Ego and Insecurity

…Another post that has been sitting in the ‘draft’ folder for a LONG time – almost a year in fact…

An attempt at dissection of the psyche of a cyclist. The title alone suggests this might get a bit messy and, of course, like all attempts at psycho-analysis, it is highly possible that the words that follow will explain more about me, than anyone else… Gulp…

Where to start?

Cycling is a highly independent activity. Notwithstanding the fact that ‘bunch racing’ is the most commonly known kind of cycle racing, and that ‘club rides’ are the mainstay of the social side of cycling, it is almost inevitable that the majority of riding for most cyclists will be alone. A by-product of having a mode of transport as a sporting tool (even a group ride will be book ended by a few miles alone), a consequence of modern life (fit your riding in when you need to, not when others are available) or a necessity of training (you need to train in the best way for you, not the best way for someone else)…

As a result the average cyclist is free, independent and self sufficient. The behaviour that then ensues is liberating and empowering. Do I ride faster today? Yes – if I want to. Do I stop and go home earlier today? Yes – if I want to. Do I add on a few miles today, because i’m feeling epic? Yes – if I want to. Independence is a wonderful thing and nothing is better for escaping the trials and tribulations of everyday life than a few miles riding in the countryside - distracted by the rural surroundings, or in an urban environment – frantically trying to avoid death at the hands of homicidal motorists….

And, because this blog is all about racing – in case you were beginning to loose focus, in the competitive setting of a bicycle race independence and self sufficiency is required in spades. There are no prizes for waiting for ailing competitors and, certainly at the low level of amateur racing I occasionally dip a toe into, there is precious little benefit in even waiting for a club mate, despite the solidarity that the matching kit infers. So it is of no great surprise that a somewhat selfish mode of thought can be found in many competitive riders once they hit the start-line.

I will always remember the first race meeting I attended, Victoria Park in Leamington Spa. I had been assured that it would be a venerable crash-fest for 4th cat riders and, true to form, 15 minutes into my competitive debut I heard the scrape and thud of riders behind me colliding. Instinctively I twisted to see over my shoulder only to be instantly rebuked “DON’T TURN ROUND WHEN THERE’S A CRASH – YOU’LL HAVE US ALL OFF YOU STUPID T*&£$%£”…

Never mind my instinctive thought that the poor riders behind me could be lying bleeding on the tarmac, with bicycle components impaled in their chests: “what about me” was all the chap next to me could think…. Of course, he probably had a point and an attitude which would get him a long way in a race - the last thing a twitchy group of riders needs is someone not looking where they are going. But it just didn’t seem right to me somehow, and perhaps that’s been one of the problems i’ve had through out my (grandiosely termed) bunch-racing ‘career’… I’ve never been a cut-and-thrust kind of guy. Never been one to shut someone out of the line of riders when they are desperate to get some shelter. Never been one to lean on someone else to push them out of the space that I want to be in. Never been one to keep the speed high and thin out the bunch when other’s are suffering….

….on the club run……

….And there it is. The real point of this post. It’s about those times when the attributes that help you in the competitive environment come into play when they are least needed – the social, jolly, chummy, all-in-it-together, aren’t we a great bunch of chaps, setting: the club run… And why a rider would feel the need to turn something sociable into something competitive…

The lexicon of cycling is varied and mixed. Continental influences to the language abound: peloton, derailleur, souplesse. Some of the colloquialisms prompt muffled giggles: bonk, some are seemingly innocuous but describe despicable behaviour: flick, switch. And the dictionary of cycling does not leave us wanting when we look for a way to describe misplaced competitiveness, and it doesn’t even need dressing up in a foreign language:

“half-wheel or half-wheeler:

A rider that rides half a wheel in front of another on training rides and group rides. No matter how much the pursuer speeds up to keep up with him/her, s/he stays that distance ahead. Usually these people are frowned upon and less desirable to ride with.”

In events which I still cannot believe truly happened, not long after I started riding with my first club, I actually witnessed two grown men, probably in their 40′s if not their 50′s, almost come to blows about ‘half-wheeling’ during a club run. And they weren’t even doing it – one was just claiming that they’d have the ability to do it to the other if they were moving…

But why on earth would someone feel the need, during the relaxed sociable setting of a weekend club-run, to demonstrate their strength and ability in such an arrogant manner? Especially when the outcome is plain to see: one rider smug and gloating, one rider inevitably left behind when the pace rises too high…

An oft used reposte, often fired off at a lively legged companion showing exuberance during a group ride, gives us the context: “Feeling good are we? Why don’t you stick a number on your back then?“. It’s straightforward really – if you feel strong enough to hand out some pain to your companions – go and do it on race-day, when you are surrounded by people who’ve signed up for that experience. Of course, reticence often ensues, mumbled excuses are offered as to why putting pedals where mouth is not an option.

