I'm sitting in a hotel in Tucson, nursing a bruised ego and mourning a broken wheel. Yesterday's El tour was a bit of an adventure, as it always is. There's something about starting a ride with over 8,000 riders of all (and i mean all) abilities. Sitting in the starting "chute" on my left was an Olympic medalist on the track, on my right a world champion ironman and in front of us all a guy with a camelbak, a triple and a peaked helmet. The ride began in it's usual way, 8 miles which my SRM shows went down at 53 km/h and my mind recalls went down with un paralleled levels of sketchiness. The we hit a river crossing which i firmly believe is as close as i will ever get to storming the beach at Normandy, albeit carrying a bike on my shoulder. Some pretty unorthodox portages were going down all around me and at least one plucky individual attempted to remount a la cyclocross and failed to clear his top tube, let alone saddle. the results of this maneuver were roughly akin to lying down in front of a herd of migrating wildebeest, in cleated carbon shoes.
Having stormed the suburban neighbourhood, i set about riding in front of a large group of cyclists in order to facilitate riding behind the group up ahead for the remaining 103 miles. Having successfully facilitated the conjuncture of the two groups in question i commenced my usual race routine of pretending i had a wind allergy and eating peanut butter flavoured energy products. Things were going swimmingly until the Tucson curse struck. To add to my run of Tucson luck which includes flat tyres, broken bones and now broken rims. I hit a rock yesterday with such phenomenal force that i put a huge dent in my rim and i mean huge. with the help of a stone and a tyre lever and some Eugene Cristophe attitude i banged most of the dent out of the rim. 5 flats later, a bike shop refused to help me, or lend me a pair of pliers or spot me a tube (thanks Oro valley bikes) but thankfully the pre thanksgiving spirit of blatant douchebaggery hadn't spread to the folks at ACE hardware who set me up with a hitech duct tape, rasp and pliers based solution which got me home in 4:58, with 60 psi in my rear wheel trailing quite the collection of "cycling enthusiasts" in my draft as we battled a strong headwind (i'm using the royal we here, i didn't see a rear wheel for 60 miles even when i was urinating people wouldn't come around). Good training day then.
We're here in Arizona working with the Pascua Yaqui people, i'm setting up a scheme here through Ayuda to get a dozen pascua yaqui volunteers to ride one of the various el tour distances in 2013 during world diabetes month. Having spent several long days on the reservation i am feeling incredibly positive about this project and the support we have from gopro to document it and make it. we're still in the process of selecting our volunteers but having already met some of them these last few days i can safely say that we have an enthusiastic base of support int his community. These are not people inherently adverse to exercise, but people who don't get the opportunity to take part in the activities i love. These are a people with a rich history of struggle, endurance, art and community. They love to move, to dance and to sing it's just a question of creating the right environment for this to happen and benefit their health. I want the participants in my scheme to be ambassadors for their nation, both in the local Tucson community and in the diabetes world was one that these people jumped at and i am honoured to be able to help them do that.
Obviously logistics are proving difficult. We still need to secure bikes, but we have a supporter in mind. The roads in Tucson are not the greatest and the drivers not the friendliest but these people have over come much worse obstacles. Funding is never sufficient and financial times are hard for everyone. It gets hot and people are scared of low bloodsugar but when cycling but these are not issues we can't overcome when cycling is not just a hobby but a genuine way of improving one's health and that of one's community. When one is faced with a situation where diabetes is a leading cause of mortality in adults not even termed middle aged, then riding a biek becomes about a lot more than pinning on a number and riding an insignificant 50km in a car park, or 200km around Tucson, it becomes about community and wellbeing. I hope that this project can extend beyond cycling and be about a re-evaluation of the native American community in Arizona and a new perspective on exercise within that community. I want these guys to be role models for their nation and examples for their friends and families and to lead their brothers and sisters into a new world of health and happiness and to do so on a bike.