After 10 days and many hundreds of kilometres the Giro Donne has finished. As I sit in the car on the drive back to Lucca I'm quiet, reflective and trying to gather my thoughts on my experience from the past week and half. So many thoughts - things I learned; things I assumed I knew but didn't; things I wish I had done differently; but most of all how much I enjoyed the race. Even the bad moments (and there were plenty of those).
I won't go into a play-by-play account of each stage as I honestly can't remember much of it in finite detail although strangely it's a vivid burning memory in my head I won't soon forget. In the end I feel like the details of a race are left behind us on the road, a play-by-play is always just an interpretation of what happened. For me it's the behind the scenes stories that tell the most interesting tales.
So where do I begin? With the word respect.
Respect for the women who pedalled and pushed themselves beyond the limits of what most would ever consider natural. These are tough, strong, buoyant athletes. They fight for every last metre, they crash, break themselves and get back up, they love racing bikes with a passion. And I am honoured to have finished among champions and unknown riders alike. We may not all be friends off the bike, I may never know more than someone's name, but I applaud each of us.
This year's race was said to be one of the hardest in years therefore I would like to pay extra respect to the girls who raced their asses off despite the obstacles. For instance the rider who told me she was at the race without a mechanic or massage therapist. It takes guts and extraordinary fortitude to suffer for something one has a deep love for.
In the cycling world it's more often the men that get the glory, so to speak, but I can assure you that the women race just as hard and most of the time without many of the advantages one would expect a professional athlete to have. In no way am I taking away from how tough the sport is for men, I am only wishing to pay tribute to our side and say that I am endlessly inspired by my peers.
In the grand scheme cycling is just a sport but it might change individual lives. In fact I'm sure it does as I'm personally one that has been changed for the better because of it. The life experiences racing has afforded me and the sporting family I've gained and learned from are priceless. All from a perfect, simple machine - the bicycle. Belissima!
When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race - H.G. Wells