Phantom aero in the snow. Top marks, Michele.

Phantom aero in the snow. Top marks, Michele.

Breathing Through Your Ears

by / / 65 posts

Suffering is part of Cycling the way alcohol is part of liver failure: they are obviously connected but it’s too much fun to stop and think about why you do it. Grace finds us through La Volupté, but her touch is rare and we generally are far better acquainted with her husband, The Man with the Hammer. That guy is a bit of an asshole.

We typically don’t want to let anyone we’re riding with know how much we’re suffering, but I do admit to indulging in a Virenque or Voekler-style Five-Face to further bewilder the passing traffic while I’m killing it up the local leg breaker or crushing the 53×11 while overtaking the cars along the various boulevards in town.

But any time I’m riding with someone, I go to great lengths to ensure I hide my suffering in totality. I’ll start chatting to the rider next to me whenever I hurt. Or when I don’t hurt but I know they’re hurting. You know the drill. Bernard Hinault used to attack whenever he felt really like shit because if he was off the front, no one could see how much he was suffering. That’s a really good way to go about it, so long as your name starts with “Bernard” and ends with “Hinault”.

There is an expression in Cycling, “Breathing through your ears”. It’s meaning is twofold; on one hand it means you’re feeling desperate to open up any orifice in your body to allow more oxygen into the organism, on account of the wholesale suffering that you’re experiencing. On the other hand, it means you’re also not breathing through your mouth, for fear of betraying your Suffer Monkey Score to those you’re riding with.

Both interpretations are equally valid; take your pick. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// Etiquette // La Vie Velominatus // Musings from the V-Bunker

  1. @RobSandy

    I only picked up on two words from that article, and they were ‘Bernard’ and ‘Hinault’. Read Fotheringham’s book on him over Christmas, and more than ever I just want to be him.

    I’m going to have to start attacking off the front whenever I’m in the red. That’s a great plan.

    Damn! I need this book! Adding to the list!

  2. Fucking GREAT article, Frahnk! Totally brings me back to 1988 when my 16 year old self (ahh to be there again) was in my first race and on the first climb I noticed a few of the racers trying to chat it up and smiling while I was dying. At that time I could not figure out how the hell they were doing it. Slowly, over that year, I learned what they were up to and it is something that I have taken forward with me to all aspect of my life, not just cycling. I actually won an award in a pretty awful and tough Army school b/c I just kept on smiling and trying to be cheerful with the guys while we were getting the shit kicked out of us. THAT was a lesson I learned on the gradients of New England in my youth on my Cannondale.

    One could say that cycling teaches us how to best live the unfortunate moments of our life when we are not able to be cycling.

  3. But did you have to post another Mapei kit, FFS???

    (and since my Mum always said don’t complain unless you have a solution, I offer you LeMan instead; a man who always seemed to be able to smile through the pain)

  4. @the Engine

    @RobSandy

    @the Engine

    Other than Rules #5 and #9 which deal with suffering more or less without saying do we have a Rule on the perfect amount of suffering that is to be experienced whilst taking part in a: solo ride; group ride; race?

    Rule #10.

    Kinda – but I think that “only” sets a benchmark for performance improvement. What I’m driving at is there a way of calibrating suffering? Suffering I feel is not the same as “effort” or “performance”.

    Maybe a hammer rating. I had a 4 hammer ride last Friday…

  5. Just simple math folks.

    required effort / pain endurable for the duration = max suffering, + 1 oz of V

    So if you complete the ride without meeting the Man with the Hammer, it will be just barely.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKhkvSRQZYo

    (Why would someone run 26 miles after bicycles have been invented? props either way to the ladies.)

