For those of you who closely follow the sport of low-level amateur cycling in the south east, you will already know all about my semi-incredible performance this past weekend. Suffice to say, dozens of words in reports and analysis have already been written on how I spectacularly achieved 4th place – which is basically as good as is possible without actually stepping onto the podium – a result which is being hailed by aficionados of the sport as my best result yet, bar none. Which would be correct.
In some ways it’s fortunate that I didn’t somehow – through fluke or default – manage to win the race. Winning for me continues to be an elusive exotic state in which grown men regard you with awe, and young ladies clamber to touch the hem of my lycra shorts. If I were to ever glimpse the reality – that no one other than myself would give a toss – my faith in cycling may crumble. How would I ever motivate myself through all those grueling training hours? Suffer the pain of intervals? Be arsed to clean my bike? Winning would certainly trigger the terminal decline of my cycling career. Or at the very least, success would be accompanied by an undignified failure, such as tripping off the podium or falling across the line during my unrehearsed victory salute.
One of the worrying side effects of my recent ‘success’ is that I am becoming a trusted source of advice and knowledge to my fellow cyclist. A sort of guru of sub-standard bike racing. Anyone who has been following this blog however, will know my opinions on cycling are wildly inaccurate, founded as they are on fuzzy logic and superstition (though if your targets are towards mediocrity and semi-failure then, quite clearly, I’m your man). But it does illustrate every cyclists’ perpetual search for morsels of insight that will transform them from an also-ran of the amateur bunch, into a winner. Or in my case, into a nearly-won.
Training and racing is often referred to as an art rather than a science – this is fortunate for those making their livings dispensing advice and wisdom, as there are very few definitive right and wrongs. In fact, so much advice is made impenetrable by jargon, complexity or impracticality, that bad advice is often hard to spot. When I offer an opinion to a team mate regarding training or racing strategy I’m very aware that the very thing I’m advocating may well prove to be incorrect. It may have been true or helpful to me at some point, but that it may translate badly to someone else who may have different requirements or abilities to my own.
Possibly the only teacher you can trust is your own experience. For example I now know exactly what it takes to nearly win a race, and in future will be making sure I replicate the same preparation and tactics in coming races to ensure similar almost-successful outcomes. I am also very well versed in finishing mid-bunch (my particular specialty), coming last, and even that most coveted of positions on the results sheet, achieving a DNF.
If you would like expert insight into how to reach such unspectacular heights, then please don’t be afraid to ask.