Cycling and Not Cycling and Worrying About Cycling and Generally Being Obsessed With Cycling

this week i’ve been mostly thinking about cycling. this isn’t altogether uncommon. sometimes i feel vaguely frustrated with the extent that thoughts about cycling invade the space in my mind. it’s regularly one of the first things i think about when i wake up in the morning. there’s undoubtedly an element of obsessional behaviour, and it’s replaced other aspects of my life. when i was younger (many moons ago, when men were men and steel was real) i would find other forms of escapism, predominantly going out with my chums and drinking. it was the routine form of escape from the working week. I couldn’t have possibly imagined that a Friday would come around where i wouldn’t actively want to go out and lose the week in a sea of conversation and general uninhibited bibulousness.

i’ve now been racing for about two and half full seasons. it feels like a bit longer because that means i’ve done some repeat events 3 times. it’s abruptly curtailed most other forms of escapism and i very rarely drink at all during the season. it’s not something i imagined would be possible – i always felt that significant changes in habits and routine would require some form of superhuman triumph of the will. in truth, it’s a more organic process. what it does mean is that my main form of escape from the mundane has become cycling. I am speaking on an existential level, in terms of the ebb and flow of thoughts and they way i cope with life and the meandering and sometimes overwhelming nature of life. i value the companionship of Belle above all other things, and it’s clearly no coincidence that this upturn in good fortune and change in my life is concurrent with my meeting, wooing and ensnaring of a lady.

i think i’m getting to the point. when one aspect of life consumes and dominates quite so much it can get claustrophobic. Like most things, it’s great when these things are working well and the humours are balanced, but when there’s suddenly an excess of bile, the head drilling is not nice. I’ve had a good season so far and thus cycling has been something to look forward to. i was a bit up and down when the weather was really rubbish and i couldn’t tell if i was making progress, but of late i seem to have been on another upward curve, knocking minutes off PBs and even winning two open events in short succession.

Last weekend derailed things slightly. I have now done two road races. they are exciting things, but i have yet worked out how to approach, ride or even think about these slightly scary spectacles. it’s hard to make the transition from the monochromatic certainty of the time trial to the endless variation of the road race. it’s also hard to actually ride with other people when you are used to riding on your own. it requires a completely different mentality. i’m at a crossroads already with my attitude to road racing; i enjoyed the first one, but crashed, and enjoyed elements of the second one, but didn’t ride very intelligently and then there was the enormous crash and i didn’t enjoy that at all so stopped. i’m down to ride a race on Sunday but i am going to pass. i have a few more lined up for a little bit later on in July and will give those a go. in the meantime i’m going to try and stick to my aims for the season which were resolutely orientated around time trialling and hill climbs.

In the end, road racing asks different questions of the competitor. i have yet to find the answers. or perhaps i know the answers, but like the slightly confused schoolboy in the heat of the examination, opt instead to simply get down everything i know about the question on paper in the hope that it will be ok.

during the week i went down to the lake to ride. it was a windy evening but the sunlight reflected off the shimmering surface of the water and it felt good to be there.

both tim and ed remarked after the event that ‘everything hurts’

it was the club 25 mile championship, which required 3 laps. I went for consistency over out-and-out pace, essentially sticking it in cruising speed and turning the gear over fairly relentlessly. My first lap was very quick, an 18.45, the second two were within of a second of 19.03. Each of the laps was quicker than any lap i managed last year. This speaks of improvement. Robin Coomber was also there – my nemesis on the u7b last year – and he managed a fantastically fast initial lap of 18.27, nearly as quick as my one lap PB, before fading slightly. He won the event by about 18 seconds, but as he’s not a club member he didn’t get the trophy. The Brian Weatherley Bowl will have my name on it for another year which is a nice feeling.

Robin isn’t much higher than this when he’s in full flight.

Today I am heading off towards the home counties to ride a 30 mile time trial. these are increasingly unusual. I’ve targeted one or two of these idiosyncratic throwbacks because i suspect a club record may be possible. It currently stands at 1:05:12, or 27.6073 mph. I’m going to have to do a 28mph ride. I can do this, just about, on the U7B for ten miles. I’ve just got to hold it for three times that distance. it depends what the wind is like and how hard the course is. If i don’t make it there’s always a quicker course later in the year and it will be nice to get a marker down.

interestingly, I am on a 6, which places me outside the 25 fastest riders – 0, 5 and 1. It will be good to ride in such a strong field. the strongest of them all is George Atkins who will undoubtably achieve impressive things in the sport in future.

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