  6. @Major VVald

    @the Engine

    Rule #TBD:

    1. if at any time during a solo ride, you find yourself noticing the smells of the flowers or the beautiful scenery, apply more V because you are doing it wrong.
    2. if at any time during a group ride you find yourself able to hold forth at length about the benefits and drawbacks of the latest UCI ruling, you are sandbagging and must immediately strive to lift the pace since you are clearly not pulling enough when it is your turn on the front. For shame. (exception: if you are doing this on purpose to give the local bloviator a taste of their own medicine).
    3. if at any time during a race you find it easy to breathe you are doing it absolutely wrong.
    4. if at any time you find yourself on a trainer mindlessly zoning out while pretending to attack Ventoux on Zwift, jump off immediately, proceed directly to the nearest mirror, berate yourself for being such a pansy, apply more V and get on with Rule #9. Trainers/rollers may only be used for warm ups prior to a race or epic ride.
    5. this bullet is intentionally left blank.

    Is riding hard in the dark suffering where Zwift is not suffering? Descending wet hills in the dark and sleet is clearly suffering but one is not breathing through one’s ears.

  7. @Teocalli

    @the Engine

    How about:

    Stage 1 – Pain

    Stage 2 – Throwing Up

    Stage 3 – Unconsciousness

    Stage 4 – Best avoided

    We do need a Rule about the necessity of throwing up on the line. After the line means you weren’t riding hard enough. Before the line is a misjudgement of effort.

  8. @Sparty

    I fractured my nose four times. The first two happened during high school. It was after the third fracture, while wrestling collegiately, that I required surgery to fix my deviated septum. Such a horrible procedure. I’ll spare you the details. After mending, I was able to breathe freely through my nose. Unfortunately, a season later, I suffered my fourth fracture and deviated the septum. I was not keen to undergo surgery a second time only to break it again. Lucky, I did not suffer a fifth fracture (knock wood). Today, I struggle to move enough air through my nose during long/hard efforts and must resort to open mouth breathing. Now, I do a wicked Voekler imitation.

    Good lord. Having wrestled as a kid, I know how hard the sport is. Maybe harder and more thankless than cycling? Largely ignored as a sport (at least in the U.S.), hours of hard training, endless weight watching, and no easy wins. Ugh.

  9. Having spent most of my life in and around lacrosse, I LOVE that it’s a sport where you refuse to show pain to your opponents. A broken leg is a “lower body injury” to be dealt with in the training room, not on the field in front of the challenger.

    I also play and love soccer, but the diving and faking of injuries at the highest levels is pure bullshit.

  10. @the Engine

    Time of day/night is irrelevant to the suffering. Good point on the descending in adverse conditions, but of course we have a rule for pedaling while descending so you can – and should – put forth max V on the downhills as well. Use your brakes as resistance if you are spinning out and feel the need to reduce speed but keep up the pressure on the gears.

    In no cases can trainer sessions be construed as suffering in any shape or form.

  11. Yeah, that’s what they used to tell us, never show you’re hurting in a race, this is the jungle and you don’t want to be an easy prey… Conversely if you ever feel this is your day and you’re cruising in the front group, it’s time to use your comedy skills -if you have any- and play the half-dead. You don’t want the others to sit on your wheel everytime there’s a gap to bridge and you don’t want them to gang up on you (they naturally will if you give them a reason to… It’s only human)

    Cycling is about destroying your opposition when you’re head and shoulders above the rest but if you are part of “the rest”, you can still do pretty well: race hard when you have to, save your energy whenever you can and try and bluff your way to the win. Sometimes it works.

    “Breathing through your ears” is a nice expression, very evocative, in the French language we have pédaler avec les oreilles -“pedaling with the ears”: you know when the road’s been going uphill for a while now and you’re at the back the group, hanging by the skin of your teeth, “à bloc”, desperately moving your head right and left everytime you push the pedals… not in a position to bluff anymore, not in a position to do anything anymore except pushing right and left -transient survival mode. Then suddenly you realize you aren’t that far from the hilltop, the road isn’t as steep now, you think that somehow you almost made it, you’re going to pull it through… Sadly, you find that when the road isn’t as steep, that’s usually when the decisions are made in a race -the big guns are going for it, until then they were only going steady -they hadn’t noticed you were still in the group anyway.

