Last night I settled into bed with an old copy of Michael Camille’s Gothic Art: Glorious Visions. I had just watched the last stage
of the Tour de France, listening to commentator Paul Sherwen‘s descriptions of chateaus and cathedrals mellifluously punctuated with the state of the peloton.
If someone asks me why I am a triathlete, I tell them it was “because I wanted to do it.” If someone wants to know what lured me to my first road bike, it was Paul Sherwen’s architecture lessons. I was an undergraduate art history major — with a British medievalist adviser who wooed the ribs and vaults of 13th century stones around the hearts of his young student students. San Martin de Canigou. Chartres. Carcasonne. Reliquary. Out of school and trying to find my way, I found this architectural poetry again while watching the Tour de France alongside new beautiful words: Maillot Jaune. Breakaway. Col de Galibier. Alpe d’Huez. Tourmalet. Champs Elysee.
Architecture was my gateway drug into cycling.
I wondered if you looked inside the ribcages of all those skinny, strong men if I’d find cathedral-resembling blueprints. I wanted more in the world of the large, the playing fields of space and time, and god, and nature, and self. Cathedrals were all about believing in god, in believing in strength. A bunch of peasants all doing something big. Mortals chasing greatness. I’ve found god, fell a little bit more deeply in love with the world, and found spurs and trails of my own soul in both.
Craft. Patience. Time. I think of the Tour riders suffering up a climb wonder if it is any easier, knowing it would only be for an infinite little dot of existence, compared to the 14th century cathedral at the top and getting to know if is possible on this planet, for your work, your pain, your great effort, to last centuries beyond your last breath.