We got some bad news recently. Very bad.
We lost someone.
We lost Fast Bloke.
There is no accident report. No fatality in the cycling statistics. Just a medical report and a big hole in lots of people’s lives.
I actually didn’t really know Fast Bloke that well. He was not a core member of the Blokes. More of an honorary Bloke. Truth be told, he was out of our league.
After trouncing us all at a couple of local Sportives, he really showed what he was made of on the coastal hills of a small island in the Atlantic. There he swam through 4K of a swirling sea. Then he got out of the water and cycled 180KM over some windy coastal hills. Then he changed his shoes and ran a 4hr 22min marathon.
Just think about that for a moment. Ask yourself how much work that would take. How much dedication and training it would take to put that much stamina into your own legs.
That’s why Iron Man athletes command so much respect.
Others who knew the man, rather than just the Bloke, will have their own view of how he spent his life, what kind of person he was. His work mates will have stories from after-work parties and in-work deals he pulled off. His wife will remember intimate things they shared just between the two of them. His parents will remember the child who grew into a man.
Me, I knew only the Bloke.
When I think about it, I never actually rode with him, like actually rode next to him. Not because he was unfriendly or distant. Quite the opposite. It was simply because I could not even come close to keeping pace with him. He was of course, by a long way, not the fastest rider in the world. But he was the fastest rider in Bloke World.
In years to come, when I think of Fast Bloke, I will remember a lean, athletic guy, living life to the full, packing every minute of every precious day with plenty of being and lots of doing. A guy who didn’t need winter kit because he rode so hard he generated enough heat to keep himself, and probably two or three of the riders trailing him, warm enough through even the sharpest of British Spring days.
I will remember a man with strong self belief and complete comfort in his own skin. A self effacing guy keen to stress how well others had ridden, when he himself had finished almost before they had left starting paddock. A guy who always showed a genuine interest in how my ride had gone, even though his had been way more impressive.
I can’t say I knew him well enough to be sure that’s how the man who was Fast Bloke really was. But the cyclist I knew was a thoroughly decent Bloke. An amazing rider. An Iron Man competitor. An inspiring athlete able to push himself to be the best he could possibly be.
He showed that there really are no excuses. Pretty much anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
And now he’s gone.
So, I will hug my loved ones a bit more often and be grateful I still can. I will relish the warmth of the sun on my face as I shift into a lower gear on some hill somewhere on the South Downs, and feel sorry that Fast Bloke had not raced up there a few hours before me and felt it too.
I will remember that scaling coastal hills and running marathons is something that can be done. It just takes some work.
And I will do things now, just a little more often. Just in case now is suddenly no longer available tomorrow.
The memory of watching him disappear into the misty distance is one of the things that will get me onto my wheels when it’s warm in here and cold out there.
That inspiration is, I am sure, only a tiny and insignificant part of what the man who was Fast Bloke left behind. But it’s all I have now. I can only hope it’s something he would have appreciated.