Sunday's lone ride in the sunshine felt a little like perfection, for years personified for me by this pic of Roberto Pagnin, training in the Veneto. It's been an inspirational image since July 1987 when I was given the copy of Ciclismo Agonistico by a friend returning from teaching in Siena.
It's not only the aesthetics that count - heck, I'm not that shallow - although the Bianchi X4 here, with its glossy celeste finish and unique black chrome, the Almarc leather bar covering and Campagnolo Cobalto calipers, is undeniably a thing of utter beauty I admire even today. More, the image seems to encapsulate everything I love about the bike: 'continental' cycling, very much distinct from British sport of the era, of a poetic foreign language, of style, sophistication, design flair and craftsmanship, riding on sunny traffic-free roads to a cafe to sit and enjoy a caffè macchiato or two and pore over the results and reports in La Gazzetta dello Sport.
You see, I love cycling, in all its guises; I've ridden and raced for over 30 years (the latter without much success it must be said), and I've absolutely adored all of it, perhaps in a wierd way even the frozen fingers, the soaking feet and the streaming eyes that winter training rides would seemingly inflict on me more than others, without fail. I suppose being out of my comfort zone made me feel alive. Well, perhaps with hindsight.
But it really is when the sun shines that riding truly finds its appeal for an erstwhile competitor and, I admit, fair-weather cyclist like me. The fitness gained through that focussed training and intense competition once gave me the ability to push myself harder and deeper than I thought I could, and would see my voluntary self-flagellation rewarded with a sense of hightened self esteem and pride. However, contrary to coaching advice that dictates that every ride should have an objective, in my view sometimes that goal can be as simple as getting out on two wheels and into the fresh air of the countryside, just for the sake of it. I'm more that happy to casually sling my leg over the bike to meet up with friends in a sociable little peloton, or, as on Sunday, venture out on my own, no particular route in mind, where the simple act of 'getting some miles in' under bright blue skies and some much-missed warmth brings a wave of positive clear thinking that washes over me, gently lifting the stresses of the daily grind away. It's wonderfully simple, and simply wonderful.