On Saturday 13th June, participants of the Rapha Prestige Limburg rode through three different countries in a single day. In typically changeable spring conditions, teams of four took on the hills of southern Holland, northeast Belgium and west Germany in an unsupported, unsanctioned, and unmarshalled 190km adventure.
Café ‘t Hijgend Hert, situated on top of the Vijlenerberg hill in Limburg, was chosen as the start and finish location and riders hailing from Holland, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Great Britain and even Poland and Chechnya began arriving at first light on the Saturday morning. As the first teams lined up for the start at 7.30 am, thick clouds moved in from the valley and unleashed their rainy burdens. It didn’t stop for hours.
The first few kilometres winding through forests on gravel paths set the tone for the early part of the ride, with the mud and fir needles triggering flat tyres, blocked brakes and generally causing havoc. Teams leapfrogged each other on the road, with a competitive tone underlying what isn’t supposed to be a race.
At the first checkpoint, 40kms in, the mud-splattered riders were treated to some hot espresso and biscuits – a welcome relief. Some teams never even made it this far, though: riding on hidden bush trails under a thick canopy in pouring rain had caused more than one GPS-reliant group to go astray. Navigating on fresh tire tracks proved to be a much more reliable course-plotting tool.
As the day progressed the weather cleared and Perlenbach nature reserve treated everyone to its majestic beauty, although another off-road section soon meant that concentration was focused on the path ahead rather than the views.
The route had led riders through the border region of Holland, Belgium and Germany, the scene of ferocious fighting during the Great Wars. Concrete anti-tank obstacles are still positioned along the roadsides and the teams also passed the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, which still serve as silent witnesses to those dark times.
Perhaps the historic setting of the course contributed to the camaraderie displayed throughout the day. Spare parts and supplies were shared and no one was left behind. Towards the end a small peloton even formed, which rolled up the final climb of the Vijlenerberg to finish together.
After a hard day of riding with friends and making new ones, the Rapha Prestige Limburg ended in high spirits, with beers and stories being shared in the afternoon sun.