I clicked into well worn pedals, long before the sun came up this morning. The last spin before Galibier towers is elevated to lockdown Level 658 and we are advised to only talk to people in photographs, taken before March. For the lovely 10 degree start, I was dressed in our Roubaix jersey with a Zoncolan Gilet on top to keep me seen and warm on the busy roads to meet the group. The misfits I ride with are 27km and half a mountain away. I had Sean’s company this morning to get me there on time. Some poor young lad had died in a car crash during the night, so we had an extra 5 km diversion to make it to the meet. Sean’s engine elevated my own. He is stronger and only half-wheels me, the half wheel. Never the full wheel- so I am thankful for the pity. I think he only comes out riding here as I can only answer him with single vowels and nods so taxed are my lungs. Must be like a therapy session for him. His heart rate monitor showing double digits when mine is pinging above threshold. On any given ride with Sean, I come back with sore legs, he comes back with only a sore neck, straining to look back around to talk.
When we met up with the flashing red lights and smiles, my lungs recover back into the chest cavity. The small group of weirdos ride south for a while. Real weirdos, the sort you would cross to the other footpath on a dark lane, but they are my weirdos. When Karl, the king of the misfits said through his massive head- “see you in 6 weeks”- I felt sad.
The lockdown is mad, the whole thing is mad but rather than listen to George from Facebook – I will listen to the epidemiologists and hope the hospitals and staff can cope. It is when the group rides off, and gone; that I understand why I will miss them. We all ride together and through the same headwinds and close passes by impatient, black Audi drivers. The bond of brothers and sisters survives the rain that appears from nowhere, the ripped tyre and the abuse that a brown chain can attract. It is this bond that will also survive the next 6 weeks and the cafes being closed. I just hope when this covid headwind eases, the cafe’s get enough assistance and are there to reopen and the misfits can ride again into the same lanes, at 2 metres distance, just a half wheel behind Sean.