You Can’t and You Don’t and You Won’t Stop

Failure and success are destinations not often visible to the traveller. This is why it is nice to focus instead on the beauty of the journey and try not to be become overly fixated on any particular outcome. It is with some regret that I admit I didn’t invent this idea; there might be a few religions and philosophies out there that have stumbled upon this concept before me. The best you can do when you are born an idiot is read the works of those who weren’t idiots and then proclaim their ideas as your own.

One of the characteristics that separates successful people from the others is less their intelligence or an uncanny ability to get things right, but more their ability to keep fighting even when a situation is hopeless. I haven’t done any research on this, but I can recognize a fact by how it feels, so I’m pretty sure it’s right.

The final of Paris-Roubaix this year was the best edition of the race that I’ve seen during my lifetime and probably the best single bike race I’ve ever watched. It wasn’t so much for the result or the fact that Roubaix is my favorite race, but for the fight that every rider showed. No secteur of pavé is easy, but the Trouée Arenberg and the Carrefour stand out easily as being the hardest of them all. Most secteurs, however brutal they are, hide within them a secret to how to pass through fairly swiftly; they typically have a crown which stands above the rest of the stones and it provides something resembling safe passage. But these two sections are brutal things; the state of their cobbles is such that one imagines a bitter old French road worker dumping wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of stones along the road, taking a look back at his work and deciding that neatly laid cobblestones are a luxury not everyone is entitled to experience.

The Arenberg comes early in the race; a contributing factor but rarely decisive. The Carrefour, on the other hand, is late in the race and decides everything. The biggest problem is that the riders have close to 250km of racing in their legs, and bad pavé has a habit of stopping your bike in ways we don’t often encounter; blow after blow after blow from the stones in rapid-fire succession, soaking speed from the machine one dirty cobble at a time. Accelerating again once the speed is lost is almost impossible; and if you watch the overhead shot of Boonen diving into the last corner of the Carrefour and coming to a stop, you will see the way he fights with his bike to get it back up to speed. He is not of this world; for us mortals, the ask is too great.

I had given Matt Hayman for dropped at the Carrefour, only to watch him claw his way back. Sep Vanmarcke was off the front. Vanmarcke was brought back by a group that was working together perfectly, and Matt came back to the group shortly after, riding like he would rather his legs fell off or his heart stop beating than give up the race. Then came the attacks in the final; each one a do-or-die effort put on by riders who between the lot of them had nothing left to give. But not one of them ever quit; they would be dropped, but they fought back. Attack after attack, they kept the pressure on and not one of the riders was ever willing to give up.

And in the end, the rider dropped on the Carrefour, when quitting seemed the most sensible thing to do, beat the greatest cobbled classics racer of all time. This is the sort of lesson that Cycling teaches us; never give up, always fight through. I take inspiration from this and apply it not only to my own riding, but to my professional and personal life as well:  You can’t, and you don’t, and you won’t stop.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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70 Replies to “You Can’t and You Don’t and You Won’t Stop”

  1. @hudson

    Great write up Frank….I’m still watching the race, i watch the end probably 3 times a day, absolutely amazing. Blows my mind they were able to answer an attack just to attack or counter another, over and over again. Watching the last few K’s made my legs hurt for them. Is there such thing as sympathy suffering?

    Sympathy Suffering! Classic! I totally think there is such a thing, and I’ve felt it on mountain stages as well. And the final of the Strade this year.

  2. @Buck Rogers

    @Harminator

    @oregonrouleur

    Hayman’s race was free of all of these problems. He did ‘keep riding’ but he stayed out of trouble and was in the mix all day – good luck and good management & racecraft. What did Lee Traveno say? Something like “The more I practice the luckier I get”.

    The whole Pasteur quote about “Chance favors the prepared mind”, eh?

    Always kind of pisses me off a bit when something good happens for me and someone says, “You’re so lucky”.

    Fuck that. It is usually b/c I have worked me ASS off for it; luck played no part in it.

    Same thing with sport and people calling me talented (doesn’t happen much anymore!) – I suppose there is some talent in there somewhere, but mostly it’s bloody hard cultivating the skill and getting good over time.

  3. @Harminator

    @Mikael Liddy

    @Harminator

    love the shot of Durbo in the background of the 2nd to last one…looks like he’s paper boying it trying to get back on the crown!

    Me too. They all look a bit off kilter I think. This could be a race for Durbo. He’s got another 10 starts in him, Merckx willing.

    @universo

    Totally. This is the type of racing you get when everyone the front bunch isn’t afraid to lose.

    It seems to be the trend this year; people are riding with panache. Two years ago, the front group would have been looking around and one of the attacks would have gone away.

