The Rapha Prestige is a series of unsupported, unsanctioned, and un-marshalled rides across stunning terrain. It’s a team event, you must start, ride and finish together. Most importantly, it’s a ride not a race. Rapha Prestige West Country started and finished at Muddock Cycleworks, Bristol. The route was hinted at being around 110 miles with rolling terrain.
You are provided with a route 48 hours before the event and encouraged to make changes if you wish but you must visit the checkpoints in order, ride any mandatory sections and avoid main roads. We had a mandatory hill climb on Old Bristol Road, a hill previously used in the Tour of Britain and shortly after that a great little gravel section over the top of the Mendips. In an Audax style format, you must collect a stamp on your Brevet card at each checkpoint.
For the Prestige I was in full Brevet mode, wearing the Rapha Windblock jersey and bibs, by far the most comfortable kit I own. The zipped front pocket was ideal for carrying and gaining access to the Brevet card at each checkpoint. The rest of the team were using the Rapha Core jerseys in a variety of colours.
Discovering new roads and paths was one of the highlights for me on the Prestige ride. If I had a pound for every time I have ridden past the entrance to the mandatory gravel section, I could probably buy a nice pair of bibs. Find out more about the origins of Rapha Prestige.
Checkpoint One – Rapha Archive Store, Shepton Mallet
Most of us had cycled to the Rapha Archive Store at least once but in keeping with the ethos of the ride, we avoided the main roads and left Bristol via Knowle West. Following the route Hana and James take to the Chew Valley Lake TT, we headed for the Mendip Hills. Meandering through the villages that border the Mendips we tackle some fairly undulating terrain before being rewarded with a glorious descent to Shepton Mallet. The sky’s cleared as we approached Kilver Court, our first checkpoint and stamp on the brevet card.
Checkpoint Two – Uphill Beach
From Kilver Court we doubled back on ourselves and headed for Wells, the smallest city in England. The dreaded mandatory hill climb up Old Bristol Road, now looming. This was the first time I have ridden Old Bristol Road and I fell for every false summit, telling myself, it can’t go on much longer but it did. The view from the top and descent through Shipham made up for that though. But not before the mandatory gravel section of course. This addition to the route took us through the Hamlet of Charter House. From Shipham to Uphill Beach is a bit of bonk blur as all I can recall is wanting a nice cold can of Coke.
Checkpoint Three – Cheddar Gorge
The ride from Uphill Beach to Cheddar Gorge included climbing back up that glorious Shipham descent. We had been riding a decent pace for the first half of the day and a couple of us had emptied the tank a little prematurely. After taking a quick pit stop in a location we will always refer to as #Bonksville, Cheddar Gorge was the next challenge of the day and our reward for this climb was a Cheddar sandwich at the summit.
Checkpoint Four – Bristol Airport
‘Teams must photograph their brevet card in front of a recognisable airport feature’.
We’re back in our comfortable zone now and the roads that we have left are very familiar. Renewed from the descent through Blagdon we head towards the outskirts of Bristol Airport. A handful of climbs now left before descending Backwell Hill Road and starting the final stretch back to Bristol.