Friday, April 12, 2013

A Strange Breed

I came out for exercise, gentle exercise, and to notice the scenery and to botanise. And no sooner do I get on that accursed machine than off I go hammer and tongs; I never look to right or left, never notice a flower, never see a view - get hot, juicy, red - like a grilled chop. Get me on that machine and I have to go. I go scorching along the road, and cursing aloud at myself for doing it. --H.G. Wells

When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” -- Arthur Conan Doyle 

Watching Paris Roubaix earlier this week has me waxing poetic about everything cycling.  

Lots of things run through your head the morning before a race, even a practice race with nothing at stake.  Rituals calm the nerves.  Those committed to racing bicycles have adopted a lifestyle full discipline but on race day it’s escalated to a sadistic and maniacal level.  We have a toolkit similar to a Comanche Indian’s weaponry.  Instead of a finely sharpened hatchet to claim the scalps of fallen opponents we have carbon wheels to slice the air and help us save small amounts of effort in a headwind or maintain speed in a paceline.   Instead of applying war paint we remove body hair from legs and arms (don’t let anyone convince you of a performance benefit, for me it’s mental preparation and a symbol of my dedication to the sport).   We will comb over our machines looking for mechanical or aesthetic imperfections then apply the necessary swipe of a rag or drop of grease (preferably Pro Gold) before finally declaring its readiness.  This morning I started thinking about the sub culture we racers immerse ourselves in.  It seems to happen subconsciously, then applying lotion or embrocation to a freshly shaven body part, you realize that you just finished shaving your legs! What?! Now you’re applying some type of lubricant to help avoid skin irritations and wondering how you got here.  I do believe these strange rituals help us mentally prepare.  It’s the final goodbye to our normal life, maybe we shave that most outward facing layer of flesh and hair like a snake sheds skin, a sort of tangible way that we transcend into the primal mindset required to not only accept but to invite the pain that comes along with racing.  They say that you can’t duplicate your race level efforts on training rides or workouts,  if that’s true than we really do become something different from our normal selves on race day.  I started write down some of these thoughts on Wednesday before the ACA Oval kick off race.  I went out hard on Wednesday per my coach’s direction.  I had to execute a breakaway or two that should last two laps, I was supposed to pull at the front at least twice and I was supposed to accept that this type of effort may lead to a bad result or possibly getting dropped.  I was able to read the race very well on Wednesday.  Our team worked well together without ever speaking.  There was a synergy to our riding that didn’t require verbal dialogue.  I got my pull done with in lap 1, my solo breakaway lasted around 6-7 laps, and I had enough energy to contest every prime sprint winning 2 out of the 3.  Thanks to the efforts of my teammates I was able to come away with the win only out sprinting Devin at the line by half a wheel or less.  I hope many more races this season will end with DPT teammates battling for first and second.  Cheers to Dynamic blue covered podiums throughout the season.