Review: Rapha’s A Day in Hell Cap ($35 USD)
For the past few years I had missed ordering the year-specific-styled cap by Rapha. I remember the first year I heard about it it was through an email blast by the company. By the time I had clicked over to their ordering page the cap had been rebranded with the dreaded words ‘Sold Out’ in the availability section. Last year the same sort of story unfolded. I had distributed my money elsewhere by the time the cap was put up for sale.
The 2018 edition of ‘A Day in Hell’ cap was going to be mine. I checked the website religiously. (A current check on the site shows the cap is uncharacteristically still available.) In past years the cap was sold out well before Flanders. When I got the email stating the cap was ready for shipping, I shuddered with dread. Had I been too late as year’s previous? I ordered it up and it arrived, as I said, two days post-race.
This year I watched a fair portion of the race from the local bike shop. It was on delay, too. The common question, “Do you wanna know who wins?” was asked more than once. I had entered the Belgian Boys Club contest of picking the podium. When I heard who won I knew straight away my chances of winning the contest were sunk. The race’s coverage is art in and of itself. I love the contrasting springtime colors with the drab bricks attacked by the riders. The bright flags look brighter when waving in front of leafless trees in Arenberg. This is what I took in while watching the coverage.
Later in the day memorials began popping up amongst the Instagram feed. A rider had succumbed to a fall earlier in the race. Though the autopsy has come back confirming what speculation had headlined, twenty-three year-old Belgian cyclist Michael Goolaerts suffered a heart attack before crashing halfway through the race. Race directors, photographers, Belgian companies, and even the competitors themselves focused on the loss of Goolaerts over their own performance. Even now it is hard to put into words an appropriate way to carry on.
I am hardly young by any means, but I can count the amount of race drivers who have died while racing. Generations before me frequently cite the regularity of motor racing danger. “One a week,” they say when discussing the older days of Formula One or Indy Car racing. What I’m getting at is our generation has witnessed the fruits of those advancements in sport. When we lose an athlete, specifically in the middle of competition, we don’t know whom to turn to for guidance. As Remarque-like as it is to suggest, the elders may state, “It could be one a week” while our generation and younger cannot rest easy until 100% of the riders come home.
Since receiving the cap it has remained neatly stowed until I figure out what to do with it. I wanted this cap so badly but now it commemorates two events: one a comedy and one a tragedy. The cap could obviously celebrate the first time Peter Sagan crossed the finish line ahead all of the others at Paris-Roubaix. Or it could commemorate the first time since 1981 the World Champion had won the Roubaix. But the cap also stands as a reminder that, moments after the finish, word circulated about the passing of Michael Goolaerts. To me it feels disrespectful to parade such a cap when such sadness occurred.
It’s that sentiment that could explain why the cap is still available for purchase.