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Rapha Rides The Swiss Alps
Coming to terms with the fact that you’re never going to win a Maillot Jaune or Maglia Rosa is something most riders confront sooner rather than later. For those good enough to have enjoyed success at a higher level, however, the relationship between their careers and racing ambitions is more complex. Dedicating yourself solely to riding might pay dividends on the podium, but what brings riders success in competition is invariably that same blend of drive and talent that has reaped rewards in their professional lives. On a photo shoot in Swiss Alps for the latest Rapha Autumn/Winter collections, three accomplished riders revealed how they have dealt with the work-racing conundrum.
Photography by Ben Ingham
On the vertiginous passes of the Swiss Alps, the plan was for cold conditions and climbs that would challenge the riders and bring out their competitive spirit. Their base was Meiringen, a prosperous ski town south-east of Interlaken, in the heart of the Bernese Oberland. The town is better known as the setting for one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. The Reichenbach Falls – where Holmes grappled with his nemesis, Moriarty – crash down from the mountains within sight of the riders’ hotel on Conan Doyle Platz.
Meiringen deserves to become just as well known for being home to some of the best bike riding in the Alps. To the south lies the Grimselpass, a brutal climb past lakes and hydroelectric plants. It has a spectacular cobbled section and near the summit, the bleak Grimsel Hospiz stands perched on a rocky outcrop which rises from an Alpine lake. Head out of town to the west, past the falls, and an unpaved sheep track winds over a col to the ski resort of Grindlewald at the foot of the Eiger. Most dramatic of all is the climb of the nearby Sustenpass. At 25km long, with an average gradient of over 8%, it’s as beautiful as the Izoard and as challenging as Alpe d’Huez. At the top you can rest your bike against the foot of a glacier and take in the view.