Five days to build six bikes. Five days to film a million video interviews. Five days to take all of the photos necessary to make good with our sponsors. Five days to meet with said sponsors to learn about product. Five days to learn how to work together.
Five days to bond and build trust and figure out just who the hell we are going to spend every waking hour with this July.
Our second team camp happens in five long, exhausting days. Reality sets in, people get tired, and plans are adjusted and then adjusted again.
Amid the photo shoots, we squeeze in a few quality rides. Among the marketing production, we squeeze in some time together to just chat. It's probably not enough to be ideal, but it's all that we've got so we take it. We get our final bikes - sweet, little rocket-ship type machines. So light they're not even legal. So new they're still a secret. (I'd tell you more, but then I'd have to kill you.)
The energy everywhere is a little frenetic. We're excited, nervous, thrilled and anxious all at once. We're a little tense. We're a little stressed. We have a lot of questions. We need to be reassured. We need, maybe, to form a cheesy trust circle and practice falling into each other's arms. Instead, we push our hair behind our ears self-consciously while big lenses loom. We check our teeth for food. For the first few days, we ride bikes according to director's instructions: keep a tight group on this hill, get out of the saddle, a little hotter this time, can you back off the shadow of the car a little bit?
Our main sponsor, Cannondale, attends in force with marketing representatives, product experts, mechanics, and designers on hand. They're enthusiasm is contagious. They want this for us - not just for Cannondale. They want it for each rider individually, for all women who have ever pedaled bicycles and for everyone in the world who has ever had the balls to take on something that seemed impossible.
We want it for us too.
What's clear at the end of camp is that we have a group of women who are not accustomed to – or prepared for – failure. We're committed to this to the point of being sick about it. The high production value of our second team camp only underlines the pressure. This is big. People are watching. We have promised a lot. We don't want to disappoint anyone – least of all ourselves, least of all each other.
This Exploding Heart
By the first riding day of camp, I'm still a little unwell. I've been (unsuccessfully) trying to recover amidst the obligations and demands of camp. On Thursday the schedule says "ride bikes for cameras" so that's what I do.
California sun. Light breeze. Quiet roads. Angry little heart.
For the sake of photos, we're required to climb together. Not really a problem on another day, but today my heart rate rockets straight through the roof, topping out a full 10 beats higher than I've ever seen it before: even in a 'cross race.
So here I am, chest exploding while my teammates spin calmly around me. Kym pulls up next to me, listens to me breathing and then keeps a lid on the pace, calling the two blond Coloradans back when they start to creep away from me.
When I get to the top of the climb I do the only thing I can think of: I cry. I cry and Maria talks me off the ledge. I cry and keep riding.
Tears already, Swift? Sheesh, we're not even in France yet.
We're almost there. It's almost happening. There's less than a month now.
Are we ready? Did we ride enough? What are we forgetting?
Three people have told me in the past month that we won't make it. People I like. Who also like me. Just being honest is all.
Does your disbelief sway us? Does your "practical realism" deter us? Does your "expert opinion" make a dent in our resolve?
Of course not.
What better way to wake up in the morning than to peek outside the window and see the odds there, stacked against us? I've got so much Underdog in my DNA it isn't even funny. Bring it.
In a few weeks we will be in France during the summertime. With bikes, we will wake up day after day and we will simply pedal.
Give or take a few hundred thousand, we are six million very small pedal revolutions away from spinning up one very large revolution of another kind: a revolution of dreamers.
Rêve means "dream" and we will honor that. We acknowledge the enormity of this ride and everything that it means. We are filled with gratitude for the chance to pedal into this dream in full consciousness, eyes wide open, hearts pounding.
Let it be lucid. Let it be delirious. Let it be imperfect. Let it be amazing.