Waiting for the Man
You have three questions going through your mind:
How far to go?
How hard am I trying?
Is the pace sustainable for that distance?
If the answer is “yes”, that means you’re not trying hard enough. If it’s no, it’s too late to do anything about it. You’re looking for the answer “maybe”.
Chris Boardman, on The Hour Record, Rouleur
Cyclists, whether on the start line of a race or at the café before a group ride, are a chatty bunch. How’s your training going? The legs feeling alright? How do you like Di2? I could never go electronic, need to feel the cable, you know – need to be connected to my bike.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “substantive conversation”; we are more leg than brain, after all. But no matter how good the form has been, we are always worried that it has somehow left us, and worry tends to make the mouth go. Chatter distracts the mind from the doubts that should have been nagging us the last month about our training, but who only turned up about ten minutes before we arrived to the start, long after there was anything we could do about it.
The Contre la Montre, on the other hand, always shows a different rider. No matter how dominant the rider, they are always deep in thought, never chuckling, never grinning. There is no one to lighten the mood, no distracting the mind from the pain and inherent uncertainty of the body’s ability to cope with the suffering that is to come. There is an appointment with the Man with the Hammer somewhere on the road you are about to travel down; he is as unpredictable as he is ruthless.
The rider who waits on the start line of a time trial is a rider who is squaring up with the reality that no matter the state of their training, they are waiting for the man.