The more things change, the more they stay the same – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1849.
I’d planned on a definite break from riding after coming back from Belgium and finishing my last race for the year. After 47 race days in 2017, I was ready for both a mental and physical reboot. By mid-September I could still find the motivation to race come the day, but my enthusiasm to train hard was ebbing. The only desire I had to get out on the bike was to stick it in the little ring and spin to the nearest caff. Moreover, although I could force myself to batter my body for a race, I knew that a physical rest at the end of the year would do me some good. Some people say they’ll try everything once, but I’m not so sure about chronic fatigue.
However, when I got back to blighty, no dust settled on my trusty Bottecchia. I had to catch up with the many cyclists I’m “lucky” enough to call friends and ride the club runs I’ve seen shape me over the years. I had to tell them about my adventures in Belgium! Plus I found that I was plain bored without cycling in my life. I wasn’t riding “vol gas” all day so I think my body got some downtime but I never gave myself the full extent of rest I’d intended.
I did my best to hang out with some non-cycling friends, since a summer of racing had meant I’d barely seen any of my childhood mates; I managed to catch up with a few guys and found these meetings delightfully refreshing. But although some had already left for university, I wondered if the lack of non-cycling friends in my life was a self-inflicted byproduct of the importance I’d placed on racing and training over the past years. I found time time to go swimming in Hampstead Ponds but the best days were those spent in the saddle with good company.
My sister had just been given her first road bike for her birthday, so it would be wrong not to head out on the road to stick a proper half-wheel on for her first rides. Cycling is probably the only thing I have ever done to a higher standard than my sister, so now was an essential opportunity to drop her on all our local climbs. As a workaholic and talented musician, scientist and sportswoman I’ve sometimes wondered if the reason I’ve pushed myself so hard at cycling is to have something which I can claim to be acceptably good at. However with her picking up cycling, she’ll probably be “catching up” with me faster than I can keep progressing in the sport. Our lives aren’t dominated by a sibling rivalry but I still felt bitter-sweet racing her on her first ride up swains lane. It brought back memories of early mornings of racing up the climb on my first bike in toe-clips before school.
a more stylish beginner than myself
but that’s not hard…
Now the leaves have turned from green to brown. The racing for this year has come to an end. I moved back to York for my final year at university at the end of September but despite new modules and lecturers the rigid structure of each week feels so routine. I started working with a new coach and exploring new roads. I’ve switched from the summer race bike to the old winter trainer. But through all these changes I have a strong sense of persistence. In a calming way nothing feels new.
I can be grinding up a French Alp one day, or being dragged down a Flemish gutter, or spinning down a Yorkshire lane, but the persistence of riding remains. The rhythm may change pace but the turning of the pedals is constant; I feel the same sense of purpose being in the saddle.
I like to think I’ll keep posting over the coming months but I won’t place that pressure or expectation on myself.