- LA MAISON
- LA VIE
The Rift: Into the Fire
Travelling to the start of a race can often be an epic journey. Six hours earlier, the girls stood in line and looked on nervously towards the tarmac where their bikes, packed tightly into their cases, were waiting to be loaded onto the Airbus A320 which we were anxiously boarding.
After a rough night between airports and hard plastic seats, the pilot has just announced the Airbus is beginning its descent to Reykjavik. And there, under the left wing, a bright light glints for our attention. It takes us a moment to realise what we are seeing through tired eyes... It’s perhaps the most dazzling thing anyone can witness – fire bursting out of a mountain.
Fagradalsfjall erupted less than two weeks ago. The volcano is just a few kilometres from Iceland's main airport, and is now directly below us, spitting lava from its molten rivers skyward. A rare and hair-raising spectacle for visitors, to which the natives have nevertheless become accustomed.
In under 15 years the natives in southwest Iceland have witnessed four eruptions across the Reykjanes Peninsula. As we swoop towards the landing strip we can barely believe it, magma bursting from the centre of the world is beyond magical, and simultaneously quite frightening. I don’t think we will forget this arrival to an airport in a hurry. The Icelandic landscapes are otherworldly. The flowing lava just adds to this extra-terrestrial vision.
The ‘land of ice and fire’, is home to an incredible variety of geological formations: volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, glaciers, lava fields. And it is also the setting for one of the world’s most majestic gravel events, The Rift.
A unique race, not only for the geological properties of the terrain but also for the effort it requires. 200km with 2200m of up, the route flanks Hekla, one of the 130 volcanoes on the island known for the extent of its black lava fields as far as the eye can see. Over the distance, wheels cross a wide variety of landscapes and come up against notable difficulties, with gradients whose percentages force even the leading riders to dismount and push.
The bodies of all the girls on the team are still marked by the Migration Race, a multi-day event that they rode three weeks ago in Kenya. Other riders have certainly come here fresher and more combative, like Carolin Schiff who will be the first to complete this 2023 edition. Annabel Fisher, defending champion, was unable to keep her crown this year. The rain has been a stranger lately and the wide tracks of fine black sand are crispy, rutted and undulating. These repeated bumps will leave their mark in the organisms and the posteriors of the competitors.
Rémi Clermont, creative director of Café du Cycliste, came to see the race last year, handing up bottles, cleaning bikes and encouraging our riders. Rémi decided to return on a bike himself this year. Not only a great test of the comfort of shorts or the breathability of a jersey he has helped to design, but a deeper understanding about this passion we are all sharing.
He completes the race and declares to be ‘rinsed’, but with his eyes full of northern lights. The spectacle exceeds the promises of even the best-written tourist brochures. The effort highlights the desire for more preparation, more hours in the saddle. But that is often the case for a lot of us. Rémi will testify that The Rift is more than ever one of the most beautiful events in the Gravel Earth Series. Respect is paid to everyone involved.
Lauf Cycling, the Icelandic bike brand and our partners, are at the helm of the race’s organisation. By coming to race here, we understand even more why their bikes endure the most punishing tests. And we especially recognise how their very particular suspension fork was designed and why it has gained such a reputation today. The land on which the equipment is developed and tested is incredibly demanding, unique, and a lot of fun, provided you have the correct tools.
An appointment is now made for the final of the Gravel Earth Series in September. Until then rest will be necessary. Some time to cool off. The Rift has once again been burnt into our legs and forever our memories.
2023 Season So Far
So far, so Gravelled. The Café du Cycliste Gravel Team are well and truly off into their second season of racing. And it’s obvious they’re well-seasoned.
The Migration Race
The Migration Race is a 600km Gravel race over four stages/days taking place in the territory of Masai Mara in the south-west of Kenya.
The Traka: The reference for European gravel
For the Café du Cycliste Gravel Team, arriving at The Traka is a little like visiting an old friend. There’s a familiarity born of previous experience and two of the team were winners last year.
Aachen, Germany: UCI Gravel World Series
The big race will once again take place near Veneto (Italy) at the beginning of October, a grand finale to a season of undoubtedly true and testing grit.