Since launching this blog into the dark murky mists of the world wide web, I have so far been pleased by the lukewarm manner in which it has been embraced by the cycling community. Faint praise, indifference, and unhelpful criticism has literally trickled in. But one comment that keeps arising time and again is the lack of hard statistical data published on the site. Where are the graphs? Where are the charts?
So in an attempt to rectify this inadequacy, I have compiled a comprehensive report on my recent ‘performance’ in the Peter Young Memorial Road Race. Being an E/1/2/3, 135km affair my goal was for mediocrity, and as you can tell by the following statistical data, that’s exactly what I achieved.
In 2004 it was a tsunami in Thailand. In 2005 it was a hurricane in Cuba. Now in 2010 my arrival in Majorca heralded the first heavy snowfall the island had seen in 25 years. Fortunately I had omitted to tell clubmates Phil ‘Steady’ Ember and Luke ‘Wünderkind’ Wallis that I was the harbinger of freak weather and natural disasters, and both joined me on the island for a pre-season training camp. For all of us it was the first time cycling there, and after hammering ourselves for miles on smooth Majorcan roads, we returned to face the forthcoming season with strong legs and absolutely no hint of a tan whatsoever. These are some of the things we encountered on our trip:
After the recent ‘Piss-Gate’ affair over in Oman, where Edvald Boasson Hagen came a cropper after an innopportune bladder moment, the importance of the nature break in racing was brought into the spotlight. You would have thought that with Sky’s ‘marginal gains’ approach and painstaking attention to detail, Edvald would have been equipped with some sort of man-nappy to avoid such incidents. For Sky it looks as though the divide between success and failure is not the much vaunted ‘thin blue line’, but in fact a wobbly yellow one pissed into the sand of the Oman desert.
In both Qatar and Oman, Edvald apparently also had trouble with wind, but I think that’s a whole other discussion.
An obvious question to ask is why EBH needed to stop at all – has he not mastered the on-bike-pee-technique? I know the guy is young and has only been a pro for a couple of years, but don’t they have lessons in these sort of things? I’d be surprised to hear that teams don’t have a seminar series at their pre-season camps: Essential skills of the professional cyclist; Day One, Lesson One: How to dress and ride like a Pro; Day Two: Twitter and how to Tweet; Day Three: Toilet training, etc, etc.
Fortunately my status as an amateur means that if I’m ever caught short, I can just cut short my race. I’d rather feel the sweet relief of having a desperately needed pee, than tasting the sweetness of victory (though I’ve heard it has something of a metallic taste that lingers unpleasantly at the back of the mouth). However I have noticed my modesty diminishing somewhat in relation to club run pee stops. Now the merest amount of shrubbery or immature sapling is enough to shelter behind in order for me to go about my business.
I do sometimes wonder though whether this whole issue is proving a barrier for women entering the sport; not so much that they have to endure riding with blokes constantly darting behind a tree to relieve themselves, but more that their nature breaks aren’t quite so convenient? Surely it’s a consideration for British Cycling in its drive to attract wider female participation? It’s a thorny issue for all cyclists, but especially if you’re not looking where you’re squatting.
Secondarily the bicycle is a means of transport; a utilitarian tool for travelling from A to B. Clean, efficient, versatile. However, every cyclist knows that the primary function of the bicycle is, of course, to race.
No matter how unaerodynamic the frame, how squishy the tyres, how stuffed the panniers, or heavy the rucksack, the cyclist is poised for competition. No licence required. No expensive kit, or lycra shorts. Out there, on the rush hour roads of London, everyday is race day.
There is something about the act of swinging your leg over a saddle that ignites the competitive urge in the human psyche. My ride to work is epitomised by shoals of cyclists leapfrogging each other in vain efforts to get ahead, to make it through the next set of lights before their cycling brethren. Young ladies on sit-up-and-begs going shoulder to shoulder against middle aged city gents on Bromptons. Weekend warriors with hairs poking out of their lycra doing battle with mountain bikers in baggies. Cycling tribes combine together into a chaotic ill-tempered bun fight for road supremacy. I’d like to say I rise above it all, coasting nonchalantly along, but I don’t.
Ask the commuting cyclist what his or her pet hates are and, amongst the usual moans about taxi drivers and wayward pedestrians, comes the true target of bile: cyclists. Every other guy on a bike is our rival, competing for road space, holding us up, slowing us down, jumping lights to stay one step ahead of the pack. Even those that do stop for lights make sure they are at the front of the queue – even if that means cutting in ahead of anyone else already waiting patiently.
For many of us commuting is treated as easy rides, to stretch the legs after a weekends racing or the previous nights interval session. The plan is to spin light gears, stay nice and supple, keep the heart rate low… well, that was the plan you think to yourself, pulling up at work panting and damp with sweat.
As such, any recovery ride must be undertaken by stealth, under cover of darkness. On a shopping bike. Fitted with a basket. However that still probably won’t dampen your competitive instincts sufficiently. “Go on,” the little voice says, “you know you can overtake that G-Wiz before the next junction…”