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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.
- Last week was a great one for Rapha Condor JLT, all the action and images now up on the team site: http://t.co/ftBejPnnCJ
- RT @alainrumpf: Well done @mike_cuming and @raphacondorjlt winner of #TdK2013 under the scrutiny of latest drone… http://t.co/gv81uP9mHP
- In their attempt to cross the US in 24 days, @michaeltabtabai & Andrew Hudon will ‘Leave It On The Road’. → http://t.co/Per6QsCAtt
- We are delighted to announce the opening of a one-month, pop-up @RaphaCycleClub in Tokyo this summer from 22/6–21/7 → http://t.co/Jrc0EKZ9ky
- Huge congratulations to @raphacondorjlt’s @mike_cuming for winning the @TourdeKorea2013 and to @tomsoutham for best DS. #TdK2013
- @danfromnam in Corsica — outtake from our 2013 Spring/Summer shoot #corsica #beningstagram http://t.co/03A7pT9mtj
- Winner Winner Chicken Dinner ! The most important jersey of #TdK2013 hot off the press. http://t.co/Pflx0eUfdv”
- What a day... The boys keep Mike Cuming in yellow, after having to chase all day. Great performance by all.
- Just rehearsing the whole of Pacino's speech from Any Given Sunday to recite to the boys...
- UK: Thanks to all who came to to tonight’s Rapha Étape Evening in London with @CyclefitUK — one of our biggest turnouts yet.