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Rapha Continental 2010 in review
Wanderlust is at the heart of the Rapha Continental. What started five years ago simply as summer riding with friends in a "lets hope we find some gravel roads" quickly, unexpectedly became an ever-growing exploration of riding in North America. Soon there were not only new members and new bikes, but rides in parts of our country some of us had never seen nor heard of before. Rides that would take us to see some of what we believe to be the greatest roads, people and communities this continent has to offer.
In previous years our band of merry men had been riding these routes and primarily inviting riders to 'join us' via the tales told through the digital journal. But, in the spirit of discovery, this past year we sought to join others and experience with them some of the most renowned group rides around the country. The idea was to find and explore what have become known as the countries greatest organized rides. These are the single day 150 milers, the old carriage routes, the Gran Fondos, and the multiple day extravagant affairs that in some cases cross the Rocky Mountains and in others spend their days meandering the backroads of Oregon.
The summer was filled, once again, with the dusty smiles and crackly faces that disguise the pain of riding for hours on end. That familiar tender feeling of getting on the bike day after day, a slightly sore, but somehow comforting feeling that says simply “keep going”. A nod over a plate of food, a tent somehow assembled under the dim headlights of motorbikes, the pass and flash of a team kit from out of the corner of your eye. It is always there and always the same. The climb, the descent, the glide through the countryside and then, the pleasant roll to a stop at the end of the day.
And somehow, without fail, it became something we never thought it would.
The Tour of the Unknown Coast was our first foray into this world of riders and our first misadventure in dealing with a large group of people. Unlike riding with your seven or eight good friends, 3,000 people will, without fail, leave without you. But, no matter, for starting at the back simply means that you will get to meet more people along the way and this, after all, would become what it was all about — People. People stopped to wait for their friends, people handing out sandwiches along the way and eventually, your own friends lounging along the side of the road waiting for you. In fact, it would quickly become apparent that each ride would be not only a series of individual tests but a collective effort in "keeping it all together."
IIt becomes tough at times to know what exactly that means. It might mean that the waiting for riders that had unexplainably fallen from the group, or ones that needed some coaxing and convincing that yes, indeed we could do this, collective dealing with the pain associated with the long ride. Or, it may be that it is hard to look outward from within to see something larger than yourself. For, being planted firmly in a red jersey filled paceline doing 27 miles an hour on a barren stretch of Vermont road (the only hope in sight being cold Harpoon beer at the end) is not always, no matter how good it sounds, the ideal place to be. But it is worth it at the end of the day, when a soak and a "cold one" shocks your system back to alertness.
At times the road turned its chiseled face skyward and the mile markers ticked onward with no end in sight. Our only accompaniment would be that the bated breath, torn ragged by the altitude, reminded us that we were not going this alone in the solitude that was the Rockies. And in the Rockies they were there again — people — people in their tents, people at breakfast, people who left early and were now coming back on the climbs, and even people who would drive up out of the blue and offer their front porch for a moment of respite as the day got to its hottest. Now we had learned how to live in concert with the people, how to be with them, a part of them and at the same time find our own way along the roads that we both occupied.
Then, we turned our eyes homeward. Everyone knows that we call Oregon our home-state. Though we are blessed with a family that spans this great nation, a good many of us have been living, working and riding here in familiar territory for a number of years. Cycle Oregon made sense as the damp and familiar roads of the countryside here is our backyard. The wet film of rain coats everything; rider and road a like and without regard to the season, it is also a part of our understanding.
Just when you think that you have come to believe that you have seen it all, that you have encountered everything and everyone possible on this road of roads another bend happens, a fork that you never new existed pops up and forces your hand. Like the Continental that we have come to know, we choose the unknown, and just like we knew possible we were again surprised by our own State of Oregon, our own State of unknowing, a surprise once again.
Yet, now it is time for another surprise, for once you see what we have in store for the coming year we are quite sure that there will be more dusty smiles and crackly faces. Smiles of pain and pleasure.
The Rapha Continental is far from over, in fact one could say we have just begun. So, with that we thank you for your participation and your help in making this great, all the hands that have helped to lift us up this past year and move us forward. We look to the new year and these new adventures like we do every year with our heads up and our eyes wide open. So, with that being said, "join us" as we continue to grow.