Possibly the toughest Prestige in Japan to date took place over a weekend in the remote mountainous area of Kamikatsu, Tokushima, on the island of Shikoku. Famous for it’s unspoiled mountainous landscape and zero waste mission. With a contrast of falling cherry blossoms, almost 4,000 meters of climbing and the longest gravel road in Japan — 35 teams from across the globe pushed themselves beyond their limits on the beautiful but punishing 150km parcours with only 7 finishing.
To date, over 1200 riders from 300 teams have covered countless kilometres at Rapha Prestige events. From the roads connecting the hidden villages in the mountains of Japan to the overwhelming humidity of America’s Midwest, each Prestige offers something unique. Teamwork is essential in these unsupported and unmarshalled adventures across stunning terrain, all members must stay together over the challenging course.
“The mountains of Japan’s Shikoku region are profound, the hum of tires on asphalt highlights their silence. We climbed the third mountain, minds focused, acutely aware of the moss-covered ground beneath our wheels. The damp tunnel awaiting us at the top of the climb seemed to suck us in, initially losing our balance as we entered the darkness, then blinded by the bright sunlight on the other side.” Masanao Ochi
Tsurugi-SanSuper Rindo is an unpleasant reminder of what it must have been like at the Tour de France 100 years ago. At this altitude there was nothing to obscure the sunlight under the clear blue sky which did nothing to ease the brutality of this rough gravel climb, punishing legs and bikes — at every corner there were riders with flat tires.
And wading through,
Yet green mountains still.
“A haiku poem by the mendicant monk Taneda Santouka came to me as I turned the pedals, had he walked the same path on his Shikoku pilgrimage during his final years? The mountains obscured much of the daylight, the smell of the moist forest and the cool air was overpowering, a vivid memory of my childhood. Every village we passed was a welcome relief from this oppressive nature”. Masanao Ochi
The vertical mountain surfaces and waterfalls added to the image with the hillside pathways created by pilgrims unique to Shikoku.
The final team made their way in darkness along the mountain trail in conditions that could be potentially life threatening. After coming in to view the riders were safely escorted by the headlights of our Land Rover.
For more information about upcoming Prestige events visit Rapha.cc