If anyone's paying attention I'm doing an effective job of moving back through time here. The span is only a couple weeks, maybe a month or two, but it turns out that the files on my computer are organized just as they are in my head. Backward. Maybe? Whatever, let's just go with it at this point.
2014. We were in London-town for the Tour de France and also to celebrate Rapha's 10th Anniversary. Or maybe it was the other way around. Ten years feels like a long time, even though that was effectively four years ago, so, who the hell knows what that means?
In any case, there was a whole new mood to the place. It was most of our (North Americans) first time seeing their new office (massive) and a new neighborhood to check out. There were also a few of those meetings that happen when companies start to get bigger and grow and implement all of the necessary "grown-up company" things. An HR department? What is that? Let's do some trust falls!
It is a tough thing for some people to stomach. Jobs are funny in that way that if you're doing them right, you feel some sort of ownership over whats happening there. I felt that way a lot about my job at Rapha (employee #33!) and especially the Rapha Continental. I didn't start it by any means, but I contributed a fair bit and felt responsible for the shape that it took in the context of North America.
Then, at the same time, when you're from North America and you're working with a primarily British company (and one that is growing quickly) there are all these people that you work with - interface with - skype with - email with - that you haven't actually met in person. So, this was a great time to get them all together, let the drugs and alcohol flow freely and then just sit back and see what shakes out.
Anyway, here's what I remember...
The throngs of people at the Tour de France... and Rapha was having a party right down in the middle of the action. Like, see that photo above, that was something like a five-minute walk from where we were hanging out in a big tent with lots of drinks. Was there absinthe? I feel like there was. Or at least an equivalent. Something that after a few glasses really put you on your toes.
The fans were Cav crazy. And if I remember correctly he had already crashed out of the race when it started in Yorkshire. This was the second or third stage of the race and it was ending right in the middle of London. Everyone seemed to be on high alert as well, lots of rushing around and trying to figure out how to get from one place to another with roads being blocked off.
We made it down to the finish line in time to see the big race roll in. You had never seen so many camera phones trying to cop a pic of these skinny dudes rolling through the center of town. Never. People were climbing on every imaginable structure. People were up in the trees lining the streets of the palace.
David Millar was there with a big floppy Pharell style hat on. Sort of Amish looking to speak truthfully. And when "stylish" men like that button up their collarless shirts all the way, it's really a whole Amish vibe that they give off. Apart from the massive amounts of drinking of course.
This was also the first time that I got to meet the always stylish Leon Cerrone. He had popped up as a rider in more than a few of the Rapha campaigns over a previous couple of years, so it was cool to meet him in person and play practical jokes on the guys from Giro. Because that's what you do. I love this photo of he and Abby because I have no idea where we were or what we were trying to do. This is the kind of reaction I would think that a spider might cause. Not sure.
This could have been before I tried to convince Ultan, the creator of the Rapha wordmark to make me one that said "Rasta" instead. But, you know, that looked really close**. He took extreme offense to this, slammed his pint on the table rather aggressively and stalked off. Only to come charging back in and threaten to kick my ass. Again, good to have a sober Leon around because he quickly diffused the situation. Not to worry either, Ultan and I are cool. At least I think we are, we are right Ultan?
But, that was just one night. There were also late dinners and lots and lots of drinking (apparently its a thing over there) and a couple of pretty fun bike rides. Including one out to the London Olympic site and into the velodrome that they built specifically for it - the Lee Valley Velo Park. As far as Velodrome's go, this one is pretty badass.
Riding along the waterways was a pretty cool way to check out the city. It was constantly a heads-up situation with all the commuters heading from place to place. This is what we wanted to see, houseboats and rickety bikes and people going about their daily lives. But did we have to be so hungover to do it? Thankfully our tour guides seemed to have their heads screwed on straight.
It was also interesting how we take our office, landscape and situation for granted here in the US. It seems nearly impossible to get out of a city like London (or Boston, or NY for that matter) to get out to the countryside for rides. Which, I guess makes something like the Velodrome close to town appealing. Nevertheless, it is a fun town to ride in because of the traffic, the way it flows and the sheer amount of cyclists that you see around town.
Oh yes, we also did ride Regents Park. That's a thing. An amazing spot to meet all the cyclists that you've followed on Instagram over the years. Just hang out there on a Friday morning when the sun is shining and you're sure to spot a few. Just remember that you're riding on the opposite side of the road.
Damn, I thought the Rapha Cycle Club in London would be larger. It always seems that way in pictures. But, then when 100 Rapha employees are there and trying to all get an espresso before that 7 am ride after all those Guinness. Well, it does seem a little smaller than I remember.
Check out those throwback denim bib shorts in the style of la Carrera, anyone? No takers? Did you know that you can still buy replica denim shorts like this on the Nalini website? I'm not providing a link to that.
Let's not get off topic though. This trip was an amazing thing. It was great to see everyone and see how far we had come as a company at this point. I'll also be totally honest here, it was a defining trip for me in terms of my place in the company. We had this little thing called The Athletic going at that point and the trip sort of solidified to me that my place was no longer there at Rapha. My head and heart were elsewhere. And it's good to recognize those things and then just move on, otherwise, the resentment starts to creep in, on both sides of the tracks. And that is never good.
Rapha was such a fun company to work for in those early years. The ones where we were sort of making up our own narrative here in the US. Because what it meant to us then was something very different than the way that it was shaping up in elsewhere, which, is kind of the way it should be. Who wants a homogenous state of cycling, thats no fun. What's fun is to travel to different places, maybe even miles from your house and figure out how they do things there.
So, the Tour kicked off in England and everyone went their separate ways. Back to work for most, but for me, to France!
*Let's be honest here, I'm laid up and realized that going back and revisiting all these rides, pouring over photos (literally the reason that I take so many - to remember) is good for me. It's helping me focus on the future rides by remembering the past.
**I'm still going to do this, don't be stealing my ideas.