THE RAPHA WOMEN'S PRESTIGE RACE 2014
Saturday, May 10th marked the 3rd annual Rapha Women’s Prestige which is an all-women’s event and in similar fashion to the Rapha Gentlemen’s race, participation is by invitation only. The course is only unveiled a few days before the race, and is notorious for incorporating 100+ miles, 10k+ in elevation, dirt/gravel sections and locally famous routes.
Race day is structured as a time trial, where teams of six roll out every three minutes. The teams then race the clock to get all six riders safely across the finish line. All six must cross the line to count and the clock will only stop when the final team member finishes. Prizes go to the first team to cross the line, the fastest overall time and the last team to finish. This race format as Rapha highlights, celebrates group riding and encourages esprit de corps among its participants. It’s not always about having the fastest individual riders but more about the strength of the team as a whole and being able to effectively work together.
Studio Velo, has participated in the Rapha Prestige since its inception three years ago. Understanding the team dynamic, the SV crew sought out and recruited a great group of ladies, all enthusiastic and ready to tackle the unknowntogether. With only the start city, estimated mileage and elevation to work with, there was no sure way to know what we had just signed up for; admittedly that was half of the appeal!
The team: Stephanie Snaman, Bridget Duffy, Pia Scaroni, Jen Vorsa Wilka, Petra Lindquist, Courtney Hill
With the team roster complete, we locked in our first group ride to test the legs and explore the East Bay, crushing 80 miles and taking Diablo’s name along the way. It was a great day of riding and learning. We realized early on that we had not packed enough food for the journey, either running out completely or dreading the final items in our pockets. We also learned a lot about riding and working together as a group. Ironically, while discussing the technique of pace lining, we experienced a brief tire overlap and had our first and thankfully only spill! See Courtney’s first hand account here [See bottom of post for recap], and while it may have been a little bruise on the ego for her, it truly was a great learning opportunity for the team. Way to be a team player Courtney!
Pre race flat training. Bridget scored two rear flats!
Fast forward to race day. SV was seeded 17th of the 19 teams and we were scheduled to roll at 7:48. We exchanged words of encouragement and shared highly coveted cups of coffee. We mentally prepared and methodically packed and stuffed our pockets to the brim. Duct tape and creativity may also have been used. Because the Rapha Prestige was an unsanctioned and self-supported race it meant that we had to carry anything we might need for the day. Everything from spare tubes, tires, CO2 to Clif Bars, stingers and sandwiches. It is safe to say we slightly resembled camels on bikes as we rolled to the start. 10 second warning, turn the garmin on, and here we go… we roll out of the parking lot and confidently take a left turn. We pedal a few blocks only to hear the garmin beep hysterically and flash ‘off course’! Oops. We can’t help but laugh that our day is starting off with a wrong turn. We quickly hop the median, turn around and get back on route, shaking off any remaining jitters.
The first 40 miles were beautiful and scenic rolling through Morgan Territory. A few solid kickers, and lots of wild life. Wart hogs, turkeys, deer, lamas. We reminded each other to fuel regularly and eventually found ourselves at the base of Diablo entering through North Gate. We all knew what was in store and quietly prepared. We took in food and water as the road started to pitch up. The group slowly started to spread out, but we stayed within eye shot of each other. After we rolled through the junction, the reality of the climb set in. Legs were screaming and the mind started questioning exactly what the body was capable of. The team pulled together and we exchanged pushes and words of encouragement as we all dug deep to get everyone through the remaining switch backs and up the final 17% kicker.
The descent was fast and sweeping, just the rest our legs needed. The course shot us over to Lake Chabot for the notorious dirt sections and final elevation gain. The legs were tired and the mileage was quickly approaching 3 digits. Thanks to Bridget’s knowledge of the area, we navigated cleanly through the many trails. Taking fire roads, single tracks, crossing foot bridges, dodging campers and denying to park rangers that there was any sort of organized event taking place. Sections of the trails were steep and technical, but we attacked fearlessly following Petra’s line and remembering to ride like a ‘cowboy’, arms and legs out, weight in the feet and hands. We got this, no problem!