    All that pain, all in vain.

  12. @Major VVald

    @the Engine

    In no cases can trainer sessions be construed as suffering in any shape or form.

    http://www.velominati.com/guest-article/indoors-at-the-v-and-dime/

    See Frahnk’s intro and read our dear friend JiPM’s (where has he gone???) article.

  13. @the Engine

    We do need a Rule about the necessity of throwing up on the line. After the line means you weren’t riding hard enough. Before the line is a misjudgement of effort.

    Somewhat akin to Colin Chapman’s principle for designing an F1 car. I remember him once saying that the ideal car was built just strong enough so that it would collapse as it crossed the finish line.

  14. All this talk about chatting away when at maximal effort appears to be either at odds with the principles of 5 levels of effort or show Zen like control of something or other.

    The 5 levels being:

    1. Asleep

    2. Can converse normally without breaking up sentences.

    3. Speaks in simple sentences, one at a time.

    4. Spits out short phrases or single words.

    5. Speak? Are you f*&ing joking!?

  15. @Ron

    @Sparty

    I fractured my nose four times. The first two happened during high school. It was after the third fracture, while wrestling collegiately, that I required surgery to fix my deviated septum. Such a horrible procedure. I’ll spare you the details. After mending, I was able to breathe freely through my nose. Unfortunately, a season later, I suffered my fourth fracture and deviated the septum. I was not keen to undergo surgery a second time only to break it again. Lucky, I did not suffer a fifth fracture (knock wood). Today, I struggle to move enough air through my nose during long/hard efforts and must resort to open mouth breathing. Now, I do a wicked Voekler imitation.

    Good lord. Having wrestled as a kid, I know how hard the sport is. Maybe harder and more thankless than cycling? Largely ignored as a sport (at least in the U.S.), hours of hard training, endless weight watching, and no easy wins. Ugh.

    It might not be a huge pro sport here in the US, but at the high school (and some colleges) level, wrestling is still huge – at least here in the midwest.

  16. @Major VVald

    @the Engine

    Rule #TBD:

    1. if at any time during a solo ride, you find yourself noticing the smells of the flowers or the beautiful scenery, apply more V because you are doing it wrong.
    2. if at any time during a group ride you find yourself able to hold forth at length about the benefits and drawbacks of the latest UCI ruling, you are sandbagging and must immediately strive to lift the pace since you are clearly not pulling enough when it is your turn on the front. For shame. (exception: if you are doing this on purpose to give the local bloviator a taste of their own medicine).
    3. if at any time during a race you find it easy to breathe you are doing it absolutely wrong.
    4. if at any time you find yourself on a trainer mindlessly zoning out while pretending to attack Ventoux on Zwift, jump off immediately, proceed directly to the nearest mirror, berate yourself for being such a pansy, apply more V and get on with Rule #9. Trainers/rollers may only be used for warm ups prior to a race or epic ride.
    5. this bullet is intentionally left blank.

    There are numerous holes to pick out in that bunch but to keep it short and sweet; the number five is not a bullet point.

    @the Engine

    @Teocalli

    @the Engine

    How about:

    Stage 1 – Pain

    Stage 2 – Throwing Up

    Stage 3 – Unconsciousness

    Stage 4 – Best avoided

    We do need a Rule about the necessity of throwing up on the line. After the line means you weren’t riding hard enough. Before the line is a misjudgement of effort.

    Throwing up before the line is perfectly acceptable as long as you don’t slow down during the act.

    It could be argued that it would be proper etiquette to remove oneself to the back of the bunch to avoid collateral damage but the mention of a line suggests racing rather than training.

  17. @wiscot

    @Ron

    @Sparty

    I fractured my nose four times. The first two happened during high school. It was after the third fracture, while wrestling collegiately, that I required surgery to fix my deviated septum. Such a horrible procedure. I’ll spare you the details. After mending, I was able to breathe freely through my nose. Unfortunately, a season later, I suffered my fourth fracture and deviated the septum. I was not keen to undergo surgery a second time only to break it again. Lucky, I did not suffer a fifth fracture (knock wood). Today, I struggle to move enough air through my nose during long/hard efforts and must resort to open mouth breathing. Now, I do a wicked Voekler imitation.

