Our days would always start the same way: huddled together inside a cold van in the dead of night, kitted out in full summer cycling gear which lay hidden somewhere beneath the layers of every casual piece of clothing we brought with us, and waiting to be driven off to our next destination. This was the before, the pre-ride anticipation coursing through our veins as we awaited each morning’s golden hour of light when the sun would crest over the mountain tops and illuminate the towering rocks of Spain’s Sierra Nevada.
The prospect of cycling in Southern Spain for the Spring / Summer 2020 campaign came at the perfect time. Only a few weeks in to November and the first wave of winter was already battering us back home a little further north in the form of gruelling, relentless rainstorms. At the first inkling of some warm weather riding, bags were already being packed with shorts and t-shirts as we were fully prepared to embrace the relaxed and lethargic nature of the Spanish culture. Arriving with us straight off the plane was a 15°C drop in temperature which was replaced by gale-force winds which funnelled and circulated through the mountainous landscape and seemingly struck you from every direction on the most treacherous sections of your ride.
Every day we spent in Spain, we were chasing after one thing: that early morning golden hour. Every night was spent confirming sunrise times and meticulously planning routes with our hosts at Cycle Sierra Nevada based on their mastery knowledge of the roads surrounding our home base in Vélez de Benaudalla. The following mornings brought waves of chaos as we raced to each shooting site after some unforeseen setback. Day after day, the more we planned at night, the bigger the delay we would be subjected to the next morning, and the higher the levels of stress we would all feel to get to our location on time. But the more that went wrong each morning, the more beautiful that golden hour became. It could have been that each new location was subjectively more beautiful than the last, but it seemed more likely that the moment we set out on our bikes, all the stress simply dissipated and the feeling of relief was ever more prominent.
It has always been the perfect escape. The chaos, the panic, the stress in all its forms you may be dealing with. Once you begin riding, it all fades away. There's no time to worry or overthink. You simply lose yourself in the solitude of climbing mountains, the focus of descending over the other side, and the enjoyment of being outside.
For now, as many of us are subjected to government-mandated quarantines and are practicing responsible social distancing measures, we may feel as though we are losing ourselves in the solitude. But we can find solace in the idea that as we now face the chaos, the panic, and the stress of losing ourselves in the solitude, we will crest over the top and be faced with our own personal golden period.