Bloke In France: Better Living Through Cycling
It’s strange the way life twists and turns. One thing I’ve learned along some more recent switchbacks in my life is that often it’s the experiences we have in pursuit of a goal rather than the achievement of the goal itself that is most valuable; or at least this is what I have been telling myself since I came to some stark realizations about my cycling career.
I made the decision at the beginning of 2005 to make a final choice regarding my future on my 22nd birthday. That choice being whether to resume my academic career or continue my pursuit of a life as a racing cyclist. Well, after some big problems both with myself and my team I have resolved to continue cycling for “le plaisir”‚ whilst I can still bear to look at my bike.
This is not the face of a man depressed.
In my last report I talked about my most recent crash that left me with a rather sizeable hole in my knee. Since then the team has seen it fit to stop paying my expenses after I was not able to return to racing immediately. Well, that put an untimely end to my competitive season, as a self-funded racing programme was not an economic reality. It also provided the final nail in the coffin of my ambitions of a professional contract.
Getting close-up and personal with the tarmac and being left penniless by my team was a contributing factor to my eventual return to education, but the truth is, over the past few seasons in France I realized some hard truths about the reality of professional cycling. The fact is, I have met with some physiological limitations and I know now that whilst I can still improve, in order to reach the dizzy heights of professionalism one needs to be born with something special.
Upon reaching his fateful decision, James realizes he’ll have the chance to learn many new things – like how to use the flash on his camera.
I have no regrets, I have put everything into achieving this dream. I made all the sacrifices, put in all the work, went to bed at 9pm, ate a controlled and balanced diet, left behind friends and family in an attempt to perfect myself athletically. Along the way I’ve also realized that at the highest level, cycling is a “mйtier”, like any other; a job with all its trappings; elation, despair, tedium and excitement. I have had the time of my life finding out if I had what it took and now I will never look back and wonder “what if”. I can also continue to ride my bike with joy before becoming a bitter and weary rider that I sense I may have been developing into.
So what am I doing now? Still training fairly hard, but more importantly, steadily learning to enjoy the benefits of a slightly more balanced life; wine, staying up late with friends and lie in in the morning if I don’t feel like interval training! I’ve also moved apartments so I’ve been getting to know some of the tennants (average age 93 by the looks of it). Until October, I’ll stay in France, funding my stay with some work in a hotel and enjoying being immersed in the culture. Who knows what I’ll learn on this part of the journey.
Forget racing – NOW he’s living the dream – riding his bike around France in the summer on his own schedule.
MR Foux: RIP
French culture certainly demands time to be appreciated and I don’t know if I’ll ever understand it. To illustrate the point I’ll leave you with the story of the recently departed owner of my apartment block Mr. Foux R.I.P (1909-2005).
Born in Limoux (my town) son of a farmer, hard line communist, married a blue blooded French lady from the North, fought for the French rйsistance in World War II, inherited her fortune and lived the rest of his life with her trappings. To top it off it turns out that among the antiquities that surrounded him was a Louis XIV dressing table – which he was using to store his tools. You can take the boy out of the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy; I don’t think they’ll ever quite be able to extract “le vйlo” from me either.
Please forward any good-living advice, or job offers to James at: