The Festive 500 Awards

The Rapha Festive 500 is not a competition. It is not who can ride fastest or furthest, but an opportunity for every rider in the world to achieve something remarkable. To the 82,376 people who attempted the challenge this year, we applaud you. If you didn’t manage the full distance, don’t lose heart – there’s always next time. To the 17,373 who completed 500km: well done, you ended the year in some style.

Anyone who has taken on the Festive 500 knows that it is not easy. It requires hours of riding, oak-strong legs and a hearty dose of willpower. But it is possible. This year’s winner is the perfect example of the spirit of the challenge; of a normal person pushing their limits, and being creative with it. With the Festive 500, we celebrate cyclists who tackled tropical monsoons or relentless snowstorms, who juggled family commitments and working night shifts, who overcame broken bikes, limbs, teeth, and worse. To the Festive 500 riders. The strong, the brave, the foolhardy. Our congratulations.

“For me it’s not a mile-chasing thing. It’s about getting out there, enjoying being on your bike and riding with or visiting other people.”

– Graeme Raeburn, Festive 500 founder and Rapha product design lead

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Above images: Jay Golian & Marko Šajn

The Numbers

Total participants

82,420

Total finishers

17,373 (21% of participants)

Male finishers

15,686

Female finishers

1,414

Total distance ridden

19,398,735km

Total rides recorded

337,518

Average ride distance

57.5km

Full distance in one go

35 riders

“At 500km there’s no line to cross, no fanfare, just a small tick on an unremarkable palmarès of an ordinary cyclist.”

Jason Hall, Festive 500 finisher [United Kingdom]

Grand Prize

Ruth Cousins [Wales]

‘...Felt you with me today really sharing my adventure in my heart, boy you were heavy! Got some dust in my eyes, not sure how with glasses on… Happy tears though, of shared moments…’

This year’s Grand Prize goes to a deserving and clear winner. Ruth Cousins’ handmade submission comprises seven beautifully painted postcards addressed to her deceased father. Ruth writes of hard rides in cold, hilly Wales, all fitted in around her work as a policewoman and looking after her family. Hers is the story of a newly discovered passion for cycling and below we reprint an abridged version of her introductory letter. We think it speaks for itself. Enjoy your trip to Colorado and new Moots bike, Ruth.

Dear Rapha,

I am Ruth, I live in a small village in North Wales with my partner B, my step daughters Amy and Charlotte, and springer spaniel Hope. I work as a police officer to fund my passion as an artist, and have been cycling for just over a year now, slowly building my confidence and adventures which I’m hoping will see me into my old age disgracefully.

My Festive 500 story is quite simple but very personal: it’s a conversation with my Dad, who sadly passed away from cancer eight years ago. He is my creative and adventure barometer.

I’m writing my postcards to him to share my small adventure, a postcard for each day. The images are a glimpse or a captured moment from the journey on that day, snippets of a passing landscape, of the weather, and influenced by my own feelings and experience of the ride.

I hope you enjoy sharing the adventure,

Ruth Cousins.

Ruth wins a trip to Steamboat Springs in Colorado USA to collect a customized Moots Routt or Routt 45 bicycle. Look out for an interview with Ruth about her Festive 500 submission and trip to Moots shortly on rapha.cc.

Best Film

Toshiki Sato for “River” [Japan]

Riding 500 kilometres over the festive holidays affords time to reflect. Toshiki Sato from Tokyo took us into his mindset this Festive 500 with “River”, winner of our Best Film prize. The Rapha Cycling Club member’s beautiful moving slideshow is captioned with observations he made while riding. Whether he was feeling philosophical (‘freedom is a state of mind’) or romantic (‘love flows like a river’), complaining about the weather (‘I wish it was summer during Festive 500’) or stating universal cycling truths (‘I would rather go against the wind at the beginning’), his words and matching imagery make this our worthy winner.

Toshiko wins a place on the Rapha Travel Randonnée trip in 2017, and the chance to make the latest Rapha Travel film.

