bakery, west of Madison, Wisconsin, in the shadow of Blue Mound. Over a century ago, the state invested heavily in paving the region’s roads to ensure milk from the dairy farms could make it to market year-round. Local lore says that rough roads curdled the milk.
These roads, along with the climbing, the distance, and weather worked together to ‘dismember’ the riders. The toes went first. The feet soon followed, and shoes brimmed with cold water. Fingers were pickled in gloves that once kept water out but now held it in. Riders kept the pace pinned to hold off the shivers.
After 75 miles, the teams reached the town of Ridgeway in the pouring rain and sought shelter at a gas station. Riders with blue lips hugged themselves and pogo-ed in place. Others nursed extremities. The scalding water tap on the coffee machine transformed drink mix into cold and cough remedy. Some stayed in the rain, unwilling to risk tempting their bodies with even a taste of comfort.
Along the narrow, wooded roads near the Wisconsin River, the constant rain sounded like applause. A surprise section of loose gravel proved very challenging as hands lost dexterity. Shifting and braking demanded concentration.
We all finished with shivers, shakes, and smiles. A bonfire blazed, and in a prescient stroke of genius, chef Jonny Hunter had prepared a cauldron of broth consisting of water, salt, and animal parts. He doled it out like a doctor with a miracle cure.

Tobie DePauw is Chief of Story at, founder of Axletree, and local liaison for the Rapha Midwest Prestige. At the time of publication, he had almost fully recovered feeling in his hands.

Rapha Prestige Midwest Results

Team Start Time Riders
Full Route? Finish Time Elapsed Time
HAC Gravelers 7:00 4 No 15:46 8:46
Union Cycling 7:03 3
The Bonebell 7:09 3 No 13:07 5:58
Vision Quest 7:12 4 No 14:17 7:05
WTF Kits 7:15 4 No 14:12 6:57
Bespoke p/b Explorateur 7:18 2 Yes 15:39 8:21
Bitches of Madison County 7:21 4 No 15:22 8:01
Chez Ben 7:24 4 Yes 16:55 9:31
Pittsburgh Cycling Collective 7:27 4 Yes 15:21 7:54
Stay Rad Adventure Team 7:30 3 No 15:47 8:17
Bunge Cord 7:33 3 No 15:24 7:51
Herman Miller (*) 7:36 4 Yes 17:54 10:18
Blackriver 7:39 3 Yes 16:48 9:09
RCC 7:42 3 Yes 17:01 9:19
The Winsome Turbo-Diesels 7:45 4 Yes 16:12 8:27
The Gentlemen’s Grouse &
Poodle Society
7:51 4 Yes 15:19 7:28
Turin/Bonkers Cycling 7:54 4 Yes 16:56 9:02
Heritage Race Club 7:57 4 Yes 15:56 7:59
Comrade Cycles 8:00 4 Yes 17:17 9:17
Powertap/Bontrager 8:03 4 Yes 15:14 7:11
Twin Six 8:06 4 Yes 16:02 7:56
Harvest Racing 8:09 2 Yes 16:26 8:17

* Lanterne Rouge