The answer is always no …
… if you never ask.
People are generally pretty cool, at least the people I’ve come across in life. Doesn’t matter what they’ve achieved, how popular they are, what their rank is, they are still just the same as you and me.
Last year, when I was getting ready to fly to VA to ride the TransAmerica bike route with Bike The US For MS, I watched a documentary called “Inspired to Ride” on Netflix. It followed the first TransAm bike race, going in the the opposite direction than we were going to travel. Unlike our ride though, they were not only racing, but they were riding it unsupported. This meant that they did it alone, carrying everything they need on their bikes for the entire ride, without a team. Featured in this documentary is the professional ultra-cyclist Juliana Buhring. She came in 4th overall, 1st for women. She also was the only female to participate in the inaugural TransContinental race from London to Istanbul and she finished 9th overall. Oh, she also holds the world record for fastest female to circumnavigate the globe on a bike. 18,000 miles in 152 days. Women’s Cycling Magazine calls her one of the strongest female endurance cyclists in the world.
That’s all impressive and everything, but what grabbed my attention the most was her reasons for cycling: her story. She had a difficult childhood. You can read all about it in the best-selling book she wrote with two of her sisters. She also experienced the loss of someone very close to her. I believe that loss was what propelled her to cycling. She didn’t start cycling until 2011, when she decided she was going to ride around the world. She only trained for a few months and then in 2012, off she went. The TransContinental race was in 2013 and the TransAm was in 2014.
In the documentary she says the ride around the world was an “escape from the world but at the same time to discover it … or discover my place in it.”
I’ve said before that I think cycling has healing powers. For me it’s not about speed or even distance, it’s about overcoming challenges, pushing myself, meeting people and discovering my own potential. Cycling isn’t hard. It takes a great deal of mental fortitude at times but really it’s just rolling down the street… Or up a hill. And when you get really tired, you pull over and stop for a while. Then, you get back on.
Since my trip ended in the Sorrento Peninsula, home of Juliana Buhring, I reached out to her on Facebook and asked if she’d have time to show me around. I’m not sure if that’s a request that she gets all of the time, but she didn’t hesitate to say yes, depending on if she was going to be in town. Well, she was, and yesterday morning we met for a ride around the peninsula. And it was incredible. She was riding Flash, the bike that she recently rode across Australian in the inaugural Indian Pacific Wheel Race. We finally met in Positano after riding around for an hour trying to find each other and she took me up, up, up. We climbed and I tried my best to stay right behind her. It was great riding with her and great getting to know her, even just for a bit. Riding with someone is very different than sitting down to a meal or an espresso. But, I think I got so much more out of the time we spent riding. She showed me probably the most amazing point in the peninsula, the point where you can see both sides from above. I’m not sure why I don’t have a picture of that…. Too out of breath, too overwhelmed…. Whatever…. It was cool!
We rode together until noon and then she had to turn around and get on with her day. I continued on to more riding which included a swim at a beach 1000 feet down (which meant climbing out from there after!)
I’m not a huge fan of small talk, so for me, this was an excellent way to spend a few hours with someone that inspires me as well as so many other cyclists. What a great day!!!