Client    Rapha
Year        2016

Despite its unparalleled beauty the Noto Peninsula is one of the more remote areas of mainland Japan. Earlier this year 52 women covered 151km in heat that pushed riders beyond their limits, climbing 2,500m the teams navigated coastal and hidden inland mountain roads surrounded by the Japan Sea. Discovering unique sights and experiences with the single aim of finishing together.

Emotions peaked and troughed with the mountains and valleys, much of the suffering unspoken and any small relief of shade was welcome if only for a short time. Sudden outbursts filled the silent landscape in moments of relief when camaraderie was at its peak. At this point the heat from the sun had become too much, any water remaining in our bidons was close to boiling and our jerseys were unzipped to try to achieve some form of relief.

The rich green mountains of the Noto peninsula provided an abundance of cool spring water, riders were constantly showering themselves in an effort to reverse the effects of overheating as the temperature rose with the sun. Even in remote hamlets, Japan's ubiquitous vending machines were a saving grace as bidons soon ran dry — the locals bemused why anyone would attempt such a feat in these conditions.

One of the riders in our team had become silent, the effects of the heat so extreme there was no other option. I could feel the onset of heat stroke myself, determined, I kept drinking and splashing water over myself whenever there was the opportunity in an effort to cool my body.

Life’s experiences can be described in comparison to going up or down hill, but to keep going on a long flat route still requires energy and commitment. Because it’s an ordinary life doesn't mean that it’s an easy life. Somehow, we managed to get through the days toughest challenges, making progress one step at a time.

There are only 3 beaches in the world where you can cycle along the densely packed sand. On Chirihama Nagisa Driveway the horizon continues into the distance from the edge of the ocean, the colour melting together, the waves lapping our wheels. As we rode along the shore, seagulls flew alongside us as we felt the sea breeze. Time seemed to stop at this perfect moment.

Together on this long journey we formed a strong bond as a team, overcoming the unexpected and climbing over 2,500m. Discovering much more about ourselves than winning or losing, an experience of personal growth in strength and courage that would remain with us. After finishing on the Uchinada Keirin Velodrome I overheard one of the riders explain that “Everything I knew about cycling completely changed today.”

This story first appeared on rapha.cc

©2019 Lee Basford