I’m going to give the ride a miss. I don’t feel up to it.
I was down at the launch of the Pearl Izumi Champion Team at the Madison HQ in Milton Keynes and had only just tried on my limited edition (limited to 50 odd PI Champions) cycling kit.
The kit is beautiful and very well made, which should be a given as Pearl Izumi are by far the biggest cycling apparel brand in the world, but also because Pearl Izumi are committed to making their range functional as well as visually stunning. Every item found in your local retailer or online at Pearl Izumi is painstakingly crafted and designed for maximum comfort and performance.
But I doubt if my current physique was part of their design process. Short limbs and a barrel body are not what you expect to see in a Champion cyclist
And, as I tried on that Pearl Izumi Champion Team kit, I did not feel like a champion.
I felt like a chump.
I resigned myself to the fact that I am losing weight and that I will fit into the kit shortly, but that didn’t stop my slipping on a hoodie and trying to slip off into a dark corner as I told my roomie Mark that I wasn’t feeling up to the ride.
I was embarrassed and I was ashamed. Not for the first time, I questioned what I am doing. I asked myself if I could continue being a supposed inspiration and role model when I hated what I had once again become and how I looked.
And then, I gazed around the room and noticed that nobody seemed interested in how I looked in lyca. I also noticed that the room was full of cyclists of all shapes and sizes and all ages and abilities.
Pearl Izumi Champions are not necessarily champion riders (although I reckon we do have a few tidy riders) but we do all champion cycling and we are all passionate about life.
I remembered what Pearl Izumi were looking for in a Champion with riding ability making up only 5% of the profile. Pearl Izumi were looking for attitude, dedication, love and an aptitude for selfies (and we all know that I do like a selfie).
Pearl Izumi Champion
And I remembered that Pearl Izumi had picked me out of hundreds of applicants. I hadn’t hidden my lack of cycling proficiency nor my expanded waistline. And they hadn’t cared. They recognised that, in me and in every other Pearl Izumi Champion, they had someone passionate about encouraging others to be more active.
So I sucked in my gut and sucked it up and headed downstairs to first get my profile picture taken (with the instruction of chest up!) and then to get my loan bike fitted to my short limbs.
Because, I was going on that ride. I would wear my Pearl Izumi Champion kit with pride.
We had all been split into groups according to our self professed speeds and I had elected to join the slowest group, who also turned out to be the best group (I have no grounds for comparison, but I doubt any group could be as awesome as ours).
I was the only male in my group and the only Champion in blue for our female riders were cloaked in pink (more salmon, if you ask me). Our wee blue and pink pelaton set off at a gentle pace with instructions provided on the route and on how to manage, as a group, other traffic on the road.
We were soon in the Buckinghamshire countryside and with each mile cycled, I became more and more confident and we picked up speed. Especially once I got to grips with how to change gears (I really wasn’t lying about my ineptitude).
All the while, we chatted and learned more about each other and why Pearl Izumi had chosen us. Amongst our group were women who had encouraged hundreds more women into cycling and women who were the embodiment of the #thisgirlcan campaign
For most of the ride, I knew my place. I was happy sitting at the rear or in the middle of the pack and chatted to whoever found themselves alongside me.
It was a very relaxing and enjoyable ride , helped somewhat by the Pearl Izumi chamois in my Champion Team bib which had succeeded in protecting my derriere from the expected pain.
For this 20 mile ride was my longest ever ride and at the onset, I hadn’t really known if I was going to manage. But manage I did and I even managed to break away from my group. Not intentionally mind (honest). I don’t know if it was due to my increased confidence or my affection for squats, but I felt a surge of power in my legs and I just had to push on. So much so, that at one point, I was racing one of the faster groups up a small incline (I unsurprisingly lost) and had to be reigned back in by our ride leader.
By the time we had reached the end of ride back at HQ, I had discarded my fears and I had fully embraced the idea of me being a Pearl Izumi Champion. I even earned a wee “Well Done” flag from my teammate Linzi. I had cycled over 20 miles and survived and it was the kickstart my Ironman training needed. This week, I aim to cycle more than 100 miles and each week, I will further stretch that goal.
And yesterday Facebook’s “On This Day” highlighted the short message that someone had once posted on my Facebook page that now acts as my mantra.
Yes, I have impossible goals. Yes, I attempt things that I have no real mind to even try, but when I think back to 2011 when I couldn’t even climb stairs and walking my dogs was a impossible task, I know I never ever thought that I would be in such a special group of cyclists or have such an amazing life.
I have much to learn (bike maintenance included) and weight still to lose, but I cannot wait to see and experience what being a Pear Izumi Champion means.