It’s two weeks until mine and Louise’s wedding in Girona, Spain. We decided that we want a small wedding with our closest family; just 12 adults and three babies will be joining us on our special day. Later in August, my best buddy Chris is kindly arranging a party at the quality pub, the Mere Inn, in Alsager (www.themereinn.co.uk) so we can celebrate with our extended family and friends. With just two weeks to go, for a normal wedding everything would long be organised – the ceremony, food, flowers, cake and so on. Well, ours is not! Louise will arrive home on Monday and in local style we will drop by to see people and set things up. I always knew things would be different with Louise from the moment I met her…
It was early April 2014 and I had just returned to the office from a family holiday (the San Dimas Stage Race – I quite often turn races into family holidays) in California. I had only worked for the environmental charity for 6 months and it had been a massive career shift from building aircraft parts. My colleagues were quick to tell me that there was a new employee I needed to meet, but she was currently away in Mallorca with her race team. The fact that she had taken a holiday when starting a new job was one thing, that it was a training camp meant I was immediately interested. When Louise returned we arranged our first date: sprint intervals in Richmond park. She hung on my wheel for the first few, I was impressed, things were going great. For the second date we rode out together to a local criterium race, Crystal Palace. Even though I crashed (on my own) on one of the corners, I got back on my bike and sprinted for 5th that evening, like a bloodied gladiator in front of his Princess.
It all came together when in August I spontaneously decided take a trip to the Dolomites and invite Louise along, to my surprise she said yes. After the first night in a shifty looking layby hotel (I still haven’t lived that one down Louise – sorry) things got really romantic as we drove through the windy cobbled streets, around the beautiful lakes and stopped for coffee to look at each other, I mean the view. Once at Feltre, we un-packed our bikes in preparation for our first ride up the Stelvio Pass. I had a nightmare that Louise would beat me up there and therefore I wouldn’t be the man she was looking for. Luckily I kicked her butt. At the top she was freezing so I hugged her and we shared our first kiss. There couldn’t have been a better spot for it. That mountain pass is proudly on our living room wall and will be with us for the rest of our lives.
On a bike ride together a few months later we decided to leave London and move into a cottage together in the countryside. Each day we got up ridiculously early, sometimes training on the turbo in the little broken wooden shed outside (I would go out 10 mins earlier and switch on a little electric fan heater). We then took turns to make the bacon and eggs or the coffee. We cycled to a local station to leave our bikes and then took a train to the office together. Sometimes Louise would bring over a cookie and hot chocolate from Ben’s Cookies in Covent Garden – what a treat. We compensated for the lack of sunshine by arranging trips to Lanzarote, the Sierra Nevadas in South Spain and Mallorca (mother nature rolls over with our carbon footprint). Each time we arrived home, we craved to stay in these sunny places with smooth roads and so few cars.
I cracked. It was time to move abroad to the sunshine. I typed “world’s best cycling destinations” into Google and Louise made a spreadsheet to compare the different options based on a set of criteria including road quality, mountains, climate, oh and distance to family & friends. Girona came out top trumps so I put on a job search and put my feet up to wait for the flurry of job offers. It wasn’t that long before I had an interview and a job and then I was leaving London. Louise stayed in the UK to finish her season and honor the agreement with our race club, PMR@ToachimHouse.
When Louise came over I booked a romantic apartment overlooking the Girona old town, cathedral and river side. It was beautiful. It was also 8 flights of stairs up and without an elevator Louise’s leg cramps came on. She couldn’t get up and down the stairs let alone ride her bike. The ring I would sneakily get out every time I thought there was a moment would quickly be stored away again. So I waited 3 months more. We went on a bike ride together to a local mountain called Mare de Deu Del Mont. I rode off at the bottom and at the top got on one knee and waited for my Princess. As she arrived, I made sure she crossed the line for her Strava segment, before letting the gas off (priorities people).
Here we are one year on and our wedding day is imminent. Girona is a dream location and when we are together here we are the happiest people alive. Trying to make a career in cycling is a challenge and we are both making sacrifices, especially in our time apart. But we both love cycling and our wheels will be turning up to and including our wedding day!
I am the luckiest man alive to be marrying Louise Laker. 2 weeks to go and counting!