    Good lord. Having wrestled as a kid, I know how hard the sport is. Maybe harder and more thankless than cycling? Largely ignored as a sport (at least in the U.S.), hours of hard training, endless weight watching, and no easy wins. Ugh.

    It might not be a huge pro sport here in the US, but at the high school (and some colleges) level, wrestling is still huge – at least here in the midwest.

    Yep. Wrestling remains a keystone sport where I live. I coached it for 17 years. My Alma Mater won four national championships in the past five years.

  18. @Buck Rogers

    @Major VVald

    @the Engine

    In no cases can trainer sessions be construed as suffering in any shape or form.

    http://www.velominati.com/guest-article/indoors-at-the-v-and-dime/

    See Frahnk’s intro and read our dear friend JiPM’s (where has he gone???) article.

    I was just reading through that and came across these wise words from Chris Boardman that I’d posted back then. If this can’t be construed as suffering then I might as well give up.

    “We’re used to working hard on the track, road and gym, week in week out, but these drills on the turbo stand alone in terms of pain. It’s a love-hate relationship that I have with these particular sessions. We only do them at certain points in the season and there’s no two ways about it – they hurt.They hurt a lot.

    The thing is, you know the benefit they can bring and you know that the real returns only come when you push yourself right to the limit of your pain tolerances. After the full set of sprints which are interspersed with very short recovery times, I usually collapse into a heap on the crash mat next to the bike.

    The searing pain in your legs is horrible and you begin to shutdown totally as you retreat into a dark little place for a while. You feel sick and indeed often are sick. It can get pretty messy. And every time you do it you convince yourself that you have never felt this bad before, you must be ill or something is badly wrong with you. Never again.

    And then, every time, after about 15 minutes in the foetal position the mist and pain lifts and you start feeling OK, a bit groggy and your muscles ache but basically all right. So you get up and do it all again.

    The strange thing is that counter-intuitively you actually suffer more as your conditioning improves. You are able to produce more power, create a greater concentration of lactate in the blood and therefore hurt yourself more. You’d think it would get easier but it most certainly doesn’t!

    It’s very tough but I always feel reassured to complete such a block.”

    It should be appended to Rule #10.

  19. @chris

    @Major VVald

    @the Engine

    Rule #TBD:

    1. if at any time during a solo ride, you find yourself noticing the smells of the flowers or the beautiful scenery, apply more V because you are doing it wrong.
    2. if at any time during a group ride you find yourself able to hold forth at length about the benefits and drawbacks of the latest UCI ruling, you are sandbagging and must immediately strive to lift the pace since you are clearly not pulling enough when it is your turn on the front. For shame. (exception: if you are doing this on purpose to give the local bloviator a taste of their own medicine).
    3. if at any time during a race you find it easy to breathe you are doing it absolutely wrong.
    4. if at any time you find yourself on a trainer mindlessly zoning out while pretending to attack Ventoux on Zwift, jump off immediately, proceed directly to the nearest mirror, berate yourself for being such a pansy, apply more V and get on with Rule #9. Trainers/rollers may only be used for warm ups prior to a race or epic ride.
    5. this bullet is intentionally left blank.

    There are numerous holes to pick out in that bunch but to keep it short and sweet; the number five is not a bullet point.

    @the Engine

    @Teocalli

    @the Engine

    How about:

    Stage 1 – Pain

    Stage 2 – Throwing Up

    Stage 3 – Unconsciousness

    Stage 4 – Best avoided

    We do need a Rule about the necessity of throwing up on the line. After the line means you weren’t riding hard enough. Before the line is a misjudgement of effort.

    Throwing up before the line is perfectly acceptable as long as you don’t slow down during the act.

