Unsanctioned, unmarshalled and unsupported, the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race is a unique event. There are no awards for first second or third place and getting lost is even encouraged; it’s just about getting a few friends together and heading out on an adventure.
The latest Gentleman’s Race on 14 June took riders through the varied terrain of the northern border of New South Wales. On the day, the Gold Coast did not provide the warm sunny weather for which it’s known – instead it was a cool, damp and drizzly day.
“The roads were very slippery and there were some great crashes. With all the rain the night before most of our course markers washed away, so a lot of the teams got lost. Within the first 2km one of the causeways the course crossed was knee deep in water, so they were thrown into it right away,” Andrew Pike, head of sales and marketing for Rapha Australia and New Zealand, told BikeRadar.
While the organisers attempt to find roads that even locals have never ridden, the 170km course is steeped in cycling history.
“One of the reasons we chose this location is because it is one of Robbie McEwen’s favorite training loops, and he would always stop at this place called Buck’s Barn: a little fruit stand that sells these great chocolate covered bananas. You go into this little stall in the middle of nowhere with all these exotic Queensland fruits, and then there are pictures of Robbie everywhere,” Pike went on.
The latest Gent’s Race on the Gold Coast brought a new element, which relates back to the early years of the Tour de France and the Kings of Pain.
“To us the Kings of Pain are the legendary riders like Eddy Merckx and Fausto Coppi. The story goes the domestiques would raid cafes along the course; grabbing water bottles, food, booze and basically whatever they could get their hands on to take up to their lead riders,” Pike explained.
Pike and his crew localised the idea of the cafe raid through a famous pie shop in a small town called Uki. The shop itself is no bigger than a small shed, but during the peak time of the Gents Race it held 30 or 40 hungry riders with nothing but a steak and mushroom pie on their mind.
After a day of riding on gravel roads, over flooded causeways and slippery wooden bridges; the gents (and gent-ettes) all came together for a BBQ to share a few beers, and trade war stories from the day.
Sometimes you just got to lend a mate a hand
In the end, the Rapha Gent’s Race brings out the best in cycling. Despite battling through adverse conditions, everyone who crossed the line on the Gold Coast finished with a smile, claims Pike.
For the Rapha ride and rides like it, the modern obsession with numbers displayed on the dim screen of a Garmin are irrelevant. Pike says: “It’s the experience, and the adventure that matters. The Rapha Gentlemen’s Race brings us back to cycling at its roots, and the love of riding bikes.”