January 23, 2017

by Tao Geoghegan Hart

Palm tree’s sway, momentarily defeating the laws of physics as their heads bow down almost to their toes. As I look beyond their animated branches, white topped waves crash down, spray flying in all directions in to the air. We speed along effortlessly, the wind on our tails. As we pass yet another row of empty off-season hotels and shuttered up shops, I can’t help but think that the accelerations of life dwarf the prevailing speed of the group.

Months prior I had been peering over the fence, attempting to glimpse at a world that I had long dreamed of being a part of. I would get the odd taste; a fleeting moment of where it was I wanted to find myself. But ultimately, it was always exactly that, momentary. I wasn’t there.

We have now wound our way up in to the hills, the pace slower and a little less effortless. The rocks to my left are stunning. Towering high above the road, they are littered with mountain goats and two trees that sway gently in perfect synchronicity, a world away from the blustery coast. The view is a welcome distraction as my heart pumps away, precisely twenty-eight times every ten seconds. I refocus down to my bars, weary not to let the numbers drop as my mind wanders. I pull up and push down, searching for that day when I will simply glide uphill.

An estate pulls up alongside me, a long lens peering out of the rear window. I watch it for a moment or two, eyes falling deep in to the camera. I imagine I can see in to the eye of the operator through the many sophisticated optics. Perhaps it makes the experience a little less faceless. The car hovers, its engine audibly adjusting to maintain my pace amongst the constant changes of gradient. I look back down to the bars, focused on the effort, where it will take me.

And then just like that it drives off up the road, the lens searching for its next target. I enjoy the tranquillity of the climb all the more now that it has been highlighted by the prying camera, invading in upon my fifteen minutes of zone four. For a while I don’t really hear anything, wary only of my breathing. I don’t even search for the top of the climb, the top is fifteen minutes, that is all that matters.

A motorbike soon appears by my side with a man perched precariously on the back and facing the wrong way, another large camera in hand. He is as wrapped up as me and completely unrecognisable, even if I did know the face beneath the helmet. The next three minutes sees the pairing explore their angles; drawing level, surging ahead and shadowing me from behind. They never intrude, or interrupt, but they are always there.

I press lap. Fifteen minutes complete. I pull over to put my cape on, my protection from the winter chill that immediately starts to creep in with the effort done. There is a moment to look around. I’m a little higher up now, almost above the rocks and their goats. My breath lingers in the air. I pull my neck warmer up over my nose, eyes retracing my route down below, a twisting tarmac ribbon that erratically changes direction as it dissects the land.

Hours later and scrolling online I see a gallery of my favourite team out training. I scroll the images, some of the biggest names in the sport sliding across my screen. They appear so effortless. They are who I hope to emulate in the future, over there on the other side of the fence.

Then I click again. My face fills the screen, albeit slightly hidden under sunglasses. It’s hard to miss – freckles and flicks of hair escaping from under the sides of my helmet, catching the late-afternoon sun.

I guess somewhere I jumped the fence, moving too fast to quite comprehend.

Time to go exploring.

Photos by Samuel Cook

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