    It could be argued that it would be proper etiquette to remove oneself to the back of the bunch to avoid collateral damage but the mention of a line suggests racing rather than training.

    Saw a guy barf before the start line. Carb-off loading we called it.

  20. @Teocalli

    @the Engine

    We do need a Rule about the necessity of throwing up on the line. After the line means you weren’t riding hard enough. Before the line is a misjudgement of effort.

    Somewhat akin to Colin Chapman’s principle for designing an F1 car. I remember him once saying that the ideal car was built just strong enough so that it would collapse as it crossed the finish line.

    In the days before F1 engines were supposed to be robust enough to last for multiple races I was told by a former Jaguar F1 man (a while back obviously) that there would be trouble if an engine didn’t grenade itself two laps beyond the total of a race weekend as this would mean that it was either a) Too heavy and therefore slow or b) The driver hadn’t been on the limit and was therefore going to be sacked.

  21. @chris

    @Major VVald

    @the Engine

    Rule #TBD:

    1. if at any time during a solo ride, you find yourself noticing the smells of the flowers or the beautiful scenery, apply more V because you are doing it wrong.
    2. if at any time during a group ride you find yourself able to hold forth at length about the benefits and drawbacks of the latest UCI ruling, you are sandbagging and must immediately strive to lift the pace since you are clearly not pulling enough when it is your turn on the front. For shame. (exception: if you are doing this on purpose to give the local bloviator a taste of their own medicine).
    3. if at any time during a race you find it easy to breathe you are doing it absolutely wrong.
    4. if at any time you find yourself on a trainer mindlessly zoning out while pretending to attack Ventoux on Zwift, jump off immediately, proceed directly to the nearest mirror, berate yourself for being such a pansy, apply more V and get on with Rule #9. Trainers/rollers may only be used for warm ups prior to a race or epic ride.
    5. this bullet is intentionally left blank.

    There are numerous holes to pick out in that bunch but to keep it short and sweet; the number five is not a bullet point.

    @the Engine

    @Teocalli

    @the Engine

    How about:

    Stage 1 – Pain

    Stage 2 – Throwing Up

    Stage 3 – Unconsciousness

    Stage 4 – Best avoided

    We do need a Rule about the necessity of throwing up on the line. After the line means you weren’t riding hard enough. Before the line is a misjudgement of effort.

    Throwing up before the line is perfectly acceptable as long as you don’t slow down during the act.

    It could be argued that it would be proper etiquette to remove oneself to the back of the bunch to avoid collateral damage but the mention of a line suggests racing rather than training.

    Except that throwing up before the line will almost inevitably slow you down a bit as (of course) will shitting yourself. In training this may be acceptable but in racing it speaks of poor judgement (or one’s chef not washing his hands thoroughly).

  22. Sparty & wiscot – I meant ignored mainly by the mainstream sports fans and media. It was big at the HS level where I grew up and yes, definitely some seriously devoted athletes and families involved.

  23. @Ron

    Sparty & wiscot – I meant ignored mainly by the mainstream sports fans and media. It was big at the HS level where I grew up and yes, definitely some seriously devoted athletes and families involved.

    Agreed.Wrestling often gets a bum rap. Ace wrestler Bruce Baumgartner was an Indiana State Uni grad (like me) and his legend lived on there long after he was gone. Of course, what did ISU do with it’s awesome wrestling program? Dropped it. Kurt Thomas was on their incredible gymnastics team. Dropped that. Kept their football team of course which hasn’t had a winning season in decades. “Priorities” I guess.

    His palmares are listed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Baumgartner

  24. @wiscot

    @Ron

    Sparty & wiscot – I meant ignored mainly by the mainstream sports fans and media. It was big at the HS level where I grew up and yes, definitely some seriously devoted athletes and families involved.

