Rapha 100, what the hell is that? I see an invite from Manon flying by on Facebook. Women all over the world are ganging together to ride 100 kilometers, organized by Rapha, a company who produces cycling clothes. The invite is for a ride in Amsterdam. What a pity, I have an event the evening before in Cologne, there is no way I can make it to Amsterdam the next day. Okay, but this is a worldwide event, so there must be something in the Cologne/Düsseldorf area and there it is, I find it: Schicke Mütze in Düsseldorf, a cool cycling shop and coffee bar, offering a good range of cycling stuff with a focus on Retro – accessories, and with great food to enjoy after a ride or just after having shopped.
Never having done 100 km before I register.
Mentally prepared to go by myself with a group of ladies I do not know anyone, the situation gets a twist when I share the news on our Facebook page. Claudia and Cathy want to join, too, and so does Birgit, a friend from Düsseldorf. I am happy and looking forward to a nice day, new people and a route in an area I never cycled in before.
The big day comes, and when arriving at the shop with Birgit my two Maastricht cycling buddies Claudia and Cathy are already there, Cathy drawing attention with her car with the big Amstel Gold Race Experience advert all over it. Last checks on the bike - that always looks professional, even if you have no clue what you are looking at-, first small talks with the other ladies – and a photoshooting by Kerstin from Schicke Mütze for the ladies and girls who always wanted to have a picture of themselves, showing them riding a bike. What a nice initiative.
Next time I will wear some, Make-up though.
We are ready to rock and roll, and our group of more than 30 ladies is taking off. What a different bike riding feeling in a town. We have to watch out for tram racks, pedestrians and cars and integrate into the regular traffic due to a lack of cycling lanes like we have them in the Netherlands. Luckily it is Sunday and a bit less busy than it would be on a regular day. We have not even left the city yet but have learned three new things already we simply do not need in Maastricht. Number one is that a big group just does not stop at a red traffic light if the first riders crossed the light when it was still green.
I must admit this one is a little mental obstacle one has to overcome, it is a bit scary when you see a car coming your way with no intention to stop. We survived. The second new thing we were not familiar with is the hand of the guide up in the air, showing at “V” with index and middle finger. I always thought this means “victory” but I now learn that this also means that we cycle in double rows, two cyclists next to each other. In one way this is a victory, especially when extended to the third new thing: if there are more than one lane, why bother and squeezing on the side one after another without any cycling lane if there is a whole car lane we can use on our own. We’ve got the power!
While I am floating away in a sea of power, adrenalin and emotions, Cathy is checking out the shopping streets we are passing, thinking about a shopping trip to Düsseldorf, and Claudia is wondering how long it will still take to leave this crush of cars and traffic lights. Her wish comes true, and soon we find ourselves in the pure nature like in woods, on sometimes rough field paths, or in quiet neighborhoods. We need to conquer some hills, an easy exercise for us thanks to the great training we got from Manon and Sonja in the Limburgse Heuvelland, and get rewarded with coffee and cake in a nice Farmer’s Café in the middle of nowhere. On the way the same rules apply like in our group in Maastricht, we wait on the top of a climb until everyone is there, we wait in case of a flat tire or in case anyone needs longer catching up. The last challenge comes towards the end when the clouds are getting darker and the weather is getting prepared to pour out some summer rain onto us. With high speed, killing all the calories that came with the cake, we make it back to the destination before it gets really wet five minutes after. Plates of fresh watermelon are waiting for us, we take some last pictures and say good bye to the ladies we spent a lovely day with.
It was a great crosscultural experience in a nice mixed group, we had everything from relaxed cyclists
to IronMan particpants. A big thank you to Schicke Mütze in Düsseldorf who had chosen a very nice route and who made the day special. And a big thank you to Manon and Sonja, who had built up our condition perfectly.
Rapha 100 next year? Definitely.