Sat on my toptube, left foot still clipped in, heart racing a little. Taking in my surroundings.
We had just ridden up a tiny little lane, the type that winds its way up the side of a hill at a ludicrous gradient in the way only European roads do so. The sort of road that would never find it’s way into the conformity of a map, but could still reveal so much.
However after a few kilometres of droopy tarmac [as a good friend recently announced mid ride, cyclists naturally become Tarmac connoisseurs, whether they like it or not] rather than snake up and over the hill, this slither unexpectedly stopped. On a climb like this you find yourself accelerating a little every so often, regardless of the time of year, the training notes, simply with the excitement of seeing what the next steep little rise or hairpin will bring.
It brought a lovely little place that I immediately fell in love with. A barnyard on one side, a small stone farmhouse on the other, perched precariously on the hillside like many of the buildings in this part of the world are. We weren’t lost, but equally we didn’t know where we were. Seizing the sense of adventure that comes with new surroundings is all a part of the world we live in. Eternally we hope these new and mysterious lanes may crest the hill and reveal an undiscovered place, and rewardingly, they often do so.
The little lane, the journey along it, had the potential for a story at the least. One of the beauties of this sport being that even if we rest almost incessantly when not pedalling, we see such vast amounts of landscape and culture whilst in the saddle. In particular my appreciation of architecture and nature, wherever I may be, grows exponentially daily. In the moments before we found ourselves here, we skirted around a beautiful lake, yesterday took the coast road and tomorrow will discover a new mountain pass.
But back to the hillside, and an old man slowly walks from the open doorway. The heat now apparent having stopped, an English-Spanish blend drifted our way in the afternoon sun. I noted the slippers and from his gentle smile, a deep appreciation of our journey. He needn’t know the intricacies of what had lead us to his doorstep, nor who we were, he understood cycling.
For just as the signs on the road, directing drivers to leave enough space for cyclists, reveal the sports embedded culture in this part of the world, so too did the directions we went on to gather. Possibly not even needed, for we could only take the same road down before choosing another to chase over the crest of the hillside, I took them, and gratefully, all the same. If only to immerse myself in the surroundings, listen to the local lingo and have a story to share around a busy dining table.
I soon pick up enough of his words to bid him ta luego, and resume training. For amongst all the adventure and unknowns, that is the number one agenda of each day, to train.
And yet, on the next climb a little while later, winding our way up to Sant Hilari, I remember the gratitude of the man, his happiness at seeing us. With that memory on this beautiful road, climbing skyward for twenty-five kilometres, looping around hairpins and under tree cover, I feel completely immersed in my adopted home for the Winter. Revelling, despite the challenges and sometimes strange ways.