Blog Post by Grant: Rapha Travel and Cent Cols – Talks by Anton Blackie and Phil Deeker (10/12/15)

I’ve been a fan of Rapha since the brand’s early days, and I fell in love with cycling in the mountains many years ago. So this combination has always prompted me to admire the fabulous photos, words and short films they use to share what Rapha Travel offers. There have been a number of instances when one or more of these fabulous scenes has prompted myself and Emma to visit a certain climb or area, within the mountains of Europe.

Our interest in their trips increased further as we learned more about the cycling exploits of endurance rider Phil Deeker and the amazing Cent Cols Challenges that he devises for Rapha Travel customers to embark on. Some of the days sound epic! I’ve also had the good fortune to read the blog created by “Sir Guy Litespeed”, a regular on the Cent Cols Challenges. Do take a look, there are so many fabulous cycling moments within his words and photos

On learning that Rapha Travel’s Phil Deeker and Anton Blackie would be at the Rapha Cycle Club in Manchester, to talk about the various trips available during 2016 and also about the epic Cent Cols Challenge, we were keen to head up and listen.

The talk was due to start around 6.30pm, so we got to the club a few hours earlier, to give us the opportunity to look around the shop and grab a bite to eat. It’s great to be able to see the current Rapha range and learn a little more about the fine details that make their clothing and equipment that little bit special. The staff are really friendly and helpful, and being able to actually try garments on is another plus point. The Pro Team Winter Tights and the updated Pro Team Softshell Jacket look superb. An archive area has recently been added on the top floor and this contains earlier products at reduced prices……a lot of temptation under one roof!


The Rapha Cycle Club also has a cafe, so we were able to get fabulous toasted sandwiches and drinks during the afternoon. I can definitely recommend the mozzarella pesto toastie.

After a quick stroll around the wonderfully Christmasy shopping area near to St Anne’s Square and the Arndale Centre, the magnetism of the mountains soon drew us back to the Club. We headed upstairs in good time, to where Phil and Anton would be speaking…..we didn’t want to miss a minute!

Anton and Phil gave an introduction to the evening and then Anton continued with an insight into the range of holidays Rapha Travel will be offering next year. The majority of the trips are based in Europe, and they offer a wide variety of choice in duration, location, intensity and ethos. They are formed to suit varying customer requirements, giving the potential for short breaks, longer stays, cycling famous Cols or lesser known hidden gems, with different levels of luxury and rider support.

Rapha Travel also offer trips to America and Japan. I’m sure that with the words and pictures used to describe the adventures in these less commonly visited locations, the mountains of Japan and America will soon be firmly on the radar of many keen cyclists.

The second part of the talk focussed on the Cent Cols Challenge trips. These are based in Europe and each one focuses on a particular area, such as the Dolomites in Italy, the French Pyrenees and other mountainous regions in France and Spain. For 2016 a variation has been added, with a Cent Cols “Classics”, which takes riders onto the steep and sometimes cobbled climbs in Northern Europe. A Cent Cols day was described in a nutshell as an early start, distances in the region of 180 to 200 kilometres with a height gain of around 4000 to 5000m, and great food along the way……..all the ingredients for a very long day on the bike! A Cent Cols Challenge spans ten days riding with one rest day.

Phil’s words, combined with the mesmerising photo slideshow, gave a real insight into the Cent Cols rides and the fabulous places the riders will visit. You really got a feel for the blend of experiences that a Cent Cols rider is likely to face, but also of the friendships that will inevitably form. It was fabulous to listen and it has certainly inspired myself and Emma to add new challenges to our cycling.


The evening also provided the opportunity to ask questions and have conversation with Anton and Phil. It was fascinating to meet these guys, they have such enthusiasm and passion for cycling, the mountains and the experiences they’ve shared with the people who choose a Rapha Travel cycling adventure.

Rapha has an amazing website which contains details of the cycling trips offered. The choice is tremendous and even bespoke trips can be created to meet specific rider requirements….how about a honeymoon in the Alps, or a week climbing the famous climbs of the Giro. The website is complemented with a brochure which details all the trips on offer as well as some fabulous photography.


Some of my most cherished experiences have come from cycling in Europe and beyond. From the evening’s talk and subsequent conversation, we concluded that the creation of awe inspiring moments on two wheels would definitely be at the heart of any Rapha cycling holiday.

So whenever we visit Manchester you can guarantee a good chunk of our time will be spent at the Rapha Cycle Club! However, there are numerous cycling related stores in Manchester. We also enjoy visiting The Bike Rooms located on Deansgate. This is a truly fabulous store that showcases the latest Pinarello bikes, as well as stocking Assos, Rudy Project, Giordana and Corima products. Cyclefit Manchester is another great bike shop, who provide extensive bike fitting services as well as an incredible range of bikes and physiotherapy on offer. Check out their websites and for more details.