As far as cycling goes I am ‘green’…13 years ago I played my last game of team sport… this wasn’t a planned ending… years of injury-induced frustration, anguish, isolation, disconnection, emptiness, pain, loss followed…
14 months ago I joined Vikings….
14 weeks ago I signed up to ride in the Peaks Challenge… (this was not a planned beginning)…
I knew when I signed up that I would be lucky (physically) to make it to the start line… but had the sense that this was about more than the ride on the day and felt compelled to give it a crack. Some people I had enjoyed riding with across the club seemed equally deranged and were signing on… I was looking to ride more and this would give me another group of people with whom to ride regularly over summer and an opportunity to push myself to stick with them. Some of them would go on to do the ‘real’ ride… others of us would slip away quietly with our metaphorical tails between our legs or maybe go along in support (if that was even a thing)…that was the plan
Weeks rolled by… suddenly ‘after Christmas’ was here! Too much eating and not enough riding! Summer was slipping… I hadn’t spent as much time training with the group as I had hoped… work, family… all that ‘life’ stuff seemed determined to keep me out of the group if not off the bike. Then the kilometers started coming together… a quiet confidence was building in the group that this madness might just come off. But were we just kidding ourselves? With no external point of reference it was impossible to tell.
Weekends evaporated, vertical meters went into legs, parcels arrived from online shops, dollars drained from bank accounts, alcoholic beverages were sacrificed… the focus was sharpening.
#ThelastXbeforepeaks… the last big ride, the last hill reps, the last gym session… the last bunch ride… the last drive (encountering ever more bike-laden vehicles… exchanging knowing smiles with those destined for the same fate…the last part up to falls – the opening descent in reverse)…the last day… the last ride along the back of falls around the lake to Mount Cope and back with most of the Vikings crew… the last dinner, the last sleep…
Game on! We made it to the start line! ALL that was left to do was ride! (for more than 12 hours)…
12 hours is a long time… a lot goes through your mind in 12 hours…a lot of ‘in the moment’ stuff, a lot of tired dreamy fog… a bit of existential analysis and a lot of maths (that damn top tube sticker)!
One climb down… not bad, where are the wave leaders? Technical descent negotiated… mostly climbing now… still not half way… here are some Vikings people!…is it even going to be possible to sit down after 12 hours on a bike?… JRYFB…When is lunch? (consults top tube sticker for the nth time)… will I even have time to eat it?… gels are of the devil…#fangtheflats… another hill… FFS… it is so beautiful out here… chase to get on…the ‘fast boys’ will be finishing now (I wish I were stronger and could concentrate my suffering into 8 hours… 50% longer in the saddle sucks)… not another muesli bar or gatorade EVER… Vikings people!… more downhill only means more uphill… almost 200km done… might just make it… km remaining/ (13hrs- elapsed time)@ average climbing speed… one more ‘climb’ (but its the worst)… only 20 ‘unfamiliar’ km left and almost 4000m climbed…not even many incidental ‘ups’ can be left now… sun setting…faster means colder…#getitdone…at Mount Cope… did this yesterday… almost home… #alldownhillfromhere… head down… TT…this is why I love cycling… last few bends… don’t stack it now… the chute…the line… don’t cry!
And there they were… the Vikings… the guys who finished hours ago still there… cheering, waving… (I cried). Thanks Mark for the hug!
These were (are) my people…my tribe… I was (am) back in a ‘team’.. Not just the team at the start or finish line… the team in the kitchen, in the garage, at the coffee shop, in the village… on Strava and chat with messages of support before and after… the team on the dark mornings… in the dark moments…
The people are everything…
Andrew Steele ‘Fozzy’
I had forgotten what an exhilarating feeling it was to be part of a team- committed, united in the pursuit of a common goal… the components of a machine, diverse and complementary in their function, working seamlessly together to take the collective further than any individual had imagined possible.
So much more than a ride!
Never take a single kilometer for granted… we are so lucky to be able to do what we do – with one another! Enjoy ALL of it!