the rain started to fall on top of the 21.
big fat drops of wet, splattering in patches onto the smooth tarmac atop the 8 kilometer descent, a beautiful descent, long and mesmeric, three hairpins and the rest a fast, flowing groove through the jungle.
but not this time, this time it was slower, more cautious than usual, the road beginning to gather water as the rain became uniform.
the sky had been turning since the first big hill. looking out my window before i set off there’d been no hint of it, blue and cloudless as far as the peaks in the distance, but 15 kilometers in the bruising began, a thick smudge of malice daubed in the west, growing.
it was trouble coming, i knew, but once you’re out you’re out i figured, and pushed on.
i felt good, going hard, the riding coming together. felt it in the thighs, in the power in my backside.
flow, on and on and on.
10,000 hours, they say. that is a heck of a lot of time.
by the bottom of the hill it was very dark, the gloaming brought to bear early, too early for me. the trees hung over the road like dirty silhouettes done in coal. I was still two hours out from home but already wishing i was there. the road barely visible now and the wind whipping, i settled in and drove the cranks around and around, pull, push, steady, relax the neck, ease the shoulders, a mantra beat out with each stroke, a revolution with each turn, not a revolution that echoed but still, i heard it, heard it through the dampness, heard it through the wind.
carry me home, legs, carry me back, you wonderful, thrumming things, and you, bike, how dare you be so perfect in this imperfect world? and always a nod to gravity for being so finely balanced to allow me this much pleasure.
repetition will set you free. repetition will set you free.
repetition, yes sir, it will set you free.
with one hour left to go i was set with a choice: long and flat and fast back to town or up the backside of the 136, 8km of climbing and then a twisting, devious downhill over slick, bad road. i chose the latter, i don’t know why. the second i turned the corner to the foot of the climb the deep black-blue above came to life with a million volts and a hounding thunder that rocked my ribs.
through the trees and up and up and finally the wind was gone. just me, the bike, the rain and the sparks above. no car passed me by, no motorcycle. all far too sensible for that.
at the top, above the town, the light returned through parting, begrudging clouds. 6pm now, it was that kind of light – the honey kind, coating, caressing, hinting at that which we feel but cannot see. it makes everything seem possible, anything forgivable.
coming back to civilisation the sun began to slink back to earth and the wires above glinted and gleamed in its quietness, the ground breathed in wisps of vapor, riders on scooters and town bikes glad-wrapped in rain jackets looked like translucent jellyfish floating at speed, and, like a giant double cliche, two perfect arcing rainbows, more intense in their colors than i’d seen before, shot up from the earth and almost had me chasing them.
i laughed to myself, then out loud.
yet again, the bike had delivered me.