Rides We Like: The Fiesta 500
June 24th may sound like a run-of-the-mill date on the calendar, but to those in the cycling world, it is a halfway point. Exactly six months from now road cyclists will take to the frozen parcours to hammer away at Rapha’s Festive 500, an eight-day affair that challenges riders to cover 500 outdoor kilometers. Complete the distance in the time frame and Rapha will mail you a finisher’s badge. It sounds relatively benign until the actual attempt adds stress. Days are missed, weather is terrible, and unforeseen events derail the daily average of fifty kilometers to an actual entertaining of back-to-back centuries. It is not as easy as it sounds.
One of the main – if not the main – challenge is weather. In the northern hemisphere, the Festive 500 commences just three days after the official start to winter. Two years ago displayed an inhospitality like no else. It comprised of either freezing rain or blowing snow. Meanwhile social media was polka dotted with southern hemisphere riders talking about sun kissed miles and the like. I began to wonder how it would feel to attempt the Festive 500 in southern hemisphere conditions. After all, roughly 88 percent of Earth’s population lives in the northern hemisphere. Twelve percent of Festive 500 riders selected SPF over balaclavas and spikes.
Today would be the theoretical first day of the Festive 500 in the northern hemisphere under southern conditions. This got me thinking: Is it possible to ride 500 kilometers over eight days – June 24 to July 1 – with sunsets at 9:00 EST and short sleeves? Considering it was summer when we embarked on the 140-mile lap around the Catskill Mountains on a one-day ride, the Festive 500 could theoretically be completed in two days. We would then proceed to sleep for the remainder of the days.
Then there is the issue with the event name. We are hardly in the festive seasonal celebrations. Festive is for year-end holidays. There is no frost bite nipping at our nose. Fiesta evokes backyard summer gatherings with farmhouse lights strung from fence to tree, buckets of ice filled with refreshing beverages, and summer night air filled with laughter of people celebrating the outdoors. This would be the northern hemisphere’s Festive 500 at the halfway mark.
To complete the event a rider must average 39 miles per day; given the Festive 500 occurs over the Christmas holiday, most riders plan for at least one day off the bike. There is none of that concern for the Fiesta 500. None of us have recognized this as an official event, however it would hardly surprise us to find that we did cross the 500-kilometer threshold in eight days by accident. Early this morning chirping birds stirred our slumber, planting the idea that a ride could depart and return before anyone in the house was aware of the absence. Having the Fiesta 500 as encouragement to get out of bed at 4:00 am as Dawn’s rosy fingers break over the horizon may be just the plan to follow suit. Then again, since this isn’t an official event, who cares? Maybe we will get around to designing that roundel for any demanding reader.