There are many revered places in Cycling, places that are instantly recognisable, places that command their own special page in history and in our memories for the great battles held upon them. Most likely the names you’ll think of first would be the great mountain climbs of the Grand Tours, l’Alpe d’Huez, Ventoux, Zoncolan, Stelvio. Maybe the Poggio, La Redoute or Koppenberg do it for you; they all stir something inside me. But the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix are the conduit for my most revered memories; bone-shaking, bike-breaking, heartbreaking stones that can ruin your day or make it the greatest one ever. And there waiting at the end, the most welcome sight of all to those who have endured a day in hell: the Roubaix Velodrome.
When Keepers Tour 2012 rolled onto the hallowed oval track at the end of our first foray across Northern France, the hair on the back of my neck, and some other places, bristled like the pile of a shag carpet after a polyester scarf had been rubbed across it. There was definitely some form of electricity running through my body. The sense of place was overwhelming. I imagined what it would be like to be a racer, soloing in for victory at the end of a long breakaway; or to enter with a select group, strategising the sprint, working out how to get to the line before all others; maybe a battle-worn domestique limping in with bloodied limbs, dirt embedded in every pore, long after the winners had cleansed themselves in the storied concrete showers. The fact that we were riding into a virtually empty arena didn’t matter, or in fact even register. We were on sacred ground, and the spirits of champions past rode with us.
That feeling, that experience, the spirituality and significance of this place isn’t lost on French clothing brand Ravito. As we were handing out some V-swag at the start of KT12, our Pavé guides Alex and William offered a few gifts of their own, among them a nice little goodie bag from their friends Romauld and Celine. There was a satchel, cycling cap, a very cool musette and some buttons and badges. The distinctive blue/white/red stripe motif made an immediate impression on me, yet the true meaning of it never dawned on me until weeks later when Alex explained its origin and the penny finally dropped. Romauld and Celine had drawn more than just inspiration from the velodrome, they had taken the lane markings and turned them into their own iconic brand.
Romauld explained to me the inspiration behind Ravito, and the philosophy they espouse:
Me and my wife Celine are graphic and product designers and also bicycles lovers. We decided to create Ravito two years ago to combine our passions. We wanted to design our own brand to propose products that we would love to wear when we ride. Ravito is a brand which wants to propose nowadays products and design but looking back in the past, sourcing the history of cycling to keep in mind the values and styles. The coloured lines are from the Velodrome because for us, cycling is also many experiences, from track to road, living experiences on cobbles, small roads with grass in the middle!
This is also the spirit of ‘The ForÃ§at’ of Ravito, which means ‘warrior of the road’, regarding the article of the journalist Albert Londres in the 1930s speaking of ‘les forÃ§ats de la route’ about the cyclists after a stage of the Tour de France he’s just followed.
Ravito wants also to be a creative brand, not only for clothings but proposing also products around cycling from jewels to pasta and particularly with ‘the musette’, small everyday bag for men or women with the limited edition collectors.
Well, we simply want to have fun proposing products with passion.
When I arrived in France for KT13 without my luggage and kit, William was only too happy to dig into his many buckets of kit to see me through. I immediately spotted some Ravito bibs, and it didn’t matter (much) that they may have been ‘slightly used’ by the Irishman… I immediately felt badass rocking the velodrome stripes on my left leg as I headed off on a ride towards the Kemmelberg, not really knowing where I was going but feeling like the stripes would see me there (or the locals would at least recognise my awesomeness and help me on my way). Suffice to say I made it to the mythical climb and back, and until Frank arrived with my new Kallisto V-kit a few days later, the Ravito bibs were always first piece of kit chosen.
On return to NZ and with the task of replacing my never-to-be-seen-again kit underway, a quick email to Romauld was drafted and my very own Ravito kit was soon on its way. It’s pretty hard to go past our own awesome V-kit, but the Ravito gear gets plenty of road time for sure. And I always feel like a little bit of the Hell of the North is along for the ride with me.