We had fantastic £26 flights booked to Pisa and a car reserved to whisk bikes and bodies to Siena. We weren’t travelling to see the Renaissance wonders within the city walls or any of the 17 districts and the horses and blah, Gothic… blah. ALL of my longing for culture evaporated by the simple desire to ride my bike over the dusty, (must be dusty- in my fantasy, it can’t rain) stones of the Strade Bianche.
Then fecking Covid. And yes, it was only a little trip and people you didn’t know were sick and jobs were dissolving – I understand fully, the minutiae of my moan, nothing in the turning of the world, but before people you know starting suffering to put the cancellation of a holiday in perspective, it was a personal blow.
As the great prophet Andy Dufresne said “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I kicked the dream a year down the road and said we will ride the white gravel roads in 2021. You get up, you move on. That single objective, that hope of March in the saddle, in Tuscany, kept me smiling all last lockdown.
After the confined year we have all endured- the masks and standing outside of graveyards; dreams have been shelved and the daily reality of curtailed routine is now the master. From last Autumn I began to doubt that I would get to ride the white roads in 2021 and by Christmas I had to come to terms with it. We had settled in to nothing amazing. Same shit at the same time was the normal of survival.
Do you know who dropped by for coffee? NO ONE! Lockdown 2 was was inspired by the teachings of another great prophet Clint Eastwood. He stood tall on Heartbreak Ridge and shouted “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome!”
It is mental poison to fixate on what’s not there, what can’t happen. Happiness is found in accessible reality. So I re-found joy in less lauded rides. I can’t get on that £26 Ryanair flight and that is OK. So what can I do?… Right, let’s do that. Local lanes have become the world championship course and my new found skill to get dropped at the start of any climb, that’s ANY rise, is perhaps down to Covid too, but I still return home with a smile. With tired legs from a smashing local spin, I sat down on Saturday to watch the final 50km of Strade Bianche, just as they were exiting the San Martino in Grania.
Transfixed for a hour and amazed at Mathieu van der Poel’s attack into the Piazza del Palio, the dream exploded within me again. I want to ride it! I need to ride those lanes with shoulder high vines just coming into leaf.
I have again checked flights for 2022, twice. Too early. Too keen. It is part of this difficult time that we can look forward. We should plan a future. Lockdown 3 just punctured most of us. I think it is healthy to dream of the flip side and to plan for it. I’m going to go and sprint into that Palio square in 2022.
I will sit in a cafe lit by the low evening sun and move my chair to catch the last of the light. The legs will be empty after a day in the saddle. A glass of wine is in my hand, a local big Chianti and an empty can of coke and 40 full stories fill my head with a cocktail of white dust and salt caked to my face. I will listen to the third prophet of the day Benjamin Button. A wise old-ish man
“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.”
Perhaps we will meet in Siena, next year.