    Agreed.Wrestling often gets a bum rap. Ace wrestler Bruce Baumgartner was an Indiana State Uni grad (like me) and his legend lived on there long after he was gone. Of course, what did ISU do with it’s awesome wrestling program? Dropped it. Kurt Thomas was on their incredible gymnastics team. Dropped that. Kept their football team of course which hasn’t had a winning season in decades. “Priorities” I guess.

    His palmares are listed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Baumgartner

    A section on our newly mapped all-road course is named Dusty Road.

  25. @EBruner

    I like to recite Charge of the Light-brigade on 15% climbs to annoy other riders.

    The VMH tells me that I annoy riders going uphill because I’m too chatty. I’m not so sure, nobody has ever said anything back so how am I to know?

  26. @Buck Rogers

    But did you have to post another Mapei kit, FFS???

    YES! Just proves how iconic … and beautiful … it is!

  27. @Teocalli

    I think the sayings are “bleeding through the eyes” and “breathing through the ears”…

  28. @chuckp

    @Buck Rogers

    But did you have to post another Mapei kit, FFS???

    YES! Just proves how iconic … and beautiful … it is!

    I say “enough!” with the Mapei talk for a while. Let’s change it up and talk about another iconic squadra that simply doesn’t get the attention they deserve: Saeco.

    These boys had it all: Cipo, Gilberto Simoni, Cunego, the red train , Killer DiLuca, brilliant red kit, espresso machines, and rolling on bad ass C-Dale CAAD’s. Hell, I think they has 4 or 5 Giro wins over a decade.

  29. ….and how can we forget the jail kit!

  30. A beautiful trick would be to hold silent until a fellow rider tried the “conversation” trick. Then, during a long winded response, you slowly up the watts and finish with an open ended question…

    Then wait to see if they respond, just try to hold the wheel, or leave enough silence that you can hear the elastic snap. Oh, that would be evil and just fucking glorious.

  31. @fignons barber

    @chuckp

    @Buck Rogers

    But did you have to post another Mapei kit, FFS???

    YES! Just proves how iconic … and beautiful … it is!

    I say “enough!” with the Mapei talk for a while. Let’s change it up and talk about another iconic squadra that simply doesn’t get the attention they deserve: Saeco.

    These boys had it all: Cipo, Gilberto Simoni, Cunego, the red train , Killer DiLuca, brilliant red kit, espresso machines, and rolling on bad ass C-Dale CAAD’s. Hell, I think they has 4 or 5 Giro wins over a decade.

    You had me at Cipo. I used to have a Saeco but now have a Gaggia. And the new Katusha kit is very reminiscent of the Saeco red kit.

  32. @Major VVald

    @the Engine

    Rule #TBD:

    1. if at any time during a race you find it easy to breathe you are doing it absolutely wrong.

    Disagree. Remember, in a race the goal is not to make yourself suffer -it is to inflict suffering on everyone else. That quite about licking your opponents plate clean before starting on your own? Yes.

  33. @RobSandy

    @Major VVald

    @the Engine

    Rule #TBD:

    1. if at any time during a race you find it easy to breathe you are doing it absolutely wrong.

    Disagree. Remember, in a race the goal is not to make yourself suffer -it is to inflict suffering on everyone else. That quite about licking your opponents plate clean before starting on your own? Yes.

    You need to take that one step further, “The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts” it doesn’t matter if you’re suffering as long you can accept that suffering and be prepared to suffer more than the next man. He may be fitter, faster and blessed with better genes but if he isn’t prepared to accept the suffering, he is beatable.

  34. @Teocalli

    @the Engine

    How about:

    Stage 1 – Pain

    Stage 2 – Throwing Up

    Stage 3 – Unconsciousness

    Stage 4 – Best avoided

    I’ll add a stage between 1 & 2 I guess: Eyes focused w/lasers like the heat of a thousand white hot suns…

    The story: My young daughter is racing a Jr’s field crit. So is 10-16 yr old boys and girls and these races get strung out pretty quick. A couple of laps in and this young man has been glued to her wheel. She’s going by and she’s complaining to me as she passes something along the lines of, “what do I do”? Next time around I shout back, “if you can talk you’re not going hard enough”! So, next time around as she’s coming up the small hill to where I’m watching the race and she has laser beam eyes focused on me as if the white hot heat of a thousand suns were to burn holes thru me. She was mad. Very. I’ll never forget that look from my little sweetheart princess. And the young man that was on her wheel? Maybe 5 seconds back.