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Glorious Failure

Carmine Petruzziello [Italy]

A Festive 500 first timer, Carmine Petruzziello was excited to enliven his Christmas holidays with our riding challenge: “I will be at my parents’ house with nothing to do,” he writes at the start of his entry. “This is perfect. Eight days, four rides of 125km and it will be done!” And after a successful first ride, Carmine sets off on Boxing Day full of motivation: “Ok, I’m ready. Let’s go!” Twenty kilometres in, however, and his crank arm has fallen off. Being a national holiday, he has to wait until the 27th to go to his local bike shop, who tell him that the bolt is ruined and the mechanic has to build a bespoke replacement. There goes another day’s riding. “At least you haven’t had a flat tyre yet!” says his father, tempting fate. Next morning, Carmine picks up his bike and punctures twice in the first 50km. Without any spare tubes left, he takes the train home. On the 29th, the road is icy and it starts to snow… not stopping until New Year’s Eve. Carmine, your run of bad luck is deserving of this year’s glorious failure. Congratulations?

Carmine wins a Wahoo bike computer with heart rate monitor, and speed and cadence sensors.

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Best of the rest

Festive 500 highlights

It has been seven years since the Festive 500 began and your efforts never fail to impress. Over 19,000,000 kilometres of riding has produced some great tales from the road and we have been moved by the many of you who rode for someone or something, as well as inspired by those who have shown creativity and wit.

“My morale was low, my bank account empty and my body out of shape. I saw the Festive 500 as one last opportunity to do something good for myself in 2016.”

Marko Šajn, Festive 500 finisher [Slovenia]

The Festive 500 takes place at the end of the year, a time to take stock, and Ferenc Simicz from Hungary took the opportunity to be grateful for his own turnaround: “I went to the places where I lived when I had a breakdown due to drugs, where I suffered as a homeless person. At that time I wouldn’t dare to think about being alive the next Christmas, yet now I have a family, a life that I like, a job, friends and meaningful footing,” he said.

Other riders for whom the Festive 500 took on a powerful meaning include Stephen LaPointe, of Manchester in New Hampshire, who managed to complete 500km while undergoing chemotherapy, calling his challenge a Festive ROL (Rest of My Life). Marko Šajn of Slovenia concluded his excellent submission to us (photo above) with the words: “My bank account is still empty, my bike is still broken and the road ahead looks rough. But it is the rough roads that get us to the nicest of places, you taught me that.”

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“Riding in sub-zero temperatures for 4-5 hours at a time, all by myself with no support crew was an interesting experience. It’s not that I don’t have friends, they just don’t ride bikes. At least not the way I do…”

Eva Murray, Festive 500 finisher [Germany/Austria]

Some riders were particularly creative. Simone Dovigo of Italy decided to ride 645km along the Po River, from its delta at the Adriatic Sea to the source in the mountains. Joined by a group of friends, the fun film he made was almost as good as his entry last year. Also in Italy, the Men of Lakes was a beautifully presented submission in which Carlo Bonetto and two friends visited 11 lakes during their 500km.

Briton Stephen Graham started his Festive 500 DIY Audax at two minutes past midnight on Christmas Eve, riding around the north of England fuelled by fast food (he included the McDonalds receipts with his custom audax route card, pictured below). He completed the 500km almost 24 hours later at a quarter to midnight. Chapeau, Stephen.

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‘Claire was mortified when they [the doctors] cut off her new Rapha gear and she found out her bike was trashed…’

– Claire and Richard Machin, Festive 500 participant [United Kingdom]

As ever, there were plenty of ‘glorious failures’ sent in, with stories of fractures or breaks for almost every bone in the body, as well as wry nods to the energy-sapping nature of the challenge. Rest up everyone. Some riders raised funds for social projects, including Joyce Shen of New York, who made $2,000 for a local education programme. Community is a big part of the Festive 500 and the Rapha Cycling Club once again embraced the chance to ride together, with one British member joining his LA counterparts to complete the challenge. The professionals joined in too, and reigning Milan-San Remo winner Arnaud Démare and former road world champion Michał Kwiatkowski both took part, as did most of the CANYON//SRAM racers.

But this isn’t about the pros, this is about you. Whether you were successful and want to make it a yearly tradition; you didn’t make it all the way and want to scratch that 500km itch; or have been considering it but never dared, set the Festive 500 as your end of year goal in 2017. You won’t regret it.

#festive500