Dust Endures Men
6:30am. Today we’ve got a long ride ahead of us. There’s 160 km ahead with a total ascent of 2200 metres. Not bad.
The pre-ride ritual starts. Coffee with milk, as usual. Some fresh fruit, toast and a couple of eggs.
It’s time to get ready: bike check and selection of today’s kit. White jersey, navy bibs and white socks. White helmet and white shoes. Of course, matching glasses must be white too. Let’s go!
The others turn up in blue, beige and light pink.
We face the first climb after 35 km of quite a flat route. There is something in the air that dyes it yellow. It’s hot, really hot and getting a little hard to breathe. The second climb feels easier I have to admit, but the last one promises to be the hardest. We’ll face it after a quick coffee break and food. Spanish tortilla, local tomatoes and bread for all of us.
Back on the saddle, we’ve still got 60 km to ride. The sun is pounding down on us and it feels like there’s just not enough oxygen to inhale. “See you at the top”, we say to one another, like we always do. The road is dirty, the temperature has reached 34°C and the legs are burning. Vertical slopes, insane zig zags and, finally, the “top of the summit” sign at the end of a seemingly never-ending road. We make it. We applaud and pat one another on the back. That feeling is unbeatable.
The usual post-climb chatter begins. “That was hard dude!”, “I think I beat my personal best”, “The cheek! He was on my tail the whole time and then passed me in the last 1km!”, “Hey, I took some cool shots of you, so stop complaining!” Now, it’s time for the descent and for the last 20 km push. It’ll be easy in comparison to that uphill scramble we just did. We’ll make it back in good time.
At home, I peel my kit off, half-drenched in sweat. Glasses, helmet, shoes, then clothes. That’s always the order. My clean white socks have turned brown. My white jersey is no longer white anymore. It’s more like a dusty white. There’s something incredibly satisfying about looking at the dust on my kit. It seems to me like pieces of my journey have stuck with me and made it all the way home, like little memories or memorabilia of the feat. My legs and arms also carry that mountain dust, proof that I was there. I watch the little particles of dust wash off me in the shower and feel that euphoric satisfaction you always get after an arduous ride. Suddenly I get a message on our cycling WhatsApp group. The guys are sending pictures of their dirty kits, too. “It was an epic route today,” we all agree. It’s really incomparable, that elation, that adrenaline, that pride. That’s why I love cycling. There must be something addictive about it, because I’m already excited for the next ride.
By the way, our WhatsApp group is called "Dust Endures”.