Joe here – every start line comes with a unique and daunting 'ask'. Race Across Italy came with 10,000 meters of climbing in 800 kms. I aimed to do it in under 32 hours. Turns out I made it in a non-stop 30 hours and 33 mins which resulted in a 3rd place finish overall and 1st place in the over-50 category.
You prepare for every start line physically, emotionally and mentally as best you can but as soon as you roll off the start ramp you surrender to a level of reckoning that only an endurance race can bring.
You need to have self-belief in spades. You need to have courage. You need to have passion and you need to be prepared to embrace pain. You need to have a great crew.
You need to trust that crew and that crew needs to trust you. Together you have entered the magical time zone between the start and finish line. Anything and everything can and will happen.
I knew this result was in me but of course I couldn’t know for sure because accessing the deep place this performance comes from is something that you have to dance with on the road. It is not like you flip a switch. You invite, you beckon, you suffer…and in this race that process happened over a crucial 5 hours during the dead of night.
To say that this is a lonely place is an understatement. It is a place where all self-doubt and inner demons thrive. You learn to confront, move forward, break free and then....move beyond.
When the first glimmer of light appeared in the sky the crew will tell you that they saw the moment my pedal stroke changed, the moment I entered ‘that place’. I felt it. I felt myself drop a couple of layers into a rhythm and a comforting place of acceptance. From that moment onwards all of my being became the race. It is a place of complete unity. Don’t get me wrong, the effort is immense but it is also purposeful and somehow free. It is extremely hard to describe.
I have to say that it was also a pleasure to share the top end of the race with the next generation of talented riders – Ian To, Mads Frank to name two. I have no doubt these guys and their crews will stand on many podiums in the future. I only wish I was 20 years younger! But then I would miss the wisdom and experience that the road has given me over 43 years of racing.
As the miles accumulate in my legs I increasingly value these lessons. I know I have a few more start lines and great performances left but I now also know that I have much hard earned wisdom to share with the newer generations and those wanting to experience the world of endurance. Watch this space!
As for my crew –Alan Hamilton, Jillian Mooney, Ian Struthers, Mark Beggs and Andy McMullan – there is little for me to say which is a bit disturbing as normally on the road I say lots. However, on this occasion you leave me speechless. It is a profound privilege to share these miles with you. I know you all go through your own extreme journey during these races. Please know that I always have you in my sights, as I trust you have me. 100% commitment on the road and beyond. Team Joe Barr.
Happy riding folks and I’ll see you on the road.