Why do we ride? To feel more alive. What is that about? It’s about feeling the full gamut of emotions available to us. Many of us have a lifestyle foisted on us, by society. Our jobs, our roles in the world, mean we might be metaphorically tied to a desk on a weekly basis, limited in free time every year, and genetic accident might mean we are born into places where the weather keeps us indoors for too long each year. None of this is what we as animals, in our deepest inner pockets of desire really wanted from our life – but when we get on our bikes, we leave this stuff far behind us, and FLY.
People often ask me why I ride ridiculous distances, over redonkulous mountains, in incredulous temperatures – why suffer? And how could I possibly enjoy it? As an endurance athlete and a cycling coach I can tell you that I do enjoy it. Hurting obviously hurts at the time, and at the point of origin. But it’s a synergistic activity – i.e. you get more out of it than you put in. Suffer a bit on a climb and do it faster than last time, and the joy of success, the pride of improvement, and the thrill of progress, by far outweighs the pain of the moment – which is over and gone by the time you are experiencing the other, positive, three. And there is other emotional mathematics that are basically alchemy in endurance sport – and that is that other people can be the ones putting the suffering in, but you yourself can share the positive feelings re improvement with them, afterwards! It’s like a magic box that you put one dash of suffering into, and you get 10 units of joy out, to share amongst you.
The Girona Cycling Festival is a step above other European Sportives because it is so chock full of FEELING, and COMMUNITY. For that reason I opted to summarise my experience here this week, at my 3rd GCF, in emotional terms:
– rode my bike around this paradise I call home LOADS.
– met up with a core of people who can’t stop coming back here to do the same.
– spoke to at least 13 people about moving here, and how to make it work.
– despite heat exhaustion in one race, and bad mechanical luck in 2 others, managed to pull off a 16th, 11th, and top 10 (tbc) in the 3 races.
– watched my friends/colleagues in Bike Breaks CC and associated small Girona businesses make a real success out of the week, and show off our idyll to great effect.
– I would have loved to find out what could have been, if I’d made it to the finish line in the lead group of the 125km fondo, and not punctured with 10km to go.
– Ditto the Nocturn – had my pedals not chosen that evening to pop my cleats out on the steep cobbles, my 5th lap might have been fast enough to move up from 11th
– I’d love to have seen my performance on the Els Angels hill climb had it been 10 degrees cooler, like last year – especially given that I am stronger this year on all fronts (segments, wattage, muscle mass, even mentally).
BUT THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS IN CYCLING – AND WE MOVE ON TO THE NEXT RACE.
– we lost a rider this week. Presumably, it was the heat and intensity of the Els Angels hill climb, which claimed the life of Paul Lawes on Tuesday. A shocking loss for his family, to lose someone suddenly, whilst here visiting a place they love, so Paul could do something he loved. A shock for the Girona cycling community, our event, and our club, and something that possibly can never truly be gotten over, but rather just become part of us all. We won’t forget you Paul.
– I rode myself silly this week. I pulled my weight in the lead group all morning yesterday, in some pretty hot company, not to mention hot weather. To have a former pro tell me you ride “a la puta mare” (better than it sounds, but translates to “really effin’ hard”) put a smile on my face.
– We (Michelle and I, with help from Arlene and Mei Vidal Ligero) put on two AMAZING (if I do say so myself) cake and coffee stops, at our Halo Cycling Project base, La Bruguera de Púbol (http://www.halovelo.cc/la-bruguera-de-pubol). I was proud of our new business ventures, talking to cyclists about our coaching clients, our retreats, our holiday rentals, and showing off our brownies (which several people this week have confirmed my suspicion that they are the best in the world, though that doesn’t stop Michelle from continuing the quest for chocolatey perfection and world domination).
– I was really pleased to be able to offer up our place on Wednesday, as a haven of calm, peace and coming-together, for the 60 or more riders who came, after the events of Tuesday. Of course we could not have planned this, but I know that the work we have put into the forest garden here created a place suited to the mood and mental health needs of the riders on the day, and for this I am proud, but even more so feel honoured that we were able to provide that service to the cycling community.
– I watched my 68 year old Mother, Arlene Duff, finish the Els Angels hill climb, and the Gran Fondo distance, having come back to cycling after four surgeries on her shoulder and wrist (including two operations to put in an artificial shoulder), in heat that her Irish body really only thought you could encounter if you were sent to some Catholic hell for wearing short skirts or not drinking enough Guinness. Having coached her through the last months of cycling training, I am sort of proud of myself, but see it much more as her achievement. Her comment to me that I was the “only person to have gotten two people up the hill climb” did make me pretty emotional though.
*Forward looking excitement*
– Most of all, I am left today feeling really excited about where this event and our lovely community can go from here. Every year the Bike Breaks team, and all the small businesses who collaborate to make this event happen, prove that it can get better and better.
– I can’t wait to meet the next new people who attend, the next group of people who come once, then decide to move here, and to see the “regulars” again next year. The quality and social nature of this event creates a people peloton that is simply unrivaled in the sportives that I have visited and ridden worldwide.
– We’ve also taken pitstops to a new, unparalleled level. I have to say, the shop ride coffeestops that Halo Cycling Project and Bike Breaks Girona Cycle Centre put on at La Bruguera have made life difficult for every other sportive, from now on – having shifted the bar up to a heavenly world of swimming pools, espresso, brownies, frittatas with produce grown on-site, and forest gardens. And the feed stops by federal cafe girona and Sleep & Stay on the Gran Fondo got some rave reviews (although I’ll have to take people’s word for it since our lead group managed to race past before they’d even set up – ZOOOOOM).
– The growth of Girona as a cycling mecca – speaking to the press corps here this week (Emily from Casquette, Bram from Wielrenblad, Colin from Cycle Reviewer) and meeting ambassadors and business owners from Sismic Wear, Queen of the Mountains and Le Col among others) it is clear that this place ticks SO many boxes in the cycling world, as a destination of choice. I am so proud to be part of the business community which makes Girona better year on year, for cycling, active tourism, self-improvement and natural pursuits.
So once again, thanks to the team at Bike Breaks Girona Cycle Centre and my teammates/family at CC Bike Breaks (Dave, Saskia, Holly, Anna R, Anna F, Birgit, Jan, Emma, Laura, Josep, Katrina, Peter, Eloi, Charles, Mike K, Des, Cristina, Cheynna, Emily, Oriol, Joan, John, Roman, Matti, Rob, Jubbe, Damon, Jeff, Howard S, Howard K, Gabriel, Roland, and anyone else I may have missed) for all they have done to make this happen. And to the attendees who make this event about community, just as much as it is about cycling.
Love to you all from the Halo Cycling Project family!