    @Mikael Liddy

    @Harminator

    yup, I ‘think’ he’s done reasonably well in the U-23 version in the past, but I could be wrong. I definitely thought he was well placed on Sunday when he managed to make the Boonen group ahead of the crash & had Hayman & Cort up ahead in the break. Never really heard what happened to him in terms of dropping off.

    Speaking of people who did will in the U23 version, Taylor Phinney has to become one of those guys; he won the U23 version at some point, and I’m just waiting for him to pull out a big one, once he gets recovered from his nearly career-ending crash.

  4. @RobSandy

    @ChrisO

    Even without that I still ended up with an NP of 284 watts.

    Still, I only did two races last year so I’m reasonably happy at just feeling comfortable again. I was nervous as a cat in a kennel all yesterday.

    I don’t have a power meter, but I was quite pleased how low I managed to keep my heart rate throughout the race. To be fair, my team were outstanding – they just kept taking it in turns to bomb up to the front and give me a wheel for a bit. We didn’t plan it but that’s how it worked out.

    I was crapping myself before the race – because I knew how strong I was and how I did have a genuine shot at the win.

    Also, quite gratifying that it turns out I do have the sort of sprint I’d always hoped. Very much like Frank and the pave, I’d always been certain that sprinting was just something I was good at. Nice to find out it’s true! Seen another photo of the finish and it was so close! By the time our back wheels had crosses the line I was ahead, even though his front wheel crossed the line first.

    As I’m preparing for my Hour, I’m starting to think through how I keep my pace as consistent as possible. Wiggins apparently set a super consistent lap time and I understand that’s the key to riding it well, especially since you don’t have the opportunity to change gear at any stage, so you don’t want to get going too hard.

  5. Definitely the best P-R in recent years. Utterly deserving winner- you don’t beat that group in a track sprint on the Roubaix Velodrome by luck. Not now, not ever. Only class wins that. Hayman was classy in winning, Tommeke even classier in second- a true champion appreciates a superb ride to beat him.

     

    Yet despite it being a superb race, I’m not upset that I didn’t watch it live. When you can, watch Battle Mountain. Even if you don’t have Obree in person there. It’s a superb film.

    Also, on the tick list- that’s 3/5 monuments for OGE

  6. @frank

    @hudson

    Great write up Frank….I’m still watching the race, i watch the end probably 3 times a day, absolutely amazing. Blows my mind they were able to answer an attack just to attack or counter another, over and over again. Watching the last few K’s made my legs hurt for them. Is there such thing as sympathy suffering?

    Sympathy Suffering! Classic! I totally think there is such a thing, and I’ve felt it on mountain stages as well. And the final of the Strade this year.

    Definitely a thing! Feels like restless leg syndrome. I can often be found writhing in front of the television during high mountain stages in summertime.

     

  7. @DVMR

    @frank

    @hudson

    Great write up Frank….I’m still watching the race, i watch the end probably 3 times a day, absolutely amazing. Blows my mind they were able to answer an attack just to attack or counter another, over and over again. Watching the last few K’s made my legs hurt for them. Is there such thing as sympathy suffering?

    Sympathy Suffering! Classic! I totally think there is such a thing, and I’ve felt it on mountain stages as well. And the final of the Strade this year.

    Definitely a thing! Feels like restless leg syndrome. I can often be found writhing in front of the television during high mountain stages in summertime.

    I find myself grabbing my calf as ghost cramps ball themselves up and crawl up the back of my leg as I watch these guys put in these massive efforts…glad I’m not alone.  Maybe something for the Lexicon.

  8. Some excellent comment here on an excellent article about the best race I’ve watched. Still gutted for Tom, stoked for Hayman and excited for Sep who surely must win a PR before too long.

    That race had everything and probably benefitted from being largely dry. The damp stones that did for Fab and Team Sky were enough to keep it exciting and although like the majority I prayed for rain, I don’t think we’d have witnessed such an epic finalé had conditions been different.

    Forget Christmas, THIS is the most wonderful time of the year.

  9. @frank

    As I’m preparing for my Hour, I’m starting to think through how I keep my pace as consistent as possible. Wiggins apparently set a super consistent lap time and I understand that’s the key to riding it well, especially since you don’t have the opportunity to change gear at any stage, so you don’t want to get going too hard.

    I’ve been thinking about this too, as I’m planning to do my own tribute ‘Hour’ at Maindy sometime that week. I want to do it in the spirit of things so no aerobars and if possible I’ll ride as if I were on a fixie i.e no gear changes or freewheeling. And likely as not I’ll be there on my own so I’ll need my Garmin on the stem for timing purposes I’ll do it without a speedo or HR in the display, so I’ll have to work out a pacing strategy.

    Are you going to have a team with you? I thought the drill in that case was to have someone let you know each lap whether you’re behind or ahead of your pace per lap? On my own I guess I’ll just have to keep an eye on the lap times and try and keep a consistent time per lap.