  35. @Oli

    @Teocalli

    I think the sayings are “bleeding through the eyes” and “breathing through the ears”…

    I looked up a medical dictionary for a definition of “bleeding through the eyes” and it said: a symptom of prolonged and regular exposure to images of 1990s Mapei cycling team kit.”

    Even that B&W Cannondale kit is better looking FFS.

  36. @RobSandy

    @Major VVald

    @the Engine

    Rule #TBD:

    1. if at any time during a race you find it easy to breathe you are doing it absolutely wrong.

    Disagree. Remember, in a race the goal is not to make yourself suffer -it is to inflict suffering on everyone else. That quite about licking your opponents plate clean before starting on your own? Yes.

    Or put another way: Make everyone else suffer more than you so that you have something more left at the end than they do. Better yet, so they’re not there at the end at all. But you have to pick your moments for doing this.

  37. @wilburrox

    @Teocalli

    @the Engine

    How about:

    Stage 1 – Pain

    Stage 2 – Throwing Up

    Stage 3 – Unconsciousness

    Stage 4 – Best avoided

    I’ll add a stage between 1 & 2 I guess: Eyes focused w/lasers like the heat of a thousand white hot suns…

    The story: My young daughter is racing a Jr’s field crit. So is 10-16 yr old boys and girls and these races get strung out pretty quick. A couple of laps in and this young man has been glued to her wheel. She’s going by and she’s complaining to me as she passes something along the lines of, “what do I do”? Next time around I shout back, “if you can talk you’re not going hard enough”! So, next time around as she’s coming up the small hill to where I’m watching the race and she has laser beam eyes focused on me as if the white hot heat of a thousand suns were to burn holes thru me. She was mad. Very. I’ll never forget that look from my little sweetheart princess. And the young man that was on her wheel? Maybe 5 seconds back.

    Yes, this is something to be proud about:

    “So, next time around as she’s coming up the small hill to where I’m watching the race and she has laser beam eyes focused on me as if the white hot heat of a thousand suns were to burn holes thru me. She was mad. Very. I’ll never forget that look from my little sweetheart princess.”

  38. @Sparty

    Excellent! Yes. And this is something that cannot be taught, no matter how hard you try.

    My oldest son is a very good runner, doing super XC times and made varsity this freshman year but he does NOT have the killer instinct. I was talking to him before a race one time and we had scouted the course. I gave him the advice to drill it and kill it on this one hill section and to really put the hurt on everyone around him, really put them into the pain cave. He just looked at me and respectfully said, “Nah, I will go hard there but just to see how fast I can go, not to hurt anyone else.” He still placed top ten out of allcomers but he just doesn’t HAVE that killer instinct.

    His sister, on the other hand, will kill you in your sleep if it will help her win a match. She is VICIOUS. Fair, honourable but vicious!!!

  39. After a Rugby match some years ago….

    Me (to my Mum): What do you think?

    Mum: You’re vicious, I’m not watching again.

    Me: Eh?

    Mum: There’s no need to tackle people that hard.

    Me: But Mum they’re all bigger than me.

    Mum: I don’t care, your just vicious. There’s just no need to hit them that hard.

    I’ve always been a quantum higher in competition than I was in training. Competition always brings out the best/worst in me (depending on your point of view).

  40. @wilburrox

    Just think, in a few years time some poor sucker of a bloke is also going to be on the receiving end of that at some point!

