One of the things I admire most about Maurits Cornelis Escher, one of my favorite artists, is his ability to resonate with individuals from vastly different backgrounds through his art. Whether you’re a scientist or an artist, Escher’s illusions and paradoxes are likely to evoke something in you, albeit for different reasons. While one person might see a fish, another might see a bird; where one sees a descending staircase, another sees it ascending. Actually, it’s more likely that everyone sees a bit of everything, with certain elements standing out more than others depending on the mood of the moment.

Geometry or chaos? Reality or illusion? It all comes down to perspective, much like the playful approach we took with The Traka 360 rankings last year. It’s hard to miss that Mattia claimed victory in the race, but not everyone knows that Asja and I respectively landed second-to-last and last. Or should I say, first and second if you read the rankings in reverse! It’s a bit of a jest, and I wouldn’t dare undermine the significance of the rankings. I’m definitely not standing on the whole “it’s not about winning, it’s about participating” philosophy. But let me assure you, it’s not just a mere consolation. We’re dealing with something deeper here…

In a place like Girona, surrounded by great company, with just a few kilometers of training under our belts but a strong desire to spend hours pedaling without any obligations – why rush? Our first stop for ice cream a couple of hours into the ride becomes an excuse to soak in the Spanish ambiance at a quaint village bar, watching the steady stream of cyclists go by. Later, indulging in a slice of cake becomes our way of saying we’ve also savored the beach vibes along the coast of Roses. Taking a nap during the darkest hours is our way to appreciating the beauty of the entire 360-kilometer scenarios along the route .

A year later, these are the moments that stand out most vividly in my memory. These, along with the sprint finishes to beat the time cutoffs, leading to a remarkable team result: Enough Cycling holds both the first and last positions. It’s quite an achievement, because if you think finishing last is a walk in the park, you’re sorely mistaken. While the physical challenge of completing 360 kilometers with minimal training was to be expected, the strategic calculations to slip through the closing gates before the cutoff were less obvious the closest we were getting to the finish line.

The stark contrast in the results between Mattia and us brings a smile to my face, knowing that Mattia and I couldn’t be further apart on the leaderboard, yet we shared every moment of the journey together – from the first pedal stroke in Girona to the final celebration and the Monday morning hangover. And I’m certain that beneath the finish line arch, we all wore the same tired legs and satisfied smiles. Yes, only one person was doused in Champagne, but the downpour of prosecco and beer reserved for us was just as rewarding.

In the ideological battleground between gravel races and non-races, between pushing too hard and not being adequately prepared, we emerged from The Traka 2023 weekend with a sense of relief. We discovered firsthand that there’s room for everyone and that the myriad approaches to cycling somehow fit together seamlessly, without overshadowing one another. Just like in an Escher painting, where each viewer finds their own interpretation, sometimes even the opposite of what others see.