The Reve Tour will be many things to many people. For sponsors and our organizing agent, the focus is on production: how to capture, translate, edit and transmit our journey out to the greater world. Here are logistical challenges: matching socks, matching sunglasses, matching kit, matching smiles, matching pain faces? We need photos and video that make our sponsors look good. This is a real demand, the product of soliciting corporate money for a project that deserves it. There's an exchange.
We promise to take good photos. We promise to make it look good. We promise we promise we promise.
We've also promised (lest anyone forget) to ride about 2,200 miles in three weeks. At night when I am trying to sleep my promises shed their skins one by one until only this remains: I promise to survive.
I don't think any one of us really knows what that means and I think that when push comes to shove, the physical reality of it may make our matching socks somewhat less of a priority. That's just me taking guesses though.
There are days that I wake up and I can't even find two socks that match, let alone two socks that also match the ten other socks that will be painting revolutions against the countryside with me.
We've chosen a storyline that emphasizes self-sufficiency so, unlike pro tour riders, we will wash our bikes down each night, lube chains, take care of things. We'll take turns researching stages before we ride them and then share our recon with our teammates in a meeting the night before. We have access to a soigneur whom we can pay to rub down our legs if we so choose. We'll eat hotel food in the evening and morning and stop for lunch at a restaurant during the day - no special food, no special cooking.
This has been done before. That's what we keep telling ourselves for reassurance. This has been done before. (In 2010, for the record, with a group of amateur Dutchmen.)
Sponsors will worry about the coverage. Photographers will worry about the photos. That leaves us to worry about each other.
I've had, for a moment, just a glimpse into the mind space that Clara Hughes was in when she snapped at me for asking too many questions before Flanders. She was nervous. Had I any idea about the physical effort that she was about to put in? Did I have any conception of the extreme stress of this moment before the race and all the moments leading up to the race and all the moments within the race?
I didn't. So she was right. Screw my stupid story.
This is more than a photo shoot. Bigger than the production, at the core of all the content that will ever be produced, is a very difficult ride that deserves as much support as possible. There is six pairs of legs that will inevitably crack and tremble.
Let's not forget the legs, people. Let's not forget the lungs. Body parts – fragile and bloody. Attached to women with minds and emotions and insecurities and hopes and determination.
As a writer it's all I can do not to pull out my notebook in the middle of a descent to note the details of the road, the wind, the way Kate dives into a turn, the way all of the pretty, pretty girls had matching socks.
As a rider, it's all I can do to get the training miles in and try to stay healthy. On most days, as a rider, it's all I can do to find two socks that match. It's all I can do to keep myself from turning to my writer-self and saying, "Screw your stupid story."