So, life has changed. If you're a human on the planet, you've been affected by the coronavirus. For us at Rocacorba Cycling in Spain, that has meant full lockdown. It happened with very little notice and, with the exception of groceries, medical care, or walking a pet, we are confined to our homes.
The notice of our lockdown came fast. In about 48 hours we went from rumours to "effective immediately", and with that came a lot of fear and questions. As the gravity of reality sank in, so did my fear about the future. In the big picture of life, sport is not an essential good. Everyone is vulnerable – physically, mentally and economically – and in such unprecedented times, I was struggling to find peace and place in the global pandemic.
The biggest obvious challenge for me was shifting all my training indoors. I've always preferred to put on a jacket and train outside, rain or snow, so, I'll be honest, I wasn't looking forward to being stuck inside. But, whether injury, illness, the racing calendar, team decisions, training, family, work, or whatever, the best athletes are the ones that can adapt, period. Ready or not, I had to rise to this scary and extraordinary challenge.
Rocacorba Cycling has always had a top-of-the-line indoor-training set-up thanks to our friends at Zwift. With a Tacx smart trainer and Zwift, I knew I had the best possible tools for success. Still, I wasn't sure how I was going to keep it together mentally. A week was one thing. I was confident I could handle three, or even four, weeks but what if it was longer? What about the Olympics? CCC-Liv?
I just started out riding around Watopia (one of the Zwift virtual worlds). Pretty quickly, I started to discover all the people; I began joining group rides and eventually started hosting meet-ups of my own. I rode with guests who were supposed to be staying with us, friends from across the planet who I never get to ride with, and I've even joined the London Dynamo cycling club for what's become a regular Saturday morning 'race'.
A whole new world of indoor training opened up to me and, with real people behind every avatar, there was real engagement, real fun, and even real DOMS [delayed onset muscle soreness]. I have a meet-up almost every day now and, unexpectedly, it's actually allowed me to be more social than ever.
It took a while, but I began to make peace with the situation. The Olympics weren't gone, they were just a little bit farther away. The races would come back, and I hoped women's cycling would be able to find more ground in a post-pandemic world. We might not be racing as CCC-Liv, but we were still very much a team. We had started meeting twice a week over the internet and that was actually bringing us closer together. The future of cycling was going to be different but CCC-Liv was already building a new, stronger normal, and that security and support is just as comforting as it is a source of motivation.
And I had also found my place: the indoor trainer. I felt blessed to be healthy and committed to doing my part and staying home. I was grateful that technology and Zwift allowed me to continue working, and more grateful that it became a source of motivation that also kept me connected to so many people.
Rising to the challenge of the coronavirus, for me, has meant finding my place and making peace with reality and the unknown. Lockdown, no matter how long it will be, is always going to be hard, but doing our part and staying safe from COVID-19 is about physical distance, not social isolation. Whether it's training inside and meeting up for virtual rides, making a home office or a home gym, or picking up the phone and giving a friend or family member a call, staying together is the best way we can all rise to the challenge, stay healthy, and make it through this coronavirus crisis.
Ashleigh-Moolman-Pasio is a world-class climber and a member of the UCI Women's WorldTeam CCC-Liv. She has written a regular blog for Cyclingnews since 2016, touching on topics of gender equality in women’s and men’s professional cycling. She is also the owner of Rocacorba Cycling, a cycling retreat operating from an authentic 17th century estate located in Girona, Spain.