And, to give credit where credit is due, the in-form racing cyclists in any given club aren’t usually the worst offenders. For them the 40 odd miles of a club run is of no consequence and putting a bunch of MAMILs to the sword is not much of an achievement – they have bigger fish to fry come race-day. Sure, they might tear it up briefly on a climb, flex their muscles in a pre-determined sprint, or even give the group a hearty head start. But on the whole the fittest riders, who are well within their abilities,don’t tend to flaunt their strength – preferring to let their race results speak for themselves. It’s these guys that I respect the most.

So – why do some people feel the need to half-wheel? The title at the top of the page gives an indication as to where I fall on this one. It’s showing off. It’s arrogance. It’s a desperate need to prove your own worth, to show off, to be a ‘big man’. In fact it’s probably rooted in some fundamental self-perceived inadequacy….

It’s ego and insecurity.

I remember this…

Written back in December, before it all changed (but more on that when I can find the time)….

The night creeps in stealthily, before 3pm the skies begin to darken and the garden begins to drift into a dreary monochrome. Still air begins to chill, suddenly, and as I stand on the patio the tendrils of cold reach across the ground and up into my body. It’s Sunday evening – in the morning i’ll be back at my desk, too busy for cycling – so it’s not a hard decision to make – “I think i’ll pop out on my bike for a little while this evening darling, that OK?”….

With fatherly duties half discharged it’s 5pm before I retrieve my bike from the garage. Night has fallen now, and outside the road is a dusty grey, with an orange aura from the street lights highlighting the imperfections in the tarmac.

Through a lack of repetition the ritual of preparing for a ride is gradually deserting me, I sometimes find myself heading out  for a  ride without inner tubes, or water bottle, and on this occasion it is my eyewear that I have forgotten. It’s a strange feeling to have the air against my eye - having spent the last 25 years wearing glasses for everyday use and always teaming contact lenses with clear lens glasses – it’s like riding without a helmet, or without clipless pedals. Strangely I feel closer to my surroundings – more in contact with the elements…

As I head into the country lanes I fire up my bike light. Not the flimsy, pathetic glow, of the bike lights of my childhood, but a blazing modern LED lamp. The beam bounces from road signs two or three hundred yards up the road and illuminates my path perfectly. Unnervingly the beam is so intense it casts a heavy shadow in my peripheral vision, giving the constant impression of a gloomy figure pacing me throughout the ride…

As I toil up the first incline the beam sways and weaves across the road in front of me. My gaze focuses close to my front wheel – watching out for potholes or debris. As the road levels out I lift my head and begin to scan my surroundings. Riding near the coast limits the view in certain directions, but the strange paradox of night is that distant flickering lights belie the existence of hitherto unknown settlements. Across the estuary, hours away by bike, they seem so close I could almost reach out and touch them…

Steadily I  grind onwards, occasionally crossing busier routes where the steady stream of cars provides a pool of light,  but largely riding through silent,  darkened country lanes…

It’s incredible how awkward the body feels when doing something unfamiliar. And shocking how that can apply to something previously so intuitive. Previously I would throw the bike into a bend – a supreme confidence in my ability to navigate the turn – but now the subtle feedback from the changing road surface makes me nervous and cautious. Contact points with the bike become sore and ache far more quickly than they used to – the soreness of leg muscles progresses in tandem with aching neck and forearms.

In spite of this I have incredibly lucid moments of connection with a time that seems long ago. A clarity of recognition as I recall winter rides from previous years. The smell of the cold – the sting of cool drizzle on my face – the eerie quiet of a rural lane. Most satisfyingly – the biting chill of cold air into the lungs every time I make an effort up a climb. There’s nothing more satisfying than making an investment in training. For all that cycling can be a thankless master – never allowing you to be as quick as you’d like - it is fair in the rewards it provides: put in an effort this time, you’ll go a little quicker next time…

Call it sentimentality, call it nostalgia: being out ‘training’ feels good. It’s not enough to take me back to racing - or even to club rides (which is a whole other story) – but i’m certainly becoming more inspired to ride.

