On this perfect late-summer’s day, 42 teams of two arrived in Jönköping with one mission: to gather as many of the 12 stamps as possible and return back to the starting point of the Rapha 12 Hills ride in no more than seven hours.
The smiles only seemed to grow broader with each climb conquered during the first edition of the Rapha 12 Hills ride in Jönköping, Sweden on 22nd August. Fittingly, too – as the Rapha 12 Hills is designed to be a celebration of hill climbing, tasking riders to navigate their own route between the climbs in any order they wish.
At times throughout the day, it seemed as though teams were coming from all directions, criss-crossing each other’s tracks. The shortest possible route was around 150 kilometres, with hills ranging from 4% to 15% average gradient, boasting slopes of up to 30% at their steepest. At the top of Norra Klevaliden, one of the most feared climbs, and previously a part of the Postgirot Open (the Tour of Sweden) tackled by many pros during the 80s and 90s, two girls from out of town explained how they had been lost for 45 minutes due to a faulty GPS. With none of the locals able to point them in the right direction, they finally decided to go to the local library to seek out their route. In spite of the delay, the girls announced that they were still aiming to tackle all ten of the remaining hills.
In an effort to ease the strain on the weaker rider of the two, one team shared a mountain bike and a road bike between them. Pedalling the mountain bike on the climbs and making use of the low gearing, the weaker rider then used the road bike to gain speed on the flats – an expression of true team spirit. Another team decided that as they were unlikely to be the first team back, they might as well do each climb twice – an expression of a real passion for riding.
Next year there will be a new opportunity to become the king or queen of a dozen hills in the Jönköping area. The climbs will not be the same as those featured in this inaugural edition of the Rapha 12 Hills ride, but the challenge certainly will.