Saturday, February 16, 2013

Blank Canvas

Blizzard, Peter Forg, Somerville MA
For many of my cycling friends, winter is the time for making big plans. Like the vast snowscape outside, the seasons ahead spread out, blank canvas-like, glittering with possibilities. We are increasingly spoiled for choice here: Beautiful unpaved rides, formal and informal brevets, invitational weekend getaways - it's enough to make one's head spin. And it all requires budgeting, scheduling, prioritising, oftentimes with advanced planning and registration. And so in the coldest days of February, over cups of scalding coffee, cyclists speak in agonised whispers of events to come in the summer months.

I used to listen with curiosity and detached amusement. As someone who generally resists planning, I could not imagine scheduling a summer's worth of weekends around cycling events. But this time around I am getting swept up in it all. 

Staring at the pile of snow outside my window, I find myself considering a hill climb race. I don't expect to do well at all, but I think I might enjoy it. Feeling that is a surprise to me; wanting to do it is a surprise. But when I imagine the climbing and the festive atmosphere, I want to be there - pedaling and feeling the strain, delirious as I strive for a summit I might not have the stamina to reach. Weird, isn't it, the things we can enjoy.

Plodding along the riverside trail, I contemplate this year's brevet series. I love the idea of randonneuring. But truthfully, I don't think I am serious about it - or ready for it, depending on how you look at it. On long rides that pass through beautiful places, what I really want to do is explore, carry a big camera, stop any time I like and constantly take photos - which is at odds with being on the clock. It might make more sense to finally put aside some time for a light multi-day tour. 

Cleaning the salt and crud off my bike after a slushy outing, I remember long dreamy rides on unpaved roads. It seems almost fictional now: Going from the "baby" D2R2 route to the hair-raising loose descents of the Kearsarge Klassic in a matter of weeks, riding borrowed bikes with unfamiliar components, rental cars at 5:00 in the morning... Absurd. But oh how I long to do it again (minus the borrowed bikes, I hope), and how I long to find more rides in the same vein. I am even willing to plan in advance and make commitments. 

This winter is turning out to be brutal. But the months ahead are a blank canvas, and putting down the initial sketch is keeping me sane. 


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