Continuing with a recent theme of books about cycling, I read Emily Chappell’s Where There’s a Will: Hope, Grief and Endurance in a Cycle Race Across a Continent. I really enjoyed it, though it felt like there were three different parts to the book, which I can see why those choices were made but made it a bit strange as someone who wasn’t familiar with some of the people or events in the book.
So for the uninitiated, which was me prior to reading this book, the main actions focusses around the Transcontinental race, which is a self-supported, long distance bike race across Europe. Emily, a former bike courier, enters in 2015 but fails to finish. Around the first third of the book is about the 2015 race, introducing some of the more central people in her life (or at least in the book), such as Julianna (another long distance cyclist and Mike Hall, the organiser of the Transcontinental and massively impressive cyclist.
The bulk of the book is that Transcontinental race in 2016, which sees Emily be the first woman to finish.
Both sections are wonderful, I loved reading about the different mountains to climbs, exhaustion to overcome and the joy of those wonderful rides where you feel invincible. There were so many places that I’d love to go and cycle now. Though I know my limits and ultra-endurance cycling is definitely beyond them at this point in my life. I’ve got nothing but admiration for all those that attempt the gruelling task – riding thousands of kilometres on barely any sleep,
But that’s not the end of the book. The last third is a little about her friendship with Mike Hall and the impact of his death, when he is killed in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. It’s sort of told through some of the rides they had together, as they trained for some long distance races. But also through the races that Emily attempted (and didn’t finish) following his death. It was interesting, but it felt a bit rudderless after the focus on the first part of the book. I’m not sure what we were supposed to take away from it, but there was a lot of loveliness to it regardless.
It did make me excited for Ride London again, the closest I will get to an ultra endurance ride. I like the concept of doing an Audax, but I think I just like sleeping in a bed, rather than in a hedge. One day in the saddle is enough for me right now!