On Sunday May 5, 2019 I did something that in 1995 I vowed to never do again. I started and finished Almonte-Roubaix.
To write that May 5, 2019 in Almonte was a special day would be an understatement. This day and this ride has so much meaning and specialness wrapped up in its 80 kilometres that frankly I’m at a loss for words.
I was nervous to do this race/ride. I know that it can be fast, aggressive, hard on the spirit, and downright soul-sucking (that crazy uphill s-bend).
Since 1995 I’ve said that I don’t ride Almonte-Roubaix. I attempted it in 1995. Let’s just leave that ride experience like this: snow in April, no GPS navigation, got lost, chased by dogs, crying, and a roadside rescue by Ian Austen and Bob Simpson (for which I am forever grateful). So yeah, not a great experience and not one I wanted to repeat.
The only way I’ve come close to Almonte-Roubaix in recent years was riding to Almonte to greet Marc at the finish and to hear the stories of epic riding, crazy mud, and exhilaration. Deep down, even though I had long promised never to do this ride, I kind of wanted to be part of it.
And this year I was. It was awesome. My legs hurt a lot. At one point I didn’t think I’d make it up that last climb on Darling Road. The forest sections got my blood pumping in a good way. The camaraderie was like nothing else.
What really made my day were the other riders. Before the event started, it felt like every 5 minutes someone was giving me a hug, asking about my health, or telling me how great it was I was out riding.
And then during the ride, so many people commented on how great it was to see me out riding and asked how I was feeling.
Just thinking about these interactions and conversations, makes my eyes rather blurry. I felt so welcomed by so many people.
This event has huge physical challenges. Gravel roads. Steep hills. Soft sand. Challenging forest sections. Wind that seems to come from every direction. But none of these mattered during that 80 kilometre ride.
Even though I was well into the red and my legs were shouting rather loudly at me, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was doing it. I was riding Almonte-Roubaix. Just a little over a year after my latest surgery, I was out there being a bike racer (sort of) again.
I was with people who get why it’s fun to ride bikes and push their bodies. I was with people who inspire me to get up and do things that scare and challenge me. If they (you) can do it – so can I.
A real treat of this 2019 edition was riding the last 20 kilometres or so with Marc. Unfortunately luck was not on his side and by the time we connected, Marc had fixed three flat tires.
This misfortune meant that Marc helped myself and bunch of other very happy cyclists finish the ride with a higher level of comfort than anticipated. (Marc did end up with one more flat tire after the final forest section – turns out I’m not always a good luck charm.)
This truly was a memorable day for me. I got to spend a large part of the ride with a good friend. I got to make new friends and talk to others who I haven’t seen in a long while.
I got to feel part of it all over again. It’s so valuable to me to be back.
Somehow this ride has made up for years of not being able to do what I wanted. For me, Almonte-Roubaix 2019 was more than just a ride.
(Many thanks to Peter for organizing the ride and for putting in many hours of time so we could all go out and ride bikes with friends.)