Words and photos by Dan Milner
In geological terms, two hundred years isn’t long. It’s long enough for, say a river to carve a slightly different course, or a rock face to slip its moorings during a deluge and change a mountain’s silhouette, but in the big bang scheme of things it’s just a blink of an eye.
This random thought crosses my mind as I peer down from the 1018 m Monte Capanne — the highest point on the island of Elba — at the rocky coastline that wraps an almost 360-degree arc around me far below. This coastline probably hasn’t changed much in two hundred years: waves crash into its cliffs, seagulls soar effortlessly on the thermal uplifts, but it’s witnessed more flux than I can comprehend.
As my gaze wanders to Monte Capanne’s summit, I realise that a couple of centuries of human timeline can separate very different worlds. I look at my fellow mountain bikers, Scott pro riders Holger Meyer and Karen Eller, their vibrant, synthetic clothing clashing with the solemn grey steel of an enormous radio antenna that shares our mountain perch.
Two hundred years ago, Napoleon stood here and pondered his life in exile before raising another army to try to reclaim his European empire. I’m sure cell phone masts and clothing spun from crude oil residue never entered his consciousness — nor did mountain bikes.