  41. @Buck Rogers

    Fucking GREAT article, Frahnk! Totally brings me back to 1988 when my 16 year old self (ahh to be there again) was in my first race and on the first climb I noticed a few of the racers trying to chat it up and smiling while I was dying. At that time I could not figure out how the hell they were doing it. Slowly, over that year, I learned what they were up to and it is something that I have taken forward with me to all aspect of my life, not just cycling. I actually won an award in a pretty awful and tough Army school b/c I just kept on smiling and trying to be cheerful with the guys while we were getting the shit kicked out of us. THAT was a lesson I learned on the gradients of New England in my youth on my Cannondale.

    One could say that cycling teaches us how to best live the unfortunate moments of our life when we are not able to be cycling.

    Love this – a code to live by for sure! If it’s going to suck, you might as well enjoy it!

  42. @Buck Rogers

    But did you have to post another Mapei kit, FFS???

    (and since my Mum always said don’t complain unless you have a solution, I offer you LeMan instead; a man who always seemed to be able to smile through the pain)

    I love how much his mud mask looks like a gladiator’s mask! So classic! And those baby blues! Such a studmuffin.

  43. @Buck Rogers

    @Sparty

    Excellent! Yes. And this is something that cannot be taught, no matter how hard you try.

    My oldest son is a very good runner, doing super XC times and made varsity this freshman year but he does NOT have the killer instinct. I was talking to him before a race one time and we had scouted the course. I gave him the advice to drill it and kill it on this one hill section and to really put the hurt on everyone around him, really put them into the pain cave. He just looked at me and respectfully said, “Nah, I will go hard there but just to see how fast I can go, not to hurt anyone else.” He still placed top ten out of allcomers but he just doesn’t HAVE that killer instinct.

    His sister, on the other hand, will kill you in your sleep if it will help her win a match. She is VICIOUS. Fair, honourable but vicious!!!

    @ Buck Rogers

    Perplexing isn’t it? I am sure you and others can relate. I am the eldest of three siblings. I am not sure if it is a factor of being the first born, but neither of my siblings were as dedicated or had that “killer instinct” in their sports (brother played ice hockey and sister was a swimmer). I believe have to be born with it. There are people who can temporarly fake it, but eventually their true nature shows. It isn’t a factor of your sex, age, size, strength, sport, etc. It is 110% psychological. And maybe a little chemical imbalance in our brains. Ha.

  44. @Sparty

    Yes. Completely agree. Some things just cannot be taught or instilled; you either have it or you don’t.

  45. @wiscot

    I never said the Mapei kit was pretty, but it’s mega awesome in its ugliness and iconic garishness and it’s still one of my favourites of all time.

  46. @Teocalli

    You’re missing a stage between 1 & 2.

    Mouth foam, snot bubbles & tears.

  47. @Oli

    @wiscot

    I never said the Mapei kit was pretty, but it’s mega awesome in its ugliness and iconic garishness and it’s still one of my favourites of all time.

    This. Sometimes ugliness can be beautiful. I’m with you on the Mapei kit.

  48. @Frank: Nice writing, but as a doctor I have to note that you have mixed up actions and consequences.

    Your “Suffering is part of Cycling the way alcohol is part of liver failure” should be “Suffering is part of Cycling the way liver failure is a part of alcohol”; You cycle, you suffer, you drink, you get liver failure, see…

  49. @Teocalli

    I’ve always been a quantum higher in competition than I was in training. Competition always brings out the best/worst in me (depending on your point of view).

    I’m completely the same. My top speed in a sprint is a good 10% higher if there’s someone on my shoulder trying to come round me. I’d like to think I’m a really unpleasant guy to race against as I’ll gladly hurt myself if I think it’ll hurt the other guy a little bit more.

  50. @Buck Rogers

    @RobSandy

    I only picked up on two words from that article, and they were ‘Bernard’ and ‘Hinault’. Read Fotheringham’s book on him over Christmas, and more than ever I just want to be him.

    I’m going to have to start attacking off the front whenever I’m in the red. That’s a great plan.

    Damn! I need this book! Adding to the list!

    Just ordered this book. Should be here later this week. So excited!!!

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