Pedaling down back lanes surrounded by the bright yellows and oranges of the autumn leaves, my mind wanders from one thought to the next, from simple ideas to meaning-of-life level questions. It’s on the bike alone I have found that my mind opens itself with ease. There are times where I have felt like I have written the greatest short story of all, word after word flowing and painting these visions of adventure and peril, of emotional highs and lows of humanity and it’s all there strung effortlessly together.
The ride ends and by the time I start shoveling snacks into my face it’s gone, the words that were so readily available to me disappear like the tub of hummus I open after a few hours on the bike. I’ll stare blankly at the page and wait, thinking of the way the air felt on my face as I plummeted down a twisting descent hoping that any recollection of the sensation from the ride will send the words rushing back to the front of my thoughts, but still nothing. I’ll dig and dig but it’s to no avail, the greatest story to ever be told will have to remain just a passing thought on a perfect fall day.
Fighting to see what is happening a mere three feet in front of me through the dust and crunching gravel I pushed myself into only the third race of the year. Normally the mind narrows during these efforts, focus is simple and exact on the next corner, the next place to pass, the shoulders bumping into you, the sensation in your legs, but my mind was everywhere all at once. Over the last few seasons I have put more into pointing my camera at bike racers than I have at being one myself and that was never so apparent as it was this weekend.
I watched the group I know that I can normally ride with fade away as the cramps in my ribs worked their way into my shoulders, I sat up and soft pedaled to diminish the awful feelings. Once again I tried to pedal hard only to have the discomfort return and I let out a sigh of ‘Fuck It’. I buried my feelings in a falafel wrap and a beer and started organizing my camera gear for the races later in the day.
I watched as riders in the pro race found their pace and others struggled, where Saturday’s best riders weren’t necessarily Sunday’s and where Stephen Hyde showed that this may indeed be his year. I watched Jeremy Powers in the last lap of chasing when he is very often leading almost give off the same sigh of ‘Fuck It’ as I had earlier. I thought about the stories that have lead us to this part of the season, the late-comer BMX kid taking on the Champ, the young guns in Curtis White and Tobin Ortenblad mixing it up at the front week after week. Ellen Noble has proven that her efforts as a junior were only a preview to what she is going to do as professional rider, while Katie Compton keeps showing us why she is still the Boss.
As rider after rider flies by during the start of the race, men, women, some still just kids, they all have their own great story, beyond results and wattage and sponsorship. Often all we see emerging from the dust clouds and rainstorms are bike racers, but everyone of them has there own unique story. I keep finding myself editing photos from the weekends past and I’ll just stop and really look at the faces of the people who line up every weekend. I’ll see the color of their eyes, wondering where they came from, how they got there, what that scar on their chin is from.
I’ll wonder if they had ever snuck out of their parents home to walk around in the silence of the night, if they have ever slept out on top of a mountain, woke up in the sand as the sun is coming up over the Atlantic. So many stories there are bound to be a few great ones amongst the collective taking to the starting grid week after week.