Further is the brainchild of photographer Camille McMillan. It is described as ‘A new frontier in Adventure Cycling’. It’s a chance to discover a lesser known part of the French Pyrenees and explore new perspectives on cycling. Camille explains what Further means to him.
Further the event is a race and a rally in the Ariège deparment in the south west of France. It’s happening from 23-26 August. There will be no women’s race, just one race. Women and men race on an equal footing. The race will play with borders, departmental and national.
Further the concept, to me, is not far. It’s about making a decision to ride somewhere you’ve never been before, somewhere that makes you curious for whatever reason, somewhere that presents a physical challenge, somewhere that is a point of interest. The interesting places are usually hard to get to, that’s the way the world is these days.
Further is about poetry in sport, not science in sport. It’s about gaining fresh perspectives via the bicycle but not necessarily on the bicycle. That narrative can be created by people – cyclists – from all walks of life coming together. Which is the call to action for the rally.
It will be really quite hard. The race starts on a Friday and you have to finish it by Monday. But there is no pressure other than that which is self-inflicted. Riders can peel off and return to the rally if they have issues.
There are checkpoints but not all will be manned. There are some very inventive ideas being thrown around as to how riders prove their presence at the unmanned CPs.
For those at the front, the established riders of this discipline, I’m thinking of it as an ‘ultra sprint’. I know these guys and they will go at it hard.
This first race year is by invitation and we’re looking for ten women and ten men.
In 1964 Ken Kesey and his band of comrades (the Merry Pranksters) set out in an old school bus on a road trip around the United States - the bus was named Further and the Grateful Dead was the house band. The trip was documented by Tom Wolfe in the The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and was a beacon of the counterculture of the 1960’s. To this day an icon of rebellion.
Whilst I am not suggesting that Further is a beacon of counter culture, Further will create a space to explore new lands mentally and physically using the bicycle (not a bus or LSD).
Curious people, I hope. People who want to explore and discover new things. I expect a diverse group of cyclists from different cultures and backgrounds. I know plenty of these people already. Heart surgeons, writers, engineers, artists. They are all cyclists but what their day to day jobs or other hobbies brings to cycling – especially adventure cycling - is interesting to me.
These are the people from the long distance and ultra endurance community. Connections and friends from TCR. I’m also hoping some riders will get the over-night train after finishing Paris-Brest-Paris.
It’s an event organized to capture and capitalize on the shared experiences and emotions adventure riders have in common.
The race is a loop with headquarters on the plain at the bottom of the mountains. There will be wild camping but with a swimming pool, a bar and the race tracking on a big screen.
And, of course, it’s all surrounded by an undiscovered cycling playground where people can go for a ride then come back and watch the race with everyone else.
At age eight I did my first race, a cyclocross one. I got destroyed but eventually I developed a love of autumn cyclocross on dry off-road terrain. So off-road riding must be engrained in my physce since then.
I’ve been through the road racing phase from start to finish. From crit racing, road racing to covering the Tour de France. That eventually all began to feel a bit too structured. Then Mike Hall invited me to TCR and I was hooked. Off road, on road, riders getting lost, narratives being created by every cyclist I encountered. It was all the things I love about cycling. It had a dynamism that really attracted me.
When people think of the Pyrenees they ask ‘how far is Lourdes’, or ‘is it close to the Tourmalet’. No-one thinks of the Ariège, but the Tour passes through here every year. The joke is that the locals are Belgians who got lost on their way to Spain.
It’s not touristic France. It’s a rural, bucolic France stuck in time. There is a mixture of indigenous people and people who come here to live alternative lifestyles. There is a lot of subsistence farming and local markets.
They say bears were reintroduced here from Romania. It’s a controversial subject (a bit like the wolves in the Mercantour National Park). It’s a wild landscape with lots of forests on the lower slopes and bear mountain peaks up above. But there are no foothills.
I have to document Further. I’m constantly documenting. Where I’m going, what I’m finding in the preparation of the event. Digital photography is effectively note-taking for me.
But. I also have a large format wooden film camera and I’m going to start shooting ‘considered’ film. Slow, deliberate photography.