Podia has teamed up with Czech frame maker Festka to build a team of riders interested in exploring the lesser travelled parts of Europe. Called ‘Riding Behind the Curtain’ the team will be discovering parts of Eastern Europe and documenting the rides in a series of articles and films, but first there was other business to see to…

A team based not on racing, it was somewhat fitting that the first engagement as a unit was the Rapha Prestige, the clothing brand’s ‘race that isn’t a race’. Taking place in Limburg a 195km route traversed Holland, Germany and Belgium. Twenty-five teams of four set off at timed intervals in an unsanctioned and un-marshalled ‘ride’ closing with beers and food at the finish line.

The route was planned as a figure of eight with the north and south loops marking the first and second parts of the day separated by stop at the MCC Franco (Rapha Mobile Cycle Club) in the middle. Although, it wasn’t only the route that would mark the day clearly into two parts.

Incandescent weather characterised the morning in probably the prettier part of the ride. After making a slight error in navigation and completing the southern loop in reverse, we rode solo with no other teams to join or be joined by.

The route lead us down through the Simmerath region, taking in numerous gravel sections as well as a picturesque part along the Urft Reservoir. The only contact we made with other teams was the fleeting waves as they passed us in the opposite direction with confused looks on their faces.

Never ones for going with the norm, the Podia | Festka team continued in the wrong direction that took us up local legendary climb ‘Der Hammer’ rather than down it.

One hundred and twenty five very wet kilometers later and we were being taken care of by the legendary Rapha twosome; Franco and Andy from the MCC. Fed, watered and with our chains cleaned and lubed we set off for the second part of the day.

The bad weather had now retreated enough for us to remove unnecessary garments, with temperatures rising so much that jerseys had to be unzipped. Riding in the correct direction meant that we were no longer solitary and conversation however brief or long with passing teams made the ride even more entertaining. The terrain became more ‘Belgium’ with fewer long climbs and plenty of rolling hills.

As much as everyone enjoys a good race, and the feeling of passing or being passed by other teams plucks on some strings somewhere deep inside, we never set out to create a team capable of winning races. With that in mind a chance to take a moment and pay respect at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Hombourg, felt very appropriate for our project.

The recent history of this part of the world, including actions that took place in Eastern Europe with all its consequences across the rest of the continent interests us a great deal. It is always hard to be here and not be profoundly effected by the level of sacrifice that many gave.

Back to the racing and it seemed that our navigation woes were not quite over as both of the Garmins decided they had done enough work for the day, leaving us without any idea where we should go (Rapha cue sheets had long since disintegrated in the rain).

To our good fortune the team from Soigneur let us tag on with them as they guided us back towards the finish through these Belgium farmlands. Before long the group swelled further with two other teams (counting Marianne Vos in their ranks) before we hit the final climb of the day up to ‘t Hijgend Hert.

Once at the top the teams drank beer together and regaled stories of the day’s adventures. Congratulations to Festka who not only ‘won’ the day with the fastest time, but also donated their prize (in the form of a mountain of beer) to the festivities.

We will have more announcements soon about Podia | Festka including a closer look at the team bikes as well as the project partners.