The following day, a dome of crisp, deep blue sky accompanied us. We rode arched over handlebars, the feeling of chain and oil being cycled through forceful strokes below.
No descending false flats or tailwind.
Only an elegant machine propelled by the wheel at the rear and the rider in front.
We’d been riding for several kilometres. The landscape fixed like a stage backdrop.
The numbing, uninterrupted road suddenly met us with a long, sharp turn.
Only a grey wall to our right now and the distant glint of water below.
Our gloves and shoes were wet from the steady light rain. No matter. The physical sensation of cold was countered by the warmth of camaraderie.
Even our pace it seemed was in unison, and from one stop to the next, all that could be heard was the sound of a single derailleur.
Before we knew it, the inn was near.
I was riding solo and had miscalculated everything: the number of detours, the amount of climbing, the condition of the road. And especially, the wind blowing from all directions, rebuffing me head-on incessantly.
The day’s yellow light dims as time circles on, a towering purple shadow now appears alongside me.
My mind is empty at last, and the movie rolls silently in slow motion.
After a few kilometres, I start to stare at the handlebars. Right then, they strike me as a work of art.
I am accustomed to these moments of wonder that pierce the everyday, a result perhaps of the day’s intense heat and exertion.
I imagine their shape separate from the bike, like a flawless sculpture. A continuous line whose curves are fashioned from beauty and sweat.
That morning everything was made of concrete – the city, its streets, the apartment, the bedroom, my head, my mind.
I go through the motions, repeated a hundred times, always in the same order. I fill the pockets of my jersey.
At the edge of the city, I head towards uninhabited land. I glimpse clusters of trees and then denser woods.
These familiar green giants, lit from behind by a dazzling blue, lift my spirits.
After streets and boulevards, I arrive at a fork in the bike path that leads into a forest. Despite being paved, it’s little used. Reality shifts as my imagination spins a narrative; I am the lone protagonist whose destination is not entirely clear.
Behind me, out of view, the derailleur takes on a presence, following my movement.
I pick up the pace, yet I simply cannot shake my fictitious pursuer.
The midday sun pressed down. We were moving in small packs as if the road belonged to us alone.
I manoeuvred from one to another, discreetly taking up the last wheel like a nameless guest.
I stayed at the head longer than I should when the pace slackened. My pride deflates, hissing like a punctured tube.
The pace is too fast, I hang on, short of breath. The lesson in humility is decidedly quick.
Waking on the fourth day, my limbs are lead-heavy. The elation of the first few days replaced by doubt and aching.
I put on my jersey and disappear behind the uniform. Joining the other riders, the show of team colours has a bracing effect.
It doesn’t take long before I feel as if I’m on a train. Our first hill approaches. We climb it as one, the slope lower and the time shorter than it should be.
It was just me and a friend. We had countless rides behind us and together had earned the status of breakaway companions.
In cycling, the bond between riders is measured in miles.
We veer off on paths the others don’t know about and, arriving back, we slap hands, that satisfied gesture, signalling once again the peloton had failed to catch us.