Taking on the Etape
If there’s anything I’ve learned about myself in the past couple of years, it’s the importance of goals being a major motivator for me. We’ll ignore why it took me most of my life to figure that out and just rejoice that I finally have. That said, I have taken on a goal/challenge for 2013 that may just be the craziest thing I’ve done yet. On July 7th, I will ride the Etape du Tour, a 130km leg of the Tour de France, through the Alps (that’s mountains y’all!). Why is this crazy? Well, because I’m not a cyclist. But once we overcome that small hurdle, I’ve got me some mountains to cycle up.
Why am I doing this? A few months ago, I was giving a talk about women and fitness at The Hospital Club and a representative from Rapha (rather awesome cycling brand) was in the crowd. She said she’d like to meet me the day next. I went to the meeting, not sure what to expect. ‘Love what you’ve done with Team Bangs on the Run,’ she said. ‘Do you think you could do that with cycling?’ ‘Sure!’ I said. ‘Do you currently cycle?’ ‘Well, I have a fixie that I occasionally ride to meetings in East London, maybe covering about 10 miles round trip.’ I saw this as a hurdle, but Rapha thought it was great. A plan was formed to follow my journey from non-cyclist to participant in one of the toughest bike challenges out there.
What really sealed the deal for me was learning that out of the roughly 9000 people who take part in the Etape each year, on average, only about 250 are women. As soon as I heard that, I knew I had to do it. When looking at general bike use, it’s about a 50/50 male-female split – so what is it that is putting women off from taking their cycling up a notch?
I’m really looking forward to diving into the cycling world. I am incredibly lucky to have a bit of a crack team behind me in the form of Rapha, who have already offered a wonderful amount of support and Team Sky, who I still can’t quite believe have built me a bike.
The bike arrived last week and my biking mentor, the wonderful Collyn Ahart, helped me put it together (I say ‘helped’ – she did it while I watched, completely baffled). I then spent the week staring at it in awe. I had to get on it, I knew I had to get on it, but I was petrified. It seems ridiculous – I’ve ridden bikes before – but I’ve never ridden with clip-in pedals. While I seem to have no problem sparring with men at boxing, for some reason the thought of falling off a bike was filling me with dread.
This past weekend, I decided to bite the bullet and finally get on the bike. I sat on it in the house for a while, practicing clipping in and out of the pedals, then I took it to the streets. It reminded me of the first time I rode a bike without stabalizers, my dad trotting along behind me. This time, my other half rode alongside me on my fixie, ready to deal with the wreckage if the worst happened. After a shaky start when I almost took a tumble, I quite literally found my feet and took off. I just went round the block five times, clipping and unclipping, trying to get used to it. And let me just say this, riding a Pinarello Dogma 2 is somewhat like riding on a cloud. So smooth.
So, for anyone who’s ever said ‘I can’t do that’, consider me your guinea pig as I journey to the Etape and delve into a world I have no knowledge of, challenging myself physically more than ever before. I’m doing it because I want all women to have the confidence to take on something they think they can’t, especially if it’s something that’s very male dominated and we feel a bit edged out of. I’m doing it to show you it’s possible.
This will, without question, be one of the hardest things I will ever do in my life. I hope it inspires you to take on a challenge yourself.
With all that being said, I’ll be spending a whole lot of time on the bike next year – if you’re a cyclist and would like to join me for some rides, please do get in touch!