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PHOTO: Ben Ingham
I’d been warned the racing season was a long one. While everyone is keen in March and April, July and August weigh heavy on the heart. Speed builds and disappears. Some great races make way for those where the peloton disappears up the road and you’re left suffering the indignity of abandoned finish lines and last place results.
By July I’d found a deep love for speeds I once shirked from, gradients once dreaded grew into adrenaline-fueled rivalries, me and my machine against the hill. But for every race, some of the fire disappeared. I wasn’t going to win. I wasn’t even going to podium. I felt a small sense of accomplishment for each race where I didn’t get dropped from the pack. But even that felt insignificant and somewhat futile.
I’d been counting down to July for months, aware my better half would disappear to race on the Continent and then ride in the Rockies for two months. His sabbatical was my romantic purgatory. So as midsummer flooded in upon me, I wasn’t expecting the one thing which gave me strength and kept me focused to disappear as well.
Here, after 12 months of punishing turbo sessions, monastic avoidance of cheese, alcohol and desserts, early morning training sessions in angry rain, all I wanted was to be alone with the road again. No distracting goals or benchmarks or heart rates or personal bests. Something solitary. Something meandering and wild. Something profoundly calm and at ease with the world around it.
To paraphrase the new-age pundits, racing wasn’t going to help me find my centre. It might get me fit, it might give me goals, new friends, new found confidence. But racing wasn’t going to make me a better person. At least no better than I already was. I hadn’t started racing because I wanted it to change my life but nonetheless, by July I was changed. There was no going back but racing itself wasn’t going to do much more for me at that moment. There is no nirvana in a bunch sprint.
I wanted to eat croissants and gelato by the side of the road. I wanted espresso for the beans not the adrenaline kick at a start line. I wanted to descend around narrow hairpin bends with loose arms to avoid dropping off the cliff face on the other side, rather than the tarmac of the circuit. I wanted to believe in romance and the fate found in unnaturally small bottles of foreign colas.
Some call this burnout. I prefer to think of it as a recharging. As the kind of girl who does things all-or-nothing, I suffer the inability to find continued balance in my life. If not impossible, balance certainly feels unnatural.
I didn’t stop racing in July and August. But I did stop worrying about it. I even stopped training. Conveniently forgetting my Polar strap and too lazy to put it on before leaving the house, I’d ride without numbers. Buttery pastries and fine-roasted coffee replaced energy bars and caffeine gels. I went off-road for the first time. I broke a chain and didn’t get it properly fixed for a couple weeks. I even raced on said chain. It just didn’t matter; I just rode. I let the loneliness of the hills seep into my bones again.
And as soon as I let go, I found my strength again. Without the competition. Without the rush. Without the red mist. Riding solo.
- RT @IonaNiDhalaigh: Yahhh mountain jersey in the bag!!! Nice one @mike_cuming!!! @raphacondor http://t.co/GrGqSL0Kgl
- RT @CondorWarehouse: Nice to see the @raphacondor JLT team bike on display @campagnolosrl HQ with so many top pro teams http://t.co/5CgE0tY…
- RT @anpostras: GC after Stage 4: Bialoblocki,, McConvey, Guldhammer, Handley, Pelletier-Roy, Hunal, Simon Yates, Fodor, Roger Aiken, Archbo…
- Spare a thought for @Porterelliott who punctured out of the yellow jersey group, when will he get some luck!
- Took the @anpostras on today. Didn't quite pull it off. @RichHandley90 4th on GC and @mike_cuming in the KoM jersey.
- Tour series update from Stoke up on the site http://t.co/aVdcnGnkOX
- RT @elstopbanana: Here's Kristian House @raphacondor at last night's @TourSeries picture by Sue Howlett Great racing! @SoTCityCouncil http:…
- RT @sticky_bottle: Meant to say, to be eligible for the @raphacondor team car compeition you have to be a stickybottle twitter follower!
- RT @sticky_bottle: OK folks; nice morning for it. To win a day in the Rapha Condor JLT team car on the Rás last stage, Sunday, just retweet…
- Third team overall for the Men in Black at Stoke last night in the @TourSeries