Night falls, the party is over, the music has stopped in the square in Gaiole, the coloured stalls have shut down. Your bike is there, leaning against the wall at the foot of the bed, saddled up and frisky as a thoroughbred, its tack shining, chains oiled, the handlebars honed to the nearest millimetre, the spare parts in the little bag under the saddle. The card with your race number has already been attached to the frame, tied with string. Your jersey is ready, with its canvas race number beside it to be attached with safety pins. Not to forget the good luck charms, that little trousseau that every superstitious cyclists carries: the cap, the discoloured one that brought you good luck that time a couple of years ago, the holy medal, a photo in your pocket, the beloved old shoes. The alarm is set for the hour the cock crows, tomorrow will be a long day, it would be a good idea to sleep, but sleep evades you. You pretend to be calm but doubts take over, “what do I have to prove?”, “I’m too old for this”. You can’t help thinking of the kilometres, the climbs, the potholes, the sweat, your heartbeat hammering your temples, your aching knees. You go over the route again in your head, trying to prepare for every eventuality. Everything is studied, everything is foreseen. You almost think that after so much planning, something unexpected is exactly what is needed. But you know that being in control is just an illusion: tomorrow you will face the road, the long, tortuous, steep, insidious, dusty or muddy, stony or tar road. The road, and your legs, will decide what your Eroica will be like. Now it is time to turn off the lights, calm your thoughts and give yourself over to sleep.
Wednesday, 21 March 2018