    Can you set a Garmin to ‘auto lap’ every 460 metres? I imagine it might be tricky to get the accuracy.

     

  10. @RobSandy

    @frank

    As I’m preparing for my Hour, I’m starting to think through how I keep my pace as consistent as possible. Wiggins apparently set a super consistent lap time and I understand that’s the key to riding it well, especially since you don’t have the opportunity to change gear at any stage, so you don’t want to get going too hard.

    I’ve been thinking about this too, as I’m planning to do my own tribute ‘Hour’ at Maindy sometime that week. I want to do it in the spirit of things so no aerobars and if possible I’ll ride as if I were on a fixie i.e no gear changes or freewheeling. And likely as not I’ll be there on my own so I’ll need my Garmin on the stem for timing purposes I’ll do it without a speedo or HR in the display, so I’ll have to work out a pacing strategy.

    Are you going to have a team with you? I thought the drill in that case was to have someone let you know each lap whether you’re behind or ahead of your pace per lap? On my own I guess I’ll just have to keep an eye on the lap times and try and keep a consistent time per lap.

    Can you set a Garmin to ‘auto lap’ every 460 metres? I imagine it might be tricky to get the accuracy.

    If I ever have a lash at this, solo as you are, I will initially pace at km/h until my HR gets up, then sit on threshold HR until the end, and not care about km or km/h. But that is survival, not going for ultimate pace. I’m sure ultimate pace is just going uncomfortably fast for as long as possible, my strategy is round getting as much out of my body as possible, without blowing up before the end.

  11. @frank

    @hudson

    Great write up Frank….I’m still watching the race, i watch the end probably 3 times a day, absolutely amazing. Blows my mind they were able to answer an attack just to attack or counter another, over and over again. Watching the last few K’s made my legs hurt for them. Is there such thing as sympathy suffering?

    Sympathy Suffering! Classic! I totally think there is such a thing, and I’ve felt it on mountain stages as well. And the final of the Strade this year.

    I have another syndrome:  Sympathetic Pedaling.  This is when you’re watching a race, when you look down your guns are involuntarily flexing and un-flexing in time with your favorite rider’s cadence.

  12. @RobSandy

    suggest you use an old school speedo to measure your distance (can also couple this with your knowledge of how many laps you have done).

    Garmins – or any GPS for that matter – suffer minor errors when cycling or running around a sharp curve. This is because they typically record your position to around 10 metres or so every second or so and ‘draw’ a straight line between each point. This minor error gets smoothed when going in a relatively straight line, but becomes a major error after many short laps. Have used different GPS many times running on athletics tracks and they always produce errors. Its even worse when going at a faster speed on a bike around a curved surface of similar distance.

    Think you can program a GPS to record laps on each passing of a particular point, but I wouldn’t know how.

    Go down to your local track, ride 10 laps and see how far away your GPS is from 4800m…

  13. @frank

    @Bart

    I love how blindingly fast Sep crushes that pavé. I believe the reporter on the motard said he was pedaling at 55+ kph. Taintdestroying fast.

    Actually, that’s taintpreserving fast. The faster you go, the smoother they feel. His ride over there is incredible, though. He must have practiced the shit out of that one. I feel bad for anyone who doesn’t speak Dutch; the commentary is absolutely fantastic.

    Wuyts said when he’s at home (Kortrijk) he trains by riding every gutter he sees. Must be some rough gutters over there.

     

    Dutch (Flemish actually) commentary is the best! Gotta love the lingo!

     

  14. @Buck Rogers

    @Joe

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CgJdafJUAAEnRFz.jpg

    Photo from Mathew Hayman’s newly established twitter account to show his training set up for Paris Roubaix. He always kept riding

    Ha! That’s awesome! I have not thought of that set up for my KKpro yet. Wouldn’t be too good a set up for rollers though!

    Goddamn. What an amazing sport. One of the new legends trains…in his garage with his kids toys hanging about. Incredible.

  15. @DVMR

    @frank

    @hudson

    Great write up Frank….I’m still watching the race, i watch the end probably 3 times a day, absolutely amazing. Blows my mind they were able to answer an attack just to attack or counter another, over and over again. Watching the last few K’s made my legs hurt for them. Is there such thing as sympathy suffering?

    Sympathy Suffering! Classic! I totally think there is such a thing, and I’ve felt it on mountain stages as well. And the final of the Strade this year.

    Definitely a thing! Feels like restless leg syndrome. I can often be found writhing in front of the television during high mountain stages in summertime.

    Sympathy Steering is also a thing. Until you get used to it, there are a number of spots on the Sufferfest’s Downward Spiral when you’ll involuntarily follow the wheel in front. The end of the Arenberg and Carrefor secteurs a personal favourites.

    It’s not so much of a problem on a turbo trainer but it can be disastrous on rollers.

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