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I had an inspiring conversation on the phone just now with my friend whom I shall call Mr L.

Mr L is my age (or perhaps 10 years my junior) and is not a “celebrity” in SA Cycling.

He is reasonably well known and well liked within the mountainbike tribe, especially the circles frequented by a certain Mountainbike Club and Endurance riders. He’s a normal nice sort of guy…basically northern suburbs; he drives a nice car and lives in a nice house and rides a nice bike.

Whilst he does service his own bike and look after it well (when he could easily afford to just give it to a shop to fix), this is not why I find him inspiring.

He is not the guy who always gets to stand on the podium at races, not even within his age category (which is where us mere mortals must perform if at all), although he puts in a determined effort and always does his best which is often quite good; so it is not his race record that inspires me.

He has completed the Cape Epic (which is quite a feat) but multi-day stage racing on a mountainbike doesn’t blow my hair back, so that’s not it either.

What inspires me is that Mr. L is so normal.

After last years Epic he took a couple of weeks off the bike to come right. This turned into a couple of months. Then work expanded to fill the void that it was allowed and lots of work related travelling started too.

A year later, Mr. L has been off the bike all that time, and like all good cyclists in training, eating 3 times his own body weight every day (questions are still asked by his neighbours about where their 4 Dobermans went in the countdown to last years Epic), except he hasn’t been riding.

So Mr. L is a little portly compared to his normal slim self, and is getting dropped on Club rides in the women’s group. He is frustrated and unhappy, and more than a little scared that perhaps he wont make it back to being a real mountainbiker. This is why I find him so inspirational!

He just keeps getting back on the bike even when it is embarrassing and painful and completely not fun…because he loves riding and is a member of our Tribe. Despite the taunts he rides. Despite the pain he rides.

I find this personally inspiring because I haven’t been able to ride a bike for 4 months and it will be another 8 months before I can start the long and painful post-op rehab. I think it is the everyday heroics of riders the world over that have inspired me to find a new place within the Tribe I love with all my heart (Mtb and Road), one not based on race results and titles held.

Under normal circumstances even Pukky the Wonder Dog (who loves me unconditionally) stops talking to me if I haven’t ridden my bike for two days. I become difficult and grumpy and prone to seeing the negative in everything. I don’t think I have gotten any better at this. I know I am IMPOSSIBLE some days now that I haven’t been on a bike for months and face a very uncertain future when I do recover from the operation.

What inspires me is Mr L.

What inspires me is all the folks you could call “Joe Average” who are 40 kgs overweight and just starting out and can’t wait to find lycra bibs in their size, and “some of those funny red clip-in shoes”.

What I’m grateful for…more than a silly little Monday afternoon letter can ever express, is the genuine encouragement I get on a daily basis from folks who can understand what it must be like not to be able to ride my bike; what it must be like to face the possibility of never being a “serious contender” in racing again. I have been granted “a place in the ranks” by all you folks. I have a place to belong even if I’m not particularly good at anything and getting a little fat.

Thanks guys.

Keep the rubber side down.

Geoff the Aussie