Meeting Rapha

Tom Southam, Zak Dempster, & Casey Munro

Rapha Condor Team
(L to R) Zak Dempster, Casey Munro, Tom Southam in the office

The significance of ‘the look’ cannot be underestimated. This is not about the slightly camp / Top Gun style of Armstrong vs. Ullrich ‘look’, this is about being properly attired for the job at hand. It would be judicious to claim that the cyclist, amongst athletes, is not at their most intimidating when in civilian attire, particularly if sporting some type of sports leisure wear*. To see the mighty Magnus Backstedt sauntering down the high street in manmade fabrics one would not be overwhelmed by his robust physique. However, squeeze that physique into lycra and locate within the correct environment, and you’re likely to be questioning the accuracy of your wattage meter, and if, heaven forbid, you are then required to take a turn, as the bulk shifts and the wind hits you, you will understand in the most practical manner that might is right.

To return to our original subject matter, away from unlikely tangential discourse, ‘the look’. Australian pro Casey Munro, ex of Pendragon, admits, whilst still a Pendragon rider, to rocking an Ullrich ‘look’. Clearly this is, in isolation, a bold statement of intent, and something of a strong ‘look’. Fortune favours the brave, and, whilst no longer emulating the pride of Germany, Casey capabilities find him riding for the Rapha Condor Sharp team (RCS).

Suddenly the preamble of this blog is brought sharply into focus. RCS, the team defined by a heady combination of sartorial awareness and ferocious performance, the standout team of the rapidly expanding UK pro scene. Indeed, such is the significance of the attire, that it has been mentioned that performance was secondary to appearance in selecting the team roster (check the photo and draw your own conclusions). However their overwhelming domination of the Tour Series town centre criteriums illustrates something of a flaw in this argument. Exceptional performance combined with trying aesthetics in the face of orange leaders’ jerseys. But cycling is all about sacrifice.

For Casey and Zak Dempster, as citizens of a nation whose contribution to the international wardrobe is surf wear, the step to RCS is clearly a step of some tailoring magnitude, but, despite this, an important feature of the team is its Antipodean influence. Tom Southam’s inspired recruitment policy follows a simple methodology. Find hard riders who get on well together, have plenty of race experience, and lure them to the sunny climes of Western Europe, locate them in the classy end of town, in an area with outstanding riding opportunities and get them to spend their weekends handing it out with efficiency and style. This is the Rapha recipe.

To return to the beginning and the glance of man to man admiration of Lance/Jan, or the Top Gun beach volleyball game, RCS have also been the recipients of similar appreciation. In a strange footballing turn of events Rapha riders have been asked to swap tops by a number of other pro riders. The opportunity to acquire a sweaty Sauer Sojasun jersey may well prove enticing to many, but the lure of the Rapha shop kit has proved too hard to resist for those whose wardrobe may be lacking. The Norwegian striped man/machine is rumoured to be one of many who will be anticipating some stylish outings between team contract times.

As Laurent Brochard will vouch, there is more to cycling than just looking good. Trailing at the back of the bunch is not the Rapha way. Whilst spreading the word of the wonders of British style across the globe the Rapha pain cartel has been responsible for wholesale administration of suffering at a multinational level. In the manner of a skinny and stylish modern day Alexander the Great, RCS has reached the far corners of the world, Tour of Korea and Tour of South Africa being notable conquests.

Whilst many felt that the demise of the Kelme squad spelt the end of the fusion of elegance and capability, RCS shows that the concept is alive and well.

*As with all rules this has an important exception in the form of Le Sportif blogger Conor Dunne, 6’9”/2.06m high with a cruising wattage of around 8,000w, currently punishing puny Belgians.