Dripping. Somewhere to the left of my sleeping bag. In the hole above I can see a few stars, distant and shrouded by some wispy clouds. I readjust my pillow, curl over and wrap my bag over my head and ignore the cold seeping under the open bottom of the teepee. Yes, teepee. Its 4am. I’m in the mountains. Sleeping in a teepee. I go back to sleep to the sound of crickets in the near and coyotes in the far. The next time I open my eyes, the canvas is revealing light on the outside, and a glance at the time reveals my alarm will be going off any second. I get out of my sleeping bag and pull on clothes, protecting the warmth cultivated inside my temporary cocoon. Slipping feet into flip flops in preparation of heading outside, the view I’m greeted with is worthy; the big tall aspens overlooking the teepee sway gently in the morning breeze, the steep sided valley being watched by the hills towering above. The peaks just receiving the first splash of sunlight.
I walk inside the house to be greeted by the eternally welcome smell of coffee percolating.
Three hours until that whole bike racing thing happens.
Porridge is cooked. Consumed. One bite of oats. One slurp of coffee. Repeat. Time is monitored: every second getting closer to the moment when morning fogginess will be replaced by the business of preparing to race. Warm clothes replaced by bright Lycra. Coffee cup replaced by plastic water bottles filled with powdered variants of sugar. Thoughts slowly turn from dreamy filled morning to the seriousness of competition ahead.
The drive to the race is contemplative. Not much talking is needed when everyone’s head is filled with competition. Registration is frenetic – each person high on their own energy, being pulled out of their world for the unwelcome exchange of number plate for money.
Warm ups happen. Racing happens, and racing ends. People win, some expectantly and others triumphantly. People loose, in states of despair and resignation. People gather around the finish area, the numbers growing as ever wearier bodies cross the line. Tales are told: the ‘massive’ rock drops grow a foot per minute. Dirt mixes with blood on the shins of the unlucky that crashed. Supporters praise and consolidate the riders; the riders themselves thank those who gave up a perfectly good Saturday to stand around and wait whilst bike racing happened.
Eventually the crowd dissipates as people move on to the next task: food for some, showers for others. Some people head out for another ride in the sunshine: now released from the need to race they can fulfill themselves with enjoyable singletrack.
We eat ice cream.
We slowly pedal to the car. My need for riding is zero, and I dismount my bike knowing I won’t touch it for a couple of days. Replacing carbon soled cycling shoes with worn flip flops feels fantastic, and we go in search of beer. Whilst conversation is slow and fragmented, we eat fast and consistently, observing people as they come and go.
The ache begins to build in my legs – not painful or strong, but just there.
Tiredness sets in.
After some more contemplation, we get in the car. The A/C is turned up and I sit back and watch as scenery passes. No matter what the race, or where it is – it’s always the same: we come, we ride, and we leave.