…Hang on a minute…

“No,  it’s not a race as such, I mean,  yes you are in a race,  but it’s not against the people around you,  that’s the beauty of it,  you’re only really racing  against yourself you see, trying to improve against your own standard…”

Well hang on a minute.  We’ve been here before. More than once.  And it always seems to play out the same way: what starts off as ‘just trying it out’, ‘ a bit of fun’, ‘ nothing serious’, gives way to a creeping investment in the toys and gadgets, a ‘ training schedule’  to back up grandiose plans  for a ‘season’  of competition and overblown hyperbole about the relative station of my achievements in the broader sporting pantheon

In fact, we may already be on that path already. The arrival of an excessively high-tech answer to the question: “How unfit am I?” arrived a few weeks ago – a spur of the moment purchase that i’ve only been considering for the last five years is a fair indicator…

But anyway, wherever this might end up doesn’t matter at this stage, providing some detail of the (re)start is the purpose of this post.

The record will show: Colchester Castle Park run – 16/11/13 – 5km – 25:21. Not too shabby by my own reckoning, considering that three months ago I was having to combine bursts of ‘running’ (heavy on the inverted commas – trudging may be more accurate a word) with regular periods of walking simply to cover the same distance…. 62nd of over 120 starters shows the result could not be more squarely positioned as ‘middle of the pack’, but at least it sets a standard to work from.

And the plan is to revisit the Parkrun every few weeks, not least because it is the most remarkable concept: free to enter, just log your details a few days before on the interweb and print a barcode, no need to sign in – or wear a race number, results emailled direct to you within a couple of days, event photos on the relevant Facebook page within a few hours, and endless encouragement from the kindly volunteers who direct you round the course. I still can’t get my head round it, but I am certainly not going to question it!

The Comeback. Version… oh, there’s been so many, I loose count…

So, 10 days to go until the Ronde Picard 2013. And rather than putting the finishing touches to my physical preparation I am at the very beginning of a road back to fitness. Turns out that having a baby is rather more disruptive than I anticipated. And it wasn’t even me that had it, it was the Directeur Sportif…

Expectations of working in regular 50 mile commutes into the first few weeks of newborn inhabiting the home were optimistic at best. I’m no stranger to fatigue, the photo evidence from the annual sojourn to the Peak District in 2012 demonstrates the cumulative effect 3 days hard riding can have on me, but sleeping in two hour bursts for weeks on end is a whole different ball game…

The one on the left catching flies is not me…

And, somewhat regretfully, as a result of the long and steady deterioation in my fitness I have become somewhat disconnected from my club, preferring to ride solo rather than hold up my peers on their regular rides or, worse still, suffer the ignominy of being dropped by the bunch on routes I used to be able to ride round with ease…

So – at a rather low ebb – I decided to do something that I haven’t really dallied with since May 2011 when I was stupid enough to do 26.2 miles of it. I’ve been running. Which is probably a rather exuberant description for the slow shuffle that has transported me around the local footpaths and roads. However, thanks to a sudden fascination with GPS and an extremely late adoption of ‘Strava’, I can confidently say that I am (no pun intended) on the road to improvement. OK – the improvement is that I no longer have to adopt a run-walk strategy to cover any distance over 1 miles – but at least it is progress…

And, because it wouldn’t really be my ‘blog without some sort of ridiculously highfaluting goal, I’ve already started to dream of tackling another epic challenge. The word ‘Ironman’ is getting mentioned, if only by the voices in my head at the moment… The last time I took to running in a (semi) serious way the monster triathlon was the ultimate goal, but after completing the marathon which was intended to be a stepping stone I swore blind I would never run a marathon (or run at all in fact) again, and there was no way i’d be taking on an Ironman. I really can’t say what has changed since, but I do keep coming back to the idea…

And so, with sleep increasingly becoming a feature of the time I have between days at work, it looks like i’ll be gradually building up a base of fitness again – and probably leafing through the event schedules for 2014 to find some races to target. On foot, and perhaps on bike too. Maybe i’ll even have another stab at the Mountain.

