No Prizes, No Start Line, No Finish Line, Unmarshalled, Unsupported, Uneverything.
Rapha Prestige Chiang Mai
Terrain: Lots of Steep Climbing & Downhill Gravel
The challenge for this event was not for me to complete the course as fast as possible on my own, but to finish with ALL my team together (one of whom must be a lady). My team-mates – Maai, Ohm and Nui – were all feeling a little nervous before the start, sensing the pressure of high expectation by racing with me, because of my name, but they were all up for the challenge.
Anyway, we were allocated the latest starting time, a full 1 hour & 30 mins after the first team out. I tried to reassure everyone that this was a good thing, because the teams ahead of us would get lost first, so we could afford to take more time and maybe sleep a little. That was just a theory to try and boost team confidence.
Before the start, I asked everyone to put low pressure in their tyres (70psi) to give more comfort when climbing and more grip for the downhill. I thought it would also help us ride safe on the gravel tracks. I decided to use my Infinite Prime Team bike with 27mm tubular tyres, set up with the same low pressure.
We started out at 7.30am on a beautiful, flat section of road which stretched for 40km before a left turn, marking the start of the first climb. We stopped to refill our bottles and take a short break after 60km, but kept moving, soon arriving at the first check point (at 68km), where we took another short rest before riding on down the next section of gravel road.
I took special care of Maai, setting her a comfortable speed and showing her where to put her wheel on the track. We weren’t riding very fast but the team kept up a steady pace and were able to negotiate the steep gravel track climb together without stopping. When we finally reach the top, our reward was a nice steep downhill section to the next village. We stopped in the first restaurant just to say Hi to everyone, but kept going to the next shop, where we took on food and drink. There was a little time to talk to the other people eating there, but we couldn’t stop for long.
We pressed on down the gravel track and finally, after 107km, we reach Samoeng village and the second check point. At this point we were all quite tired, not just from the long, hard riding, but also from the rising heat. We took more time to rest and and refuel before tackling the last climbing section called the 7 Steps.
I took special care of Maai as we climbed one step at a time, cheering her on when I sensed that she really needed some extra encouragement. I left Nui and Ohm to take care of themselves behind us, thinking they would just be chilling out, chatting and taking photos. When we reached the top of the 7 steps we waited for our team-mates – 5 minutes passed and then 10, but there was still no sign of them.
It was getting hotter and we had no water left, so Maai and I decided to descend, find a place to refill and wait for them there. After 30 minutes Ohm and Nui still didn’t appear, but we were sure they’d eventually catch us, so we started riding again quite slowly. Finally, they did catch us and so we were able to complete the last 25km together as a team – with me riding out in front, drafting the others, holding a steady pace (at 150w).
Nearing the end I could sense my team really enjoying the experience, without really suffering. When we finally finished, I felt so happy to see all my team-mates smiling and feeling satisfied with their achievement. Long rides like this always involve some suffering and pain, but in the most difficult moments we can overcome these uncomfortable feelings, by remembering that pain is the body’s way of reminding us that we have the gift of being alive, enjoying this wonderful life of cycling with friends and freedom.
I was still a little stressed after the ride because I knew my wife was still out on the track with her team-mates (Team “YES HER”), made up of 4 ladies. I waited patiently and eventually, 2 hours later, they arrived, tired but very happy. I felt very proud of them all – especially my wife – they are all super ladies.
Thank you to our sponsors
- Infinite Bicycle
- Revv energy
- Look Pedals
- Suomy Helmet
- Vanilla Residence