Sunday, 15 April 2012

A ride with the Rapha Condor Sharp team!

It was not the usual Saturday club ride from Vita cycles today.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Rapha, as I subscribe to their newsletters, inviting me to join some of the new youth team riders for a spin in the lanes around Henley-on-Thames. The Rapha Condor Sharp team has taken the decision this season to focus on working with young riders, helping them to make the change from the Youth racing leagues into the Domestic Pro races. more details about the new team direction are HERE
Tim joined me on the trip. He was the only one as keen as me to ride with the lads, and get up early to leave this morning at 5.30!! Mrs Palefish questioned my sanity at getting up so early, driving 200+ miles, just to ride 30 odd miles and be dropped by a group of "young Whippets".

The drive down was smooth, and we even managed to find the Hotel du Vin, the base for today's event, with no problem. As we arrived, I noticed some familiar faces, Ed Clancy and Andy Tennant, RCS Team riders who have just returned from the UCI World Track Cycling Championships, where they had represented GB and Won Gold in the Team Pursuit, and got a world record too!

As you can imagine the nerves started to set in a little as we realised they were joining the ride! We dropped the bikes off at the hotel, parked the car then went back to the hotel to get ready. We were directed to a function room that was being used by all the riders to change and keep kit in for the day. To up the nerves a little more, as we walked through the door we were met by Ed, Andy and the rest of the team, including Kristian House, Dean Downing, Richard Handley, Jim McCallum and the U23 lads! It was bizarre getting ready with a pro team, who were very chatty with us and made us feel really welcome. It was great to have a chance to talk to Andy Tennant about his experiences in Australia and standing on the top step receiving a Gold medal wearing the GB kit.
Once every one was ready we were given a 5 minute warning, and asked to go to the courtyard for a briefing.

Tim and I were lucky enough to be at the front of the group, which meant we were with the Team riders, but also with the team Car that almost took us out as we exited the Courtyard!
The invite to the ride had said that there would be two groups, a fast group and a social group. To be in the fast group you had to be able to average 15mph for the 34 miles, which Tim and I were sure we could. However, the pace for the first half mile was decidedly less as we snaked out of Henley. There was a good attendance for the ride and the Team lads were surprised when we stopped at some traffic lights and they looked back to see a line of riders right round the town centre!

Once we got onto the quieter roads outside of the Town the pace upped, and we hit our first climb, a bit of a shocker with only half a mile in the legs! The next steep climb was Devils hill, and it lived up to its name for Tim. As we crested the climb, Tim started to change gear when disaster struck. I'm not sure how, but with no warning, the chain seemed to snag, and pull the rear Mech into the wheel, which in turn twisted the hanger dispatching the Mech into the middle of the road! After a 3 hour 200 mile journey Tim's ride was over after 5 miles! I stopped to see if I could help, but Tim urged me to continue and catch up with the now distant group.


I was a bit reluctant to leave Tim but I was confident that he would get picked up by the Team Car following the social group, which he did, and then followed the ride from a different perspective in the back of the Rapha Condor Sharp team car! Not quite what we had planned but still an interesting day for him.

After a big effort, and having to overtake 3 cars in a small village I managed to get back on to the back of the group. The riders had spread out over the climb and through the Village so there was a big gap between the back and front of the group. As we continued I managed to make my way further up the field, but didn't make it back to the front, as there were some quite brutal steep climbs to contend with, one hit 30%, and equally some really fast descents. I settled into a good pace and rode most of the route with three other lads, all from around London, and Oliver Rossi one of the under 23 team riders. 
The rest of the ride was almost incident free, one puncture and one missing sign were the only other problems we encountered and for once, I managed to keep on the right route and not get lost!
I wish I had a video camera attached to the bike, as the scenery was stunning, but I didn't want to keep stopping to take pictures! 

When I got back to Henley I was lucky enough to have a long chat with Ed Clancy, and we discussed riding in the North West, Track cycling and also Onix Bikes!! I don't know of many other sports where you can take part in an event with a world champion, beat him up a hill ( although he did have jet lag!) and then sit and have a chat about our sport! 

Ed Clancy World Champion and all round nice guy!
We were treated to a great lunch, Pasta of course, and then there was an opportunity to look at (and maybe buy) some of the Team kit, and the chance to see the new Rapha Grand Tour Shoes (£300) up close! I was tempted, who wouldn't be, but managed to curb my spending and just update the cycling wardrobe with a new Cap!

We were then treated to the first showing of a new Rapha Condor Sharp Team video taken at a recent training camp. To keep up the the new team direction, there was a competition to find a new emerging film maker to make the video. Rapha are renowned for their quality cycling videos, and this new one is excellent too. I will post a link as soon as it is available.

The Team and Team manager John Herety, were introduced by Rapha C.E.O Simon Mottram.
John gave an overview of why the team direction had changed and what the plans were for the future. He also explained how having two GB Team riders in the squad complicated things, especially in an Olympic year, but how it was good for the Team to have them there to share their experiences with the younger riders.
There was then a Q&A session which covered all aspects of team life and cycling in general.

L-R Andrew Tennant, Ed Clancy, John Herety and Simon Mottram
After the session Tim and I managed to have a chat with Simon Mottram who, we discovered, created Rapha out of his passion for cycling, and a way to get out riding more! We talked about the days event, and how good it would be to see one in the North West! Simon is keen to develop something, and I even managed to talk to him about the Blog!!! He asked me to talk to the Marketing manager for Rapha, Laura, who was keen to hear about the Vita Ten Minutes of Hell time trial and last years sportive. You never know, maybe the Rapha mobile Cafe will be at one of the Vita events soon!!!

There were a lot of Rapha Condor Cycling Club members there today, and when we got back to the car park, parked next to us was one of the club members cars. I wonder if Mrs Palefish would let me buy one of these too?

I wonder what the next Palefish cycling adventure will bring?

Today's ride details

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