Ronde and Ronde…

…it’s been a long day, over 100 miles in the legs now, the heat has been phenomenal as the sun has beaten down with horrific intensity and my arms, legs and face are crusted in sweat. Worse, my feet have swollen so much from the heat that they are cramping, crushed within my shoes. At the last feed zone I was reduced to stopping and soaking my feet in cold water to try and persuade the throbbing flesh to contract…

No longer part of the vast peloton that rolled out from the start at 8am, we’re in small group now, sharing the work as best we can, protecting those who are suffering them most, determined to get round together. But the cracks are starting to show. There are less than 10 kilometres to go now and, as the road winds gently round to the right amd we leave another quaint French village behind, the road ramps upwards. In an instant the harmony of our gruppetto is shattered and cameraderie is cast aside. Gaps begin to open up, riders who were grimly clinging to the wheel in front can only watch as it drifts out of reach. Ahead we pick up the shards of another group, riders zig-zagging on the tarmac ahead of us, one stands vomitting at the roadside, clinging to his bike as he leaves the vestige of his strength in the grass verge.

The climb itself is hugely insignificant, a pimple of an incline on a parcours that could at best be described as gentle. But the cumulative effect of the miles, the heat and the nagging winds has magnified the damage inflicted. As we head upwards the gaps solidify, a pair of riders from our group make the gap stick and dive down the other side ahead of us. As we reach the crest I link up with another rider and we too plummet down the ribbon of tarmc and cobbles. The wheel I am following is a good one, a club rider who lived the dream for a brutal season in a French semi-pro team in his late teens. This is a man who can ride a bike quickly and, as we weave through the next village, we distance the chasing few. Down a narrow street, tightly lined with houses, we drift to the left hand gutter as we approach a sharp right hand turn, the road bending back on itself. The roads are closed for the event, so we shouldn’t encounter any traffic, but the head of the race passed through hours ago… Hunch down on the bike, grip the drops of the handlebars, push your weight back, left pedal down and dive into the right hand bend. Clip the apex, from left gutter to right in an instant, the high stone kerb menacing the spokes of your wheel as you lean over, desperately looking ahead and willing the corner to open up. We’ve carried plenty of speed into the bend. Too much, if I were to make a judgement, and inertia pushes us out to the left again, wheels skittering across the loose gravel at the roads edge but we are already out of the saddle – Phil powering out of the junction, me grimly hanging onto his rear wheel. The chase is on, we have clubmates to catch… With a brief flick of the elbow I am called forward to take a turn on the flat road, the proximity of the finish line injecting life into my otherwise useless limbs. The road is shaded by trees now, the leafy canopy offering brief respite from the battering rays of the sun. The two ahead hadn’t gained that much time, or perhaps our fearless descent had clawed it back, within a couple of minutes we have linked up with them and forge ahead as a quartet.

For me the hard work is done and I am content to roll through the next few kilometres to the finish. As we approach a junction to join the main road from our meandering country lane a marshall steps out to stop the traffic and we sail through – with Gallic yelps of encouragement ringing in our ears. But for my companions it just isn’t enough. They greet the smooth tarmac as an excuse to turn up the gas, forcing the pace as we mop up the rememnants of yet another group of riders. For a few hundred metres I raise some energy, my tortured legs hang on as long as possible but, with less than 2 kilometres left to ride, I slowly loose contact. Ahead I see them make the left turn into the narrow, pot-holed track, which leads to the finish. A few moments later I do the same, the bike surging ahead as the road dips. I glance over my shoulder, are my clubmates in sight, no, better not relax now though: I didn’t dig deep on the final climb, risk my skin on the hair-raising descent, or summon up my last ounce of energy to stick with the group as long as possible, just to sit up at this point. Knowing that there are only a few hundred metres to go I grip the handlebars and weave through the riders ahead. Into an innocuous 90 degree left hander but one that hides a crucial difference. A few barriers at the side of the road, a smattering of applause from onlookers and I blast under the finishing flag. It’s over. 187km. Done. Which way to the beer tent?

The glorious comeback to my cycling career has, to date, not really erupted with the vigour I would have liked. Social media updates and email circulars have begun to highlight the start of the season for other riders, but for me the huge layoff has left me with a gaping chasm to cross before I can possibly look to compete again. But, in a misplaced moment of determination, I have once again committed to riding the Ronde Picarde. 4 months to go, and only the minor distraction of my first-born arriving slap bang in the middle of that timespan. What could possibly go wrong?

