The wheel takes off; the bike goes from under you. You try to steer, you push harder on the pedals, move your weight, try to brake. But there’s nothing you can do, your fate is already sealed. You realise you’re going to fall. Head disconnects from body, the mind deceives, a fraction of a second seems like an eternity. The ground comes up to meet you, you manage to get your foot out of the cage and you’re already flying. Just a few moments and it’s as if you’ve found the centre of gravity, the point of stability: at the centre of the vortex, space and time converge again. Then, impact! Your head spins, your temples throb, fear, pain. The heat of the blood that flows down your cheek, sticky, red, vital. The taste of soil in your mouth. The instinct to touch your bones, as if to check they’re still there: two legs, two arms, two hands, ten fingers. Everything in the right place. You pull yourself up. You pull the bike back up, your automatic reaction is to touch it, as if to comfort and reassure it that everything is okay. Somebody suggests that you stop. But surrender is too easy and this day too special, you looked forward to it and dreamed about it for too long. The desire to honour the race wins, you get back in the saddle, dust yourself off and face the road and your fear full on. Just enough time to patch up your eyebrow and off you go again: being heroic is a question of style.
(Photo: Simone Francioni)