Behind the Rapha X One More City Collection

Rapha’s latest jersey release is in collaboration with the inspirational One More City campaign, which raises money for secondary breast cancer research. Rouleur talks to founder Christine O’Connell and jersey designer Maria Olsson about the journey behind their creation

“Flowers keep failing but they overcome winter and come back every year. They stand there again in the next season, ready to take on the world,” says Maria Olsson, explaining her inspiration behind the eye-catching design of Rapha’s One More City collection.

Through the jersey, Maria illustrates the constant enduring strength of those living with secondary breast cancer and shows how their journey can mirror the rebirth of flowers each spring.

The founder of the One More City campaign, Christine O’Connell, was told her cancer had returned in February 2018. “I hadn’t really understood what secondary cancer meant,” she explains. “I will basically be on treatment for life. I had radiotherapy this morning, so it is just constant.”

Cycling has been a great release for Christine, “It keeps me going,” she explains. In 2017, she rode from London to Paris and began to think of ways to connect the ideas of the continuous nature of secondary cancer with her love for the sport. From that, the idea behind One More City was formed.

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One More City is an annual cycling campaign that moves from city to city each year, starting from where the previous year’s ride finished. So far, the campaign has moved from London to Paris, then Paris to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Strasbourg. Covid took its toll last year, but still the riders were not deterred from completing their challenge: in 2020 One More City rode a 750km loop from London and back.

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Christine is a member of the Rapha Cycling Club and recruited other RCC members to join her challenge. The clubhouses in London and Amsterdam have formed central hubs for the ride, and Rapha has been involved in Christine’s journey from the beginning. 

Rapha founder Simon Mottram played a big part in the creation of One More City. “He’s very good at marketing and branding, he is the master of that,” Christine explains. “We talked about the idea of this continuous journey and how I wanted to go from city to city and we found the name together. Around 90% of the riders on the trip are RCC members.” Simon rode the first two hours of the One More City ride last year and Chrstine explains that the rides wouldn’t have been possible without Rapha’s support.

Proceeds from One More City fund PhD students at Imperial College in London working specifically on secondary breast cancer. With 31 women per day dying of the disease in the UK, research into new drugs could not be more important.

“A lot of money goes into prevention,” Christine says. “I didn’t want to fund a piece of kit as that is kind of an inanimate object, I wanted to fund a person that contributes over the lifetime of their career. It’s also very tangible to donors, they know exactly where the money is going.”

Next, One More City plans to fund a four-year PhD at the Institute of Cancer research, in collaboration with Imperial College. “The two institutions will collaborate in the hope that this will generate more ideas.” Christine explains. “I know nothing about the scientific process but, as a patient, I just want new drugs as fast as possible, so I want to help accelerate the process.”

The nature of secondary breast cancer means that development of new drugs is essential. Whilst certain medicine can work for a period of time, the cancer will eventually develop a resistance, so having more options of treatment will be a huge benefit to people like Christine.

Normally, groups of eight riders take part in the One More City ride, “They’re quite long days and we always end up on a horrible climb in Flanders or something,” Christine says. “There is a real sense of togetherness, people need to support each other if something goes wrong and work as a team.”

Keeping the One More City rides small and cohesive remains important to Christine, but she hopes to expand the campaign further going forwards. “I’d love to do a version in the US or Asia,” she explains. “I’d like to find ways people can complete the distance that suits them, even if they just ride a kind of small distance to raise awareness.”

Her determination and journey so far has been inspiring to many people, including designer Maria Olsson. When Maria heard Chrstine’s story, she wanted to contribute to One More City in her own way: by giving her time and creativity to design the One More City jerseys.

“A lot of my inspiration came from regeneration, but also how, when you ride, you travel through different landscapes and are connected to nature” Maria says. Historically, the jerseys have featured monuments from the different cities the ride will pass through. For the 2020 jersey, this is represented in the Manchester bee and for London, a small graphic of the Queen.

Maria explains that she wanted to move away from darker colours in this design, “Because it’s covid and there's so many obstacles at the moment, I wanted to bring us something more playful and a little more joyful,” she says.

The jersey design has a long thought process behind it. Maria’s first idea was to include the shapes of naked women, but this didn’t end up making it into the final cut. However, celebrating the female form remained an important part of Maria’s inspiration, and female body shapes adorn the inner placket on the jersey while the main shapes on the outside fulfil a floral theme. “I think we got the best of both worlds on this one,” Maria says.

Another unique detail of the jersey is a label with instructions on how to perform a check on your own breasts. “I wanted to try and highlight the essence of knowing your body and celebrating it, also with a bit of a humoristic side related to cycling,” Maria explains. The quote on the label reads: “Grab a handful of curvy roads ahead” — a lighthearted take on a health check which might otherwise be dark and clinical.

“It makes it unique and quirky,” Christine says. “It encourages people to take time for themselves and get to know your body. It’s like when you check your bike, you make sure the brakes work, you’ve got to check your body as well!”

Maria has designed the One More City jersey designs every year and will continue to do so in the future. “They get better every year,” Christine explains. “I really want people to enjoy wearing the jerseys and for them to talk about it after the event. I want them to be unique and attractive, so Rapha was the obvious choice to design that. It’s important for them to be beautiful and simple.”

Discover the full One More City collection here.