by Bart Egnal

If you follow the WorldTour, you may have heard about the abrupt demise of the Aqua Blue Sport cycling team in August. While most teams fade at the end of a season, often with a year or so of desperate and futile searching for a sponsor, Aqua Blue Sport ceased to exist just days before the Tour of Britain. Riders were shocked to be without a team and without even a race to showcase their talents.

Bart Engel

When pro cycling gives you lemons, some cyclists make lemon-flavoured ride fuel. That’s the case of Larry Warbasse and Conor Dunne, who decided to do an epic week of bikepacking. They named their trip the #NoGoTour and spent a week climbing mountains, eating amazing food, singing karaoke and having fun at each other’s expense.

As Dunne wrote in Rouleur, “The whole week reaffirmed all the things I believed in and gave me the mental energy to pursue them. You don’t need to ride 50 hours in eight days with Larry’s high-altitude metre intervals, but you do need to ride.”

This past year, I started to fall out of love with racing. Racing at a higher level – M2 but also with E1 and M1 racers at events such as the Blue Mountain Gran Fondo or the local Tuesday-night crits – I found myself suffering a lot. It was pretty humbling to go from the front end of the racing scene to the back of the pack, or in many cases the broom wagon. It was also a tougher year trying to balance the demands of racing with the (totally reasonable) demands of the D.S. (my partner, that is). A small mountain bike race win aside, the season was not a step toward a pro contract.

But, I actually had a blast riding my bike this year. The highlight was when I decided to do something epic and ride a personal best of 230 km – solo – from my in-laws cottage to my cottage in northern Ontario. It was just me, my new bike and some great coffee at the halfway point. In spending nearly eight hours on the bike solo and taking in some amazing roads and views, I spent a day falling in love with cycling and all it brings – moments of solitude, connection with nature and a sense of accomplishment.

It’s already got me thinking about my 2019 epic plan. To celebrate turning 40, I want to get a few friends to ride from Toronto to New York City in a week, arriving in Manhattan on my birthday. The trip won’t be about speed, but rather enjoying the route together, exploring new roads, eating too much and having an experience we all treasure.

I’m also calling on you, my loyal readers, to do something epic as well in 2019. What you define as epic will vary. After all, my 230-km ride pales in comparison with some hard riders in my club who rode the 600 km from Toronto to Montreal last year. My friend Travis Streb in Vancouver went epic last year when he climbed one million vertical feet in a year to raise money for pancreatic cancer. But set your own standard by thinking about what cycling experience will cause you to look back on the year and say, “Now that was awesome.” So maybe you go for your first 100 km ride. Maybe you ride 30 days in a row. Maybe you climb that epic col you never thought you could make it up without stopping. Maybe you Everest – climb the equivalent of the total height of the mountain in one day.

I encourage you to write to the magazine and let me know what your #CCMepicride2019 will look like. It’s going to be a great year in the saddle.

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