I like to wander in town and people watch. Look at their face and ask myself too many questions. Why is one smiling? Why is an other making a face? I make up all sorts of stories and imagine crazy scenarios. What's going on in their lifes? What if I was them? Would it be the same? I see a few insignificant seconds of their entire life, but it feels as if I could deduct so much from it. While I'm at it, I also wonder if they could beat me on a bicycle. I can't help it. The answer is always the same.
My turn to smile.
My body is like a machine. I can work it. I can push it. I can tweak it. Sometimes I damage it. I've practiced many sports and had many occasions to do all these things. Swimming, rowing, wind surfing, gymnastics, track and field, handball, tennis, running, duathlon. Oh... and cycling!
Nothing is like cycling. The dedication to become merely decent is a barrier to many. The treat is only bigger and known by few. It gives a special feeling. Everyone can go to the gym. Matter of fact, everyone does or at least has been to one. Who has ridden a century ride? Who is good on a bike a.k.a the fastest man powered vehicle? What do I care about lifting 100 kgs on a bench press? I can ride 100 k in the morning and go play football in the afternoon. Endurance.
You see, cycling is a different world, misunderstood by many. People can barely ride over a slanted bridge then wonder how professionals ride so fast. If that bridge is in town I can cross it faster than cars are allowed to. I'm no where near being a professional. This is where the problem stands. The world of difference between you and me, and the world between me and a pro. The gap is to big for a non-connaisseur. So it's a sport of dopers. Never mind, I still love it, need it.
To like the bike you need to ride it as often as possible. It's like most things. Who likes fishing if they don't catch any? No fun. Who wants to be pushed home by team mates while riding? No one. So I put in the hours. On my first year I rode 15 000 kilometers. I still was poor at it but there was no chance I'd give up. I could see light in the distance. It's only during my third year that I started weighing in at races. Over 2 years of hard work were on the verge of paying off.
One morning I went to a race with a team mate and the president of my club. There was a time trial in the morning and a hilly circuit in the afternoon. In the morning I rode in 2nd. In the afternoon I smashed the race to pieces. I was the smartest & strongest -that day-.
But the best feeling isn't winning. Winning is a few seconds of ecstasy ; that's too short. And between us, it's rarely the best rider who wins, it's the sneaky bastard who rode in the back of the pack, sheltered from the wind. I'm not that guy.
The best feeling is what came the year after. With my loyal team mate, we could send a whole race to mayhem in a matter of seconds. Take any climb ; at the bottom we'd be a peloton of 50-60 and sometimes even up to a 100, cruising up. At any given moment we could head to the front and up the pace, blowing everyone off the scene. By the time we had reached the top there were 5 or 6 people still holding on, gasping for oxygen. This was the most empowering feeling I had ever had. I could now have a major influence on an event. I was deciding how that day would go for all those guys. My goal was to send it to Hell. Don't get me wrong, they were all my friends off the bike. We'd drinks beers together or even have lunch.
But on the bike I'm a lion, and Christmas if only once a year ; no gifts today.
To my fellow team mate and best friend, always keen on riding for hours, even when the days were blistering cold or rainy and with whom I've spent some of the best and most empowering moments of my life. One day I will make a return, I promise.
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