It was still dark when Adam came out of the house. He took a pickaxe and a shovel, put them into the trunk of his car, and drove six miles out of the city. He turned off the engine at the outskirts of the forest, grabbed the tools, and disappeared in a cold haze amongst the old Spruces. It was a bleak February morning, at the crack of dawn. The rain-drenched forest was quietly waking up until the brittle sound of iron smashing into granite rocks began to cut the silence.
Adam was digging relentlessly. Beads of sweat rolled down his cheek but his eyes showed that he longed to be somewhere else. Somewhere warm and dry — somewhere by the sea, listening to the ceaseless murmur of the waves and blithely pedaling his bike against the muggy morning breeze.
He never talked much, but his car could often be seen there. In winter, when the ground was not entirely frozen, Adam dug a trail in the forest, so he had a place to ride his bike. He was training for the World cup downhill racing. Once, his biggest dream was to make a living by riding bikes and traveling the world. But now, he has entirely lost sense of time and was late to work.
There were no voices to be heard in a car repair shop anymore. Concrete walls saturated with the smell of old motor oil echoed only the clanking of tools and the droning of an electric grinder. Adam was all alone, finishing work at 5:30 pm. He had to saw off a rusty old exhaust pipe. He was in a hurry — something was on his mind and he was eager to try it today.
Although winters are no longer what they used to be, it’s still pretty cold to ride a bike. Days are short and it’s almost dark when Adam finishes work. He always wonders what he can do (beyond riding bikes and training in the gym) to get any better. When it was time to finally call it a day in the workshop, he took his bike and rode it to a nearby lake. It was calm but freezing outside: The land was covered with fresh snow and by the time he reached the lakeside, he was chilled to the bones. Adam swiftly took off his shoes and clothes, and for the first time went for it.
The goal was to hold on for one minute, but it was much colder than he had expected: He instantly felt a deep coldness down to his bones, his teeth chattered, his lips turned blue before even touching the water and he could barely feel his toes (which were now as white as snow). Adam quickly started to doubt if he could ever make it.
Until he closed his eyes and imagined being somewhere else.
The deep rumble of the ocean, damp wind whistling past those giant cliffs shrouded by the morning haze — Adam was literally running with the waves. Out of the ocean, straight towards his bicycle. The sun was just rising, and without further thinking, he grabbed the bars and finally put his feet on pedals.
He went straight to the steep vermillion hills in the desert: Someone told him once, that he could find great dirt down there — the kind of dirt that feels like powder on skis when riding a bike. When Adam arrived at the foothills, he had to push the bike further up amongst tiny cactuses and thorny bushes. He was climbing sheer cliffs and endless ridges, carrying his bike on his shoulders, and relentlessly hiking up the mountain, until he finally got to the very top. Only to ride it all the way down.
He precisely carved out fresh turns and the dust was coming off the wheels, exactly like he once saw it in a Canadian freeride movie. He was completely on his own — without a single living soul around. Only him and his bicycle, in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles away from his frozen homeland.
The warm breeze was scattering the dust off the steeps and Adam was totally flying down the hill — like it was for real, not just his made-up dream.
Adam has his bike handling down to a fine art. After all, he has been riding bikes since the age of three. He knows how to escape crashes; he can almost feel the ground through the tires (as if the bike were part of him). He was nimbly navigating the terrain and choosing the best line — literally enjoying the ride of his life. Until he took off the ground to catch some air. And made a mistake.
He sent his enduro bike on a thirty-five feet long flight off the cliff. After a huge impact on the landing, his right foot had slipped off the pedal and Adam lost his balance.
He opened his eyes instantly: It was already dark outside, and his feet were so cold that he could barely feel them. His teeth started chattering again and he was immediately shaking like a leaf. He couldn’t stand the cold anymore, but his desire to go back was even stronger. So, he took one last deep breath, gritted his teeth, and closed his eyes, so he could finish the dream ride.
Adam hadn’t met anybody down there. Just a few scorpions and tiny lizards, cautiously hiding beneath the glossy gypsum rocks reflecting the heat of the sun. Only further down the valley, near the green oasis shaded by palm trees, he found a small village. All the windows were shut, yet few clothes were hanging on the lines between the earthen walls of the houses. Nobody was there to be seen, but he could hear some voices along with sheep bells coming from the distance.
Adam was slowly prowling through the village and wondering what these people could possibly dream of (here, in the middle of the desert in the foothills of High Atlas), when he suddenly started shivering and realized that he was still lying in the icy water of the lake in his fatherland. Only a few more seconds, just a few more turns in this magical vermillion powder, one last jump, and I’ll quit — he was telling himself.
The heat of the sun had vanished, and he was rushing back to the ocean. The deep rumble of the Atlantic strangely mingled with the cold silence of the frozen lake in his homeland. The moon was rising above the seashore and Adam was shivering like a leaf, yet again. He couldn’t hold on any longer — he left the bike on the beach and started to run towards the waves.
It was over. Adam opened his eyes, swiftly got up, and went off the cold water, but his mind remained in his dreamland. He wasn’t shivering anymore: He was standing still, looking at small drops dribbling off his hair disappearing in the snow beneath his bare feet. Adam was slowly waking up to the frozen truth. When he looked at the time, a satisfying grin came across his face — almost three minutes had passed. He knew this was just one tiny drop in the ocean (only a small step on the long road to the big dream), but he knew that once there were enough of such drops to form his ocean, it wouldn’t be salty anymore.
The calm surface of the lake got rippled by the cold wind coming from the north. Adam swiftly put his clothes on, jumped back on the bike, and went home. He lay down on his bed, set the alarm, and closed his eyes to quickly fall asleep — the next rusty exhaust pipe was waiting for him in the workshop and he didn’t want to be late again.
written by Peter Lengyel
photography: Peter Turek and Peter Lengyel
rider: Adam Rojček
A few weeks later, at the first round of the UCI Downhill World Cup in Maribor, Adam finished 12th in the qualifiers and 18th in the big finals. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on his side for the rest of the season, with crashes and injuries coming at him like tongues of consuming lava. But he is only 21, a bit wiser now, and eager to show his best in the coming season of World Cup racing.