I then begin another voyage. I decide to achieve a long-standing dream: climbing the Pico Veleta (3,393 m), the highest mountain in Europe accessible by bike. It's a delight and an emotional day for me.
Next is a detour through the mountains from Cordoba to Seville, in the middle of millions of olive trees as far as the eye can see. I take the time to camp, for real. Appreciating the sunrises and sunsets. Taking the time to eat, sleep, and stop in villages to talk to people. That's when I got the idea to go explore Portugal, particularly the Algarve and the mountains of the Serra da Estrela. It's a delight. Every day, I seem to have made the right decision, and I feel like I'm making the most of these last weeks of summer. I ride less on the days I'm not motivated. I ride for longer on the days when I feel like I need to move or cover some ground. I let myself be charmed by different routes as I travel. I improvise. I discover. Basically, I get back to the freedom of bike travel, and shake off the pressure of the race. After over 4 months of planning and imposed itineraries, I feel a sort of lightness in me. Everything is permitted, without needing to redouble my efforts the next day to compensate.
I still don't regret this challenge, and the 2 1/2 Grand Tours I accomplished. I had a need to flirt with the extreme. A need for a project and a direction, to put myself to the test. I'm physically satisfied, since despite some fairly harsh conditions, I always succeeded at keeping to the time limits and even creating a bit of a margin. But I'm even more satisfied with having abandoned it: knowing when to say no at the moment when the hardest had already been accomplished, to listen to my heart and not my ego. All of my life choices over these past 5 years have been in that direction: placing pleasure over obligation. I would have been betraying myself by pushing to complete this challenge when it went against my desires at the time. Staying true to myself, a life philosophy and a promise that I renewed with myself in that moment. A return to bike adventures where joy is primordial, a certainty that I now have and that will guide me in the coming months. The ability to find wonder in my practice - that's the whole reason I cycle.