We exited the park with enthusiasm, knowing we had less than 10 miles to the finish. Home stretch! Trying not to watch the Garmin, the miles ticked by and pure grit eventually got us through. Admittedly a few of us ducked into the pain cave for respite, but we regrouped, refueled and kept pushing. We caught sight of a team just ahead of us and knew we had to catch them before the finish. The legs screamed, the mind said, ‘no more’ but we pushed on, we had to.
It was a long, exciting and exhausting day, and we did it! When we were faced with challenges, we stayed the course and pedaled hard. We finished as a group and with smiles, exactly what we had set out to do!
Stephanie Snaman, Bridget Duffy, Courtney Hill, Pia Scaroni, Jen Vorsa Wilka, Petra Lindquist
It was an epic day on the bike, congrats to Team Studio Velo, unofficial results: 9th place (of 19 teams)
And of course, a big THANK YOU to Studio Velo for the opportunity to represent the shop and for the incredible support along the way!
Recap by Courtney Hill:
When Pia Scaroni asked if I would be interested in the Rapha Prestige, I said 'yes!' and then, 'so what is it?' I had never heard of the Rapha Prestige and I had no idea what I was getting myself into, ignorance really is bliss! I was new to the biking world after buying a bike from Studio Velo just a few short months before. I was commuting to and from SSF a few days per week, maybe I'd throw a San Bruno climb in if the winds weren't too bad and I'd head over to Marin for what I now would consider a short pedal on the weekends with friends. The most I had ever been in the saddle was a 48 mile ride (despite my best efforts to round this up to 50, my boyfriend Bryce would promptly correct me). And now, I had just committed to 100+ miles with only 3 short weeks to train. What was I thinking? Could I really do this?
The ladies and I met 2 weeks out from race day for our first ride together. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and Steph Snaman is talking to me about how to paceline. It's a wide flat, newly paved road with a huge shoulder. We are just pedaling along talking about pacelining... logistics of how to do it, why we do it, etc. And then BOOM, I crossed my tire with Pia's, I'm down on the ground, and all I can think about is, 'dear god, did I take anyone else out.' Mortified, I looked around and realized that it was just me on the ground (thank god), my bike was fine and so was I. Yes, I knew something like this would probably happen (clumsy should be my middle name) but happy that the result was only a little blood on the knee and a bruised hand and ego. I hopped back on the bike and pedalled on.
Race week came quick! I was feeling pretty good after getting two 80 mile rides in, including a gorgeous Lake Tahoe ride (altitude training?). Friday night was supposed to include a quick pedal in Marin followed by some carb loading with the ladies. After fighting Friday early afternoon traffic, I'm running late for the ride and as I'm halfway across the Golden Gate bridge admiring the beautiful view I realize that I forgot my bike shoes back at work in SSF. Ok, first the fall and now no bike shoes... I'm really raking up the rookie mistakes here! Luckily I had plenty of time to address the shoe issue before the 4am Saturday wake-up call.
Race day was fabulous. There really is no other way to describe it. Sure we made a wrong turn right right at the start but all in all we rode together as a team, pushed each other up and over Morgan Territory and Mt. Diablo, made some quick stops for water/bathroom breaks, rode the dirt like we belonged on 29'ers, and pedalled across the finish line together. The 100-mile mark was especially tough for me, I could feel myself both mentally and physically starting to lose it. But it was also the first time since my college soccer days in which pure grit and determination to a cause greater than myself drove my legs around and around. We had already passed a few teams on the dirt and we knew that we could keep the lead ahead of them if we pedalled hard on the flats. There was no way I was going to let my legs slow down, I just couldn't. It wasn't about me anyway, it was about the team and I wasn't going to let these ladies down!