It is good share. Good for the world, who ever is being assisted and your own view of yourself. It is the right thing to do.
In the race book it was a long stage. 175km with 8km neutralised. We were, as a team worried about getting enough food and water for the long race day ahead, not to mention the a worrying climb at half distance, a 3km Cat 2. Going back to the cars for bottles looks easy for the Professional cyclists. For us mortal warriors, dropping out of a safe, fast and protected bunch, evokes a similar feeling to going ‘over the top’ in trench warfare. A minute ago you were safe. Now dropping back, past the neutral service and Chief commissaire car, you may never see your friends again. Gone ‘out the back’; unless you have a one minute 550 watt effort to rejoin the peloton.
So the dad of one of the guys on the team said he would hand us each a bottle with a gel taped to it, on the top of that Cat 2 climb which would be enough to get through the last 55km with just over an hour to the finish line. This dad was old, not old and frail, but older, like he had found love late in life- but was keen. Problem solved. Warm-up time.
Furious racing, break at 50 seconds and everyone wanting to win. The climb was anti-gravity mental. Pushing the big ring and mid block up 8%, I was sucked up and along by the energy and panic of 150 riders.
Gaps started to appear and grow between riders in the last km on the switchbacks. I was fine only 100m and going to make it – so I started to look for ‘the dad’ on the right hand side as agreed. The road side was empty of dad. The gaps were growing and the top of the climb was just there. Dadless. No feed- F$£@.
Straight over the top and into a low rev, grinding shift into the 53 ring and the chase was on to the back of the bunch. About 300 meters past the top, when I was doing 65kph on the left hand side of the road, stood the dad with a bottle outstretched. If I was able to cross to the road to get the bottle I would have had his arm off. I just flashed by enough to hear “..trouBLE PArking”
Down the descent, flat road to the finish. I was dead, the climb had sapped my last energy. Pockets were empty, but it had rained for the first hour so you don’t drink enough in the rain and I had water. I wheeled up to my team mate and asked if he had any food. He looked at me with a tight mouth and moved his head up and to the right about 2 cm. That said: “sorry pockets empty and did you see the silly wanker looking to do a feed on the gravel descent?!” We were brothers in despair. A late called pothole separated us in the bunch.
I ventured on. About 5km later on an old friend looked at me, probably surprised that I was still there. He is a legend and is always there. Good riders don’t need as much food and water as shite riders, as the whole race taxes their body less. “Bit screwed I said, missed the feed” He reached a tanned , beautiful arm into his back pocket and pulled out a gold foil Powerbar and pushed it towards me, he nodded and promptly attacked in the left hand gutter.
The bar reflected the sun and my joy. It was a rope out of a canyon. The antidote to the virus. It was the red wire cut with 3 second remaining to the bomb. I open it and inhaled half of it. I would keep the other half for my team mate. It was PowerBar’s Cookies and Cream which tasted like all the other Powerbars: half-cooked cake dough and small stones. I could feel the energy flow through my legs. Half a bar is better than no bar and it would help two of us. I looked around for my team mate and couldn’t see him in the thinning peloton. Perhaps it was too late for him. l would just have another little bit.
Still 40km left and the initial lift was gone.
I reached in and broke another bit, but more came off than I expected. I looked around before I put it in my mouth to see where my mate was… or to make sure he didn’t catch me.
Then some sort of twisted logic seized me. What is the point in sharing now? There is only a 1/4 left. It wasn’t enough to get him to the finish. How could I explain only giving him 1/4 bar. “Did someone only give you half a bar?” So I ate it. I pushed the wrapper into my bib shorts- guiltily like hiding a hammer with blood on it.
About 2km later my team mate appeared beside me with a look on his face that could only mean 2 things. Both of them magical. We have raced together for years. He is a good person. We are brothers. He was delighted about something.. The bunch was lined out, not full gas, but when everyone is tired and there is an organised chase, it is sometimes just easier to follow the wheel . So riding beside me in the wind was hard, but he was still smiling.
“ Kevin gave me a bar- here I kept half of it for you”
He reached to me what could only be described as the larger half of a hastily broken bar.
His eyes were heavy with the joy of sharing.
My eyes were full and confused. What was I supposed to say- “Actually I had a full bar and I didn’t keep you any, so you should eat this.”
So I ate it. It was too complicated not to .
It tasted awful. Bitter from my own actions.
3 guys all gave me something and I gave nothing. So unimpressed was I with my own action that the universe reminds me when ever I see a Powerbar; that I try to share what ever I have , when ever I have it.
And I will always know never, ever to try and hand a rider a bottle 300 meters into a gravel descent.