We all have different ways of handling post-professional racing life, for the vast majority of us ex-racers it involves not going anywhere near a bike for a good year or so, sometimes, barely ever again. For Ryder this is not the case, but then again, he's not like most of us...
We'd stayed in touch over the winter where he was spending his time at his Maui home, he would send me little videos of himself either out riding the beach on his 1990's Ritchey MTB in cut off jeans and flip flops, or out on some epic coastal road ride on his lonesome, full pro set up. There was no middle ground.
These updates didn't stop when he left Maui, they continued throughout the beginning of the year, culminating in his Grand Tour, I have, for the sake of posterity, including some of them below.
These were shots of Ryder in Iceland, where he did a ride around Reykjavik with Hafstein "Haffi" Geirsson, the leading local rider for the past ten years. It was a trip organised by Einar Bardarson, the local main man when it comes to all things cycling, including owning the Pedalar magazine as well as the KIA Golden Circle Challenge. The big white house is the Prime Minister's residence, they just rolled up there to say, "Hello", as one does.
After Iceland the obvious next leg was Liege Bastogne Liege, after all, it was Ardennes time of year and Ryder knows no different. The genius of this was that he was going as a full bike fan, there was no gig, no sponsor to satisfy, no corporate entertainment to, well, entertain... It was just Ryder rolling solo, including a 4hr train trip from Brussels to get there, a crappy hotel, nobody to hang out with except a kebab and a beer and his Kona gravel bike. He cruised out the day of the race and rode the final 40km, stopping to meet and chat to people, eat fries and accept the occasional beer, he sent me a video of him fully kitted out, alone, drinking a beer watching Valverde win on the big screen. Greatness is as greatness does.
From Liege it was off to Girona. We had spent so many years hanging out here together, on and off the bike. He stayed with Richard at the CHPT3 Studio and would ride in the days and hang out with friends the rest of the time, one day he rode out to visit the Millar family, the boys love him, he's one of those kiddie magnets, and although they hadn't seen him in over a year they immediately melted the moment he saw them and said, "WHOOOOAAA, you guys look so strong!" We didn't take pictures, because I suppose we all hoped it would happen again.
From Girona it was off to Italy, which you can read about in "SG3'S NOVA EROICA EXPERIENCE", this was to be the inaugural event of the new sort of club-not-club we had created within CHPT3. When I'd told Ryder about it, and he'd been in Maui at the time, he said, "Fuck yeah, I'm in." Which had effectively set the wheels in motion for us to actually make it happen. He didn't know Rafael, or Cal, he'd barely known Richard before staying at the CHPT3 studio, yet you'd have never have believed that was the case. By the end of the trip they were all tight. I, on the other hand, spent that time in a small confined space with another SG3 member, Ned Boulting, commentating on the Tour de Yorkshire. Ryder wins, again.
Then lastly, but by no means leastly (if that word even exists, which judging by the red dotted line under it as I look at it now, is a notly), he was a guest at the start of the 100th Giro d'Italia in Sardinia. He'd spent the time in-between Nova Eroica and the Giro at Castelli HQ in Italy with Steve Smith, another SG3 member. Although they had known each other for years it was this week on the road that firmly ensconced their relationship. To the degree I'd be getting photos of Ryder with fans on a near hourly basis from Steve. I have selected a few of the best below.
So yeah, that was about it for this Ryder trip, and I think even the most dour of us have to admit - it wasn't shit.