A lumbering beast…

Shaking off the dust and the cobwebs, like a long slumbering monster, the ‘blog slowly creaks back into life… Shaking off the dust and the cobwebs, like a forgotten plaything, the bike slowly creaks back into life…

A harsh reality faces my legs. In 15 days I need to ride the cols of the Peak District, a reprise of the trip from 2012. Best intentions of fitting some bike riding in amongst a manic work schedule and the new hobby of building my own car has all been sideswiped by an impending house move and what appears to be the most protracted winter in living memory. Never one to do things by halves all this has co-incided with the ever looming appearance of a new addition to the household. All I can promise is that, boy or girl, it’ll have to bear the middle-name “Merckx-Coppi”… Whilst the directeur sportif and I sit and wait for chaos to be unleashed on our lives the overwhelming fatigue of daily life has simply swiped cycling off the table until, with a shock, I suddenly realised I can probably count bike rides in 2013 on the fingers of both my hands.

Outside of events in my own life a massive amount has changed since July 2012 and my decision to pack in cycle racing. Three short days after the major news agencies failed to cover my retirement from competition in any detail their desks were overrun with news of the first British winner of the Tour de France in history. Cycling as a sport suddenly became front-page news rather than a snippet in the margins. The ‘Olympic Effect‘ led to a flood of new riders on the roads and in local clubs. Much of this passed me by as I knuckled down at work and my waistline gradually expanded. The changing face of my local clubrides was a good barometer of the changes though, on the occassions when I did venture out to turn the wheels the people I recognised were in the minority…

A few weeks of consistent riding were crammed in during August and September as a semblence of preparation for an autumn trip to the Peak District with a select group. The company was good and the riding fantastic, ticking off ascents of the Beeley Moor hillclimb course and the epic Cat and Fiddle underlined my love of mountaineering, but my legs were sorely lacking. It was the lack of real preparation that meant the support and assistance of companions proved invaluable when I developed cramp at the end of our long ride – from who else would I have been able to access a multi-angle photo record of my suffering?

Cramp1

Cramp2So the experience was enjoyable but underlined my lack of fitness and rather than being spurred into action I cleaned my bike before hanging it up to fester untouched for weeks on end. As New Year loomed I made an effort to kickstart my riding, but after a few weekends grovelling on the wheel of riders I would have previously left behind, snow and ice and an impending relocation provided a welcome excuse for skipping rides.

January 2013 also saw a monumental demonstration of cycling iconoclasm. Although long tainted by the gathering storm, seeing Lance Armstrong confess outright to doping throughout his Tour de France victories was still a phenomenal event. The roots of my understanding of cycling as a sport came from avidly reading It’s Not About The Bike and Every Second Counts in the summer of 2003, my first bike was a Trek, my first ‘proper’ cycling attire a pair of Nike US Postal shorts… Any vague romantic attachment that might have existed between the courageous comeback from cancer and my own efforts to ride a bike were permanently severed…

In addition to this a couple of efforts at getting back into weekend club riding have left me somewhat disillusioned about the cameraderie that I had felt existed in my current club. Perhaps it’s the turnover of members as cycling popularity has boomed, perhaps it’s an inevitable byproduct of skipping far too many training rides, but being dropped on social club runs by riders who are new to the sport has been rather a frustrating pill to have to swallow, especially given the number of times i’ve waited for new riders myself. Perhaps it is time to develop an interest in fresh colours, even if that feels like a treacherous move…

But underneath it all there is still a glimmer of excitement about the forthcoming trip to the hills of Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Hot on the heels of the announcement that Lance Armstrong was not the hero we had once thought an unbelieveable piece of news broke. Yorkshire to host the start of the 2014 Tour de France. Stage two to feature a climb of Holme Moss and a finish in my hometown of Sheffield. Roads I pedalled on as a teenager will play host to the greatest cycle race on earth.

And, as the race calendar slowly starts to grind into motion and despite the best efforts of the last throes of winter to undermine the early season events, images of the local riders start to populate Twitter and Facebook as they take up the challenge of competition and fight the elements in search of glory.

The 'official' reports of the 31st Jock Wadley Road Race told the story of the riders from the semi-pro teams. For the locals the real story was the efforts of 18 year old Jame Jobber who mixed it with the Elites and finished 13th overall...

The ‘official’ reports of the 31st Jock Wadley Road Race told the story of the riders from the semi-pro teams. For the locals the real story was the efforts of 18 year old James Jobber who mixed it with the Elites and finished 13th overall…

Against all rational logic pictures like the one above spark a masochistic attraction to the agony of racing. It’s too late to do anything to allay the pain of ‘The Peaks 2013′, but a candle of intention is begining to flicker. Once the house move is over, and the spring of 2013 decides to emerge, commuting by bike will be back on the cards and i’ll start my own comeback v2.0. Just without the drugs…

Put me back on my bike…

Leaden skies.

