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Salzburg to Milan 2019. Prelude Part 2: The Players

Jos “Josby” Busby. Hardcore Cat 4.

A supremely likeable and solid character. Young, fresh and good looking with a sharp sense of style, both on and off the bike. A computer technology whizz, the route is locked and loaded into both his phone and cycling computer. Josby is the official navigator on this trip. If he says we go this way, we go this way, no questions.

A sensitive, kind and compassionate soul, Josby is someone who is always willing to put others before himself, especially during cycle races. He is an amazingly strong cat 4 rider, who is only too well known for his unique Milton Keynes Bowl style of racing. Lead the whole race from the start, then with 5 laps to go, slowly start to sink back into the peloton. By the time the one lap to go board is displayed, he’ll usually be found at the back of the bunch. Then, when the riders start to get frisky, and the sprint finish starts to ramp up… He’s no-where to be seen. In short, a strong talented rider with zero race craft. No matter how many times we have told him to keep his powder dry, he’ll expend his energy at any given opportunity and always ride as hard as he can. This is a good indicator.

A great climber, though he doesn’t like to boast, he’s someone who just lets his legs do the talking. He’ll slowly pull away from you with relative ease as you grind breathlessly on, puffing and panting away. If you are having a bad day and suffering on the bike, (or in life) and you want someone by your side to keep you on track, then Josby is your man. When the going gets tough, when you are on you last legs, pondering your will to go on, a gentle pat on the back, a smile and a laugh, and you know that everything is going to be just fine. Josby is a man who gets the very best out of you, even if you don’t think you can do it, with Josby by your side, somehow you know you’ll find a way.  

Justin “The Beast” Belcher. A Cycling Machine.

When god created Justin, he took one look at his creation and then threw away the mould; “This man is far too much to bear, it is unfair to mere mortals to have such a man wander amongst them.”

A more powerful rider I have never known. The number of miles we have cycled together easily runs into the tens, if not hundreds of thousands. In all those miles, I have not seen him bonk on the bike once. His calf muscles are legendary within the local race scene, thicker than many junior riders waste lines, they literally have a heartbeat all of their own. Justin will quite happily have you sit on his wheel, and without the slightest grumble pull you along for 5,10, 20 miles, and all the time you will be begging for the torture to end.

Off the bike, much of the same. A voracious appetite and an almost unquenchable thirst. This is a man who desires to live life to the full, and on tour does so night after night after night. Though do not be misled, Justin is a devoted family man who always calls home each evening and lets those dearest to him know that they are in his thoughts.   

Justin has easily ridden over more alpine mountains than anyone I know. He has an almost encyclopaedic, knowledge of the alpine passes and towns. He is the route master on this trip and without him, this bike packing adventure would not be taking place.

Finally, if you are still in any doubt as to the monstrosity of this man, Justin is completing this adventure just two weeks after being airlifted via emergency helicopter to a major trauma unit. After a side collision with a tractor, he sustained a collapsed lung and multiple rib fractures. The tractor is unfortunately beyond repair. In a word, awesome.

Luke Souter. Cycles for pain, cycles for glory!

I like to ride bikes, fast, slow, on road, off road, I don’t mind too much. Cycling for me is a great way to explore the world, being outdoors and close to nature is a passion which I would not be able to do without. As an addict cannot do without his fix, so I on the bike. To explore the alps with these two great friends is a pleasure and an honour. The experiences we have shared are enduring memories which I shall hold dear all my life.

How do you describe yourself as a cyclist? I probably have a reputation as someone who is always pushing as hard as he can. A Strava KOM monster? I can turn on the gas when I need or want to, I certainly enjoy turning the suffer dial up to 10, and enjoy seeing others suffering on my wheel. I suppose this brings some perverted sense of enjoyment, though not in an unhealthy way. I especially like to turn up the pain dial up on myself. I like to push myself to the limit, beyond the max, always pushing for more, till my heart is pounding in my chest and my lungs are burning. Yet, I’m also more than happy to bimble calmly along, looking around at the scenery, basking in the wonders of nature and the amazing sights and sounds of the mountains.

For this trip, I was carried along. Josby and Justin did all the ground work, navigation, hotel finding. I just sat on my bike, took photos and climbed mountains. Thus, I am writing. Partly to balance the books, as a sense of debt, but mainly to share our experiences with you, that you might be driven to one day undertake something similar yourselves.

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