Hannah Pickering, Rapha Europe marketing coordinator
On Saturday 12th September, eighteen teams of four female riders took part in the Rapha Women’s Prestige Dolomites in South Tyrol, Italy. Not only was it the first women’s Prestige ride in Europe, but it was also a truly international affair too, with participants from ten different countries including Spain, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Austria – several of whom from the Rapha Cycling Club (RCC).
Glorious blue skies and breathtaking views instantly motivated everyone and the chance to ride some of the iconic climbs of the Giro d’Italia offered up a great sense of accomplishment to come. With a distance of 120km and over 2,000m of ascent, it wasn’t going to be easy though.
Beth Hodge, Rapha UK ambassador
To ride a bike is a good feeling. To ride a bike with your friends by your side is even better. A journey shared is so much richer, and riding through the mighty Italian Dolomites side by side, we felt like queens.
As we rode together, there were periods of time where chatter would cease and the business of the day was conducted. We had a route to follow, checkpoints to meet and a team to get safely home. Each climb was a true test and the Dolomites are so utterly different to the other mountains we had climbed before. They demand strength, mental and physical, as well as planning, fuelling, strategy and determination.
One of those quieter moments came as we ascended the notorious Passo Fedaia, and in particular, the cruel 3km stretch that starts at Malga Ciapela. The section averages 12% and even rises up to 18%. As we reached the top of the climb, we were greeted by a group of burly German motorcyclists taking a rest. They stopped and stared, as we caught our breath, and the words ‘respect’ fell out of their mouths. We’ll take that, we said, before zipping up against the wind and claiming our prize of crouching low and letting the bikes snake down the mountain road, before starting the process all over again, the next climb making everyone turn silent a little earlier on than the one before.
Elena Martinello, Rapha EU ambassador
To be part of an event where the protagonists were only bike-riding women was incredible. I am so happy to have had the chance to build a team of four girls and make them part of such a great experience. All of my team were excited about riding up the Dolomites – those passes tell endless stories of the sport – and the roads were as hard as they were fascinating.
I believe that the spirit of each of the teams was the courageous heart of the Rapha Women’s Prestige ride and while at the beginning none of us were sure if we would make it to the end, we all sure as anything wanted to. And by the end, we had all put our energies together and everyone reached the finish line.
Miriam Kathrein, Rapha EU ambassador
Our team, La Maglia Nera, took the ride seriously, taking breaks only when all of us needed to stop, reminding ourselves constantly to eat and drink. We soon found a rhythm we could keep and climbing put our minds at ease – push and pull, push and pull. We suffered together, swearing, singing, trying to motivate each other, believing strongly that what goes up must come down. We were not the only ones. Two teams caught up to us and we all battled uphill, fighting the steepness between heavy breaths.
Later on, a little incident with a chain had us thinking we might have to give up but luckily our team mate Kat kept her cool and freed the chain in a very calm and collected way. The last kilometres were tough for everyone but somewhere deep down, our strongest rider Luisa found the remaining strength to lead us out, letting us draft behind her.
When we thought we were finally there, a last, mean climb started. We were empty and couldn’t face any more. Morale was gone. I glanced up and saw the Spanish team in front of us – the finish must be near, I knew it! Push. Pull. Push. Pull. We finally rode onto gravel and we knew for sure: this was it. We were almost at the finish and could see them waiting for us below. It was all a blur as we arrived as a team. We had endured together and we celebrated together.