A grim buffeting wind.

The sun – already low to the horizon in late December – shielded by brooding clouds.

Perhaps it’s my imagination but my surroundings appear almost a dull monochrome, like an old sepia photograph, the light and life of summer washed out by months of rain, the rich vibrant colours of autumn crushed by the heavy winter sky. The fields are a coarse dark brown, the surface corrugated by the farmers plough. The roads are broken and potholed, a perfunctory covering of gravel laid by well meaning roadmenders now gathering in the gutters, creating treacherous patches of loose stone ready to roll the wheels out from under a rider.

I’ve barely ridden my bike for months. Despite my intention to carry on riding after July I actually found it very easy to fill my time with something else during what it seems will go down on record as the wettest summer since records began. After realising that I’d actually reached the bike-racing goal I’d be striving for years ago I decided it was time to tick off a few more things on my to-do list. Another hobby beckoned and began to eke into my weekends. As rides became less frequent a lack of motivation was compounded by a new job, a decision to move house and the inevitable rush to do all those household beautifications which seemed hitherto unimportant and the inexorable rain of 2012…. Excuses weren’t hard to find.

Sitting on the sofa at 10:30am having missed another Saturday morning clubrun it seemed unlikely that I’d be bucking the trend today. Then, flicking aimlessly through the channels, I came across a rare treat on ITV4 “Tour de France 2012: Wiggos Tour”. 60 minutes of watching scrawny men in lurid lycra dancing their way through sun-kissed French vistas was all the motivation I needed to head out into the ominous Essex weather.

It’s always a shock how much fitness can be lost in a short space of time. I genuinely can’t remember how long it has been since I last rode my bike, it’s got to be at least 6 weeks though. I certainly can’t remember how long it has been since I did anything that approximated the sort of ‘training’ I did when I knew I’d be pining a number of my back – 5 months at least…

Rolling out of the village the bike felt alien under my body, feet not quite pedalling in circles, posterior shifting on the saddle trying to find the right place to sit, hands shuffling about the handlebars searching for a comfortable position. Dicing with traffic and dodging the new crevases which have opened up in the tarmac since I last rode these roads I wondered whether I’d made the wrong decision and should have stayed ensconsed in my warm living-room.

Onto a quieter road and the brutal headwind attacked me, buffeting me across the road. Forward progress was blunted, the pace slackened. Down over a bridge and the road rises onto a local road-race circuit. For those who are capable it’s considered a flat course and I’ve watched a peloton blast up the incline in one long line a single rider wide before now. For me, today, it seemed a hard slog to say the least. Turning again at the cross-roads at the top I headed into the wind again, across a wide open section of road, skirting a reservoir and plodding desperately into the full-on headwind. The landscape was bleak and unforgiving, the conditions uncomprimising.

After 10 long minutes I finally made a turn back towards home, I’d only intended to ride for an hour, the route I’d chosen typically took me that long, but I was already 8 minutes behind that mark. But finally the benefit of riding out into the wind was realised, a mighty shove against my back from the south-westerly allowing my legs to unwind smoothly rather than claw the pedals around with each stroke. My ragged breathing subsided, the sound of blood pumping in my ears replaced by the gentle woosh of tyres and drivetrain gliding across tarmac. The effort and struggle was being repaid.

The road ascended in front of me as I passed through another village and, rather than sit back and let it slow my progress, I rose from the saddle and punched my way up the few yards of incline, legs working in harmony with pedals to drive me forward. An insignificant piece of road by any standards, but in the context of weeks off the bike, it felt like a little victory.

A couple more miles and I was home, beating the incoming rain back to my front door. The stress of everyday life had faded, if only for a few brief miles, and I felt refreshed and happy.

Cycling lore recites the tale of Tommy Simpson, until the most recent crop of homegrown talent, quite probably the greatest of British cyclists. Simpson died tragically on Mont Ventoux during a Tour de France stage, a likely victim of overindulgence in banned substances, as was the way of cycling in the 1960′s. Legend tells us that Simpson collapsed and fell from his bike but implored his soigneur to help him up so he could continue: “Put me back on my bike”…

It doesn’t make much sense to anyone that isn’t a cyclist. But there’s plenty to be said for that approach. When things get tough: put me back on my bike.