The Paradox of Impossible Hills
By: Jared Hanson
Jared Hanson is a racer & rider with the First City Cycling Team in Fort Collins, Colorado. Although primarily focused on criteriums, XC, enduro mountain biking, and cyclocross, Jared also has a passion for Olympic lifting and CrossFit. His goal is to encourage diversity in the sport and share how 'rad' cycling can be through his YouTube channel TheCrossfitCyclist. Jared was recently awarded an Eliel kit and a spot at a Bike Sports 2020 gravel camp as part of their program to promote diversity in cycling and provide opportunities for riders from diverse backgrounds. He joins us today to reflect on reaching a milestone and continuing to ride towards higher and higher climbs.
I’m turning 30 on August 24th. That’s a big one, at least in my eyes. A few short years ago, riding my Kona Stuff singlespeed dirt jumper to class, I never would have even thought of ‘30’ as an age on my horizon. But similar to my perspective on my age, that’s how all this cycling business starts; seeing something out there on the horizon and thinking it would never be reached. And then in the blink of an eye, you are there.
The Jared of 2010 sitting low on his aluminum dirt jumper would have never thought he would be a competitive cyclist. Hell, I never would have allowed myself to put on lycra when I was 18. But the unreachable and seemingly impossible is here: I am turning 30 and I am having photos of me in the best-fitting lycra I’ve ever worn put out on the Internet.
That feeling of a long shot, the feeling of seeing something and thinking it is unreachable or unattainable is a quintessential part of why I love riding my bike. When people ask me why I ride, why I compete in USA Cycling events, and why I go on 3-hour training rides I explain:
“When you are cycling, the hills that once seemed massive and almost insurmountable eventually become smaller, and ahead lie larger hills to climb.”
A great challenge always awaits all cyclists. The ‘big hill’ for Alex Howes may have been winning the Criterium du Dauphine, while for me it may be holding onto the main group at my local criterium, and for others just getting up and over that one ‘big hill’ on someone’s first bike ride to work. But we all share in the struggle to get up and over, and ride on to the next. It seasons our minds and bodies, pushing us to what once seemed to be ‘impossible’. With every pedal stroke we get a little stronger, gain a little more mental fortitude, and although it may hurt in the moment, the drive and love grows evermore.
The continual challenge of cycling has pulled me in and I cannot imagine a scenario where I let it go, or it lets me go. But hey, I never thought I would be turning 30. As I pass from an age where I thought of myself still as a ‘kid’, to most certainly being a full-tilt adult, I think back to all the times I thought something seemed ‘just impossible’. I never imagined I would ride further than to and from class, or do my errands by bike, or go on a ride solely for fun, or ride 20, 30, 40, 100 miles, or ride over the Horsetooth Dam in Fort Collins, or race a criterium, or a road race, or a 50-mile road race, or ride from Fort Collins to Estes Park, or turn 30, but here I am. Those kinds of experiences are valuable and we each have something to discover and take away from them.
Ask any seasoned cyclist and they will tell you that you truly discover who you are when you are tired, sunburnt, hungry, and still dozens of miles from home. And this is not just discovering more about our superficial identity. We can learn about our deep down, it’s all up to you, no supervision, singing in the shower while your home alone self when we are out on the bike.
During these tumultuous and difficult times I encourage everyone to go out for a ride on their bike and try something hard and ambitious. Whether that simply means cleaning the cobwebs off your bike and getting to that first pedal stroke, conquering that adventure ride you’ve always wanted to do, or even winning the Tour de France, go full force toward that next big hill. The paradox of reaching the ‘hills’ you once thought impossible is that, sometimes, when you reach the summit, the challenge is something entirely different from what you expected. Appreciate the journey and take a look around at the summit.