I remember my first Rapha Festive 500 in 2012. It was the first thing I ever really did on a bike (hardtail MTB at that). Really was an absolute nightmare. It would take a long-form article to do that story justice! I really think it was one of the greatest and most accessible things Rapha has done in their jam-packed relatively short history and has given many people personal stories of their own.
Zwift has done something similar with the Zwift Academy, created an annual event which people get hyped for. It’s a little too structured and formalised though. I’m sure Zwift doesn’t want to step on Rapha’s toes, but I feel it would really be a winner if the team created a similar epic challenge for this time of year when people may have time off, but are also at risk of falling off the wagon with the seasonal temptations.
Zwift 300 mile challenge or a Zwift Everesting challenge? Anything which would be very, very difficult for most people to achieve and would require planning in advance. It definitely has to be a massive pain in the bum to accomplish for working adults with responsibilities.
I like the idea of using Zwift’s standout feature - ADZ - to create the challenge as this is something that feels epic to this day, and in my opinion is still Zwift’s greatest and boldest move. The team agonised over whether or not to spend time developing it, so what better way to make sure that time really paid off that an annual challenge which could be advertised and rewarded - ADZ 8 times between Christmas Eve and NYE.
The truly hardcore could try to do it in one go to get their vEveresting reward too. Maybe it could be a collaboration with the Everesting site team? That could lend it even more weight. The genuinely hardcore could do their Zwift Everesting challenge and then head out and do Rapha’s Festive 500 which cuts the gordian knot on the either/or, indoor/outdoor debate. They can do both, and retain their one-upmanship to feel above the fray.
I doubt Zwift and Rapha could partner on this yet as Rapha is a bit on the defensive right now with their community unfortunately, and likely wouldn’t want to ruffle any feathers (some people take this sort of thing very seriously). Though that could change, who knows. Rapha just did a range of indoor kit, so they’re definitely growing a pair, though growth is in line with indoor cycling uptake figures. They’ve been seemingly bold before, but only within a very traditional comfort zone that sits well with certain types of riders. Endorsing indoor cycling with their most well known festivity likely feels like a big deal to them as it loses the marketable romance of battling the elements. Rapha face just doesn’t look as good with beige wallpaper and baby-in-cot backdrops. From a business perspective I appreciate that, and they do need to do what’s best for them ultimately until the time is right.
But for now, I think Zwift could set something up, and if not, maybe lend some insight on it! Would be interesting to hear the view from inside the lab.