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Philippe Gilbert’s Weapons

Having Good Legs

by Gianni / Jun 25 2012 / 82 posts

One great mystery remains in this cycling world. I’ve been a cyclist for over thirty years and I still can’t buy a clue. Remember those rides where very early on, as you roll out of a parking lot, or just away from your house, you notice you have good legs. You need verification and after a proper warm up the feeling is still there, to quote Ryder Hesjedal, “the legs are mint”. And by saying good legs I mean untouchable, inexhaustible, Le Blaireau legs. Legs you can use with extreme prejudice on your friends and enemies all day long. I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened in thirty years. Don’t tell your friends, it’s like having four aces in your hand, keep your mouth shut and let it all play out. On your next group ride, regard everyone’s faces as you let them ride through. Does anyone have good legs? Look for the rider who is quietly sitting in the paceline with a confident telling smirk on his or her face. George Hincapie recalled it as if pedaling with no chain. It’s some magic elusive mojo.

As a cyclists your legs are your tools, your currency. Professional cyclists talk about their legs as if they were not their own. They have legs hung up in a garage, many sets, most of them bad, some OK and only one pair that are good. Unfortunately which set gets installed on any given day is a mystery to everyone. Science has not solved this one or if they have they are sitting on it, maybe Contador has solved it. The more you ride the better your chances are of having good legs. But the amount of recovery riding, rest and diet all go into a formula so complex it has yet to be solved. I used to pay a lot of attention to my abstemious Saturday nights, hoping that the proper dinner and no drinking would bring on a good Sunday ride. Of course my friends were actually drinking beers, having fun and still riding fine the next day. I guess Anquetil had it right, steak tartare washed down with beers works just fine.

When professionals are riding that wave of good form (think Philip Gilbert, the 2011 version) do they have killer legs every day or can they just always summon the strength to crush? I think having good form means all your physical systems are honed up to the highest possible efficiency. Having good legs is more mysterious. It’s an unexpected event, the result of still unknown forces in the body. What happens on the morning of the Worlds Road Race when you get the message from the engine room that you have the good legs installed, what then? It must be every cyclists dream to have those magical good legs on such a day. It must feed into a confidence loop, thinking you have great legs removes the usual doubts, gives one the confidence to try things one might not otherwise dare. I’m bridging up to the front and then I’m going to ride away. I’ve got good legs.

// Technique

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