At first light on Monday, 12 September, Canada SailGP Team athlete Isabella Bertold set off from Saint-Tropez on her Factor road bike to travel over 1,100 km to Cadiz, Spain, the location of the upcoming SailGP event on 24-25 September.
Isabella rode between 125 km and 250 km each day, for six straight days, to raise awareness for the plight of the ocean following on from the conclusion of the Range Rover France Sail Grand Prix in Saint-Tropez.
Aptly named, the Ride for the Future, Isabella took time out along the way to speak with local residents about the importance of reducing our reliance on plastics, as well as cleaning waterways and shorelines along the dramatic coastlines of Southern France and Spain.
“There are a few things that really stood out and it was quite eye opening. Everywhere you go you are riding alongside ditches, that is where all the trash gathers,” said Isabella. “We also saw the landscape and topography change dramatically. Further North around Girona, it was green and lush, then closer to Valencia everything was so dry and arid. It was one of the hottest summers that Spain has ever recorded. Every riverbed that I went over was completely dried out. That was another visual cue of climate change and how quickly the changes are happening.
“The beauty of riding a bike from point A to point B is that you experience everything at a different pace. You interact with locals, you see things from a different perspective. At the start of the ride, I saw beautiful coastline on one side and trash filled ditches on the other. As the days went on, every can of Coke and Aquarius that I purchased, I felt a pang of guilt, knowing that I was likely part of the problem. But this guilt also changed what I was seeing. I no longer just saw the cans and bottles in the ditch, but I saw different trash bins, disposal systems and people interacting with them. There was a common link: Small/open or flip top bins meant large amounts of rubbish on the side of the road, larger/deeper welled bins with hard top lids, the roads looked pristine.
"The reality is not that people simply throw their items on the side of the road and most people seemed well intentioned. But the systems we interact with, get in the way. Keeping plastic out of our ocean is more than just the simple act of saying "no" to plastic. It is pushing for change in our built environment, designing for change and thinking that one extra moment about how you are disposing of your rubbish. Along the ride I watched seagulls fly away with plastic bags, a dead dolphin washed up on the beach - yet, I arrived in Cadiz optimistic. Optimistic that if we all commit to one positive action, that we can stop the path we are on and correct the ratio of plastic to fish in the ocean.”
This Ride for the Future auction is live until 30 September, so there is still time to bid for the Factor Ride for the Future bike in support of the Team’s Race For The Future partner, Ocean Wise.
Tune in this weekend for the Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía - Cádiz presented by NEAR, live on TSN.