After the better part of four months since the broadcast of the Giro di Lombardia cycling has returned to the tellie. As sure as winter solstice signals the height of the Christmas panic followed by three months of utter boredom, so also the beginning of the pro cycling tour brings the first promise of relief for the coming year. The tedium doesn’t altogether disappear…but is transfigured into hopeful boredom.
The Tour Down Under isn’t particularly exciting – unless you’re an Australian. But it’s the first cycling coverage of the year, and beggars can’t be choosers. I readily concede that the world pro teams only send their B-squads – again with the exception of the Australians. [I hasten to add that rider Matt Goss likes to draft off of other riders during a break-away, and let everyone else do the work. Technical note: when you ride in another rider’s slipstream – called drafting – you do 30% less work. If you draft until the last 200 meters and then take the lead with fresher legs, this makes you a world-class WEENIE.] Anyway the guys ride the TDU mainly to get more miles into their guns for Tireno Adriatico and the Spring Classics.
Nevertheless it’s still the beginning of a new season. It’s kind of like getting excited about baseball spring training with double-digit innings and pitchers that can’t hit the side of a barn. THE REAL POINT IS SUMMER’S COMING…but there’s a monotonous tradition – a rite of passage – before we get there. No one is exempt.
While we slog away on our basement trainers or cross-train on sticky exercise equipment in public places, [I have an aversion to the disagreeable sensation of sweaty skin slowly releasing from vinyl-clad seats], the hardmen of the pro peloton will soon be jack-hammering the cobblestones of Belgium and France in classic mud and sleet fests. They will re-live the traditions of cycling-induced suffering that make the sport great: riding where conquering legions once marched. The burning and pillaging now reserved for their bodies.
This puts me in mind of a personal suffer-fest late last September during the Headwaters 100. The Strava website calculated a SUFFER SCORE of 405 and declared it to be EPIC. It’s an appropriate single word description of my borderline hypothermic 100 mile battle against wind and rain. Cyclists like to star in our own little theaters of pain. There’s a quality to the fun that can be had through distress and self-imposed torture that makes us want to do it again. And, as can be readily observed from the picture above, growing one’s hair brings magical endurance powers.
Now that there’s fresh inspiration to watch, it’s time to apply myself to the early season rite of passage and put 600 more base miles into my legs. As of today I’m nearly at 200 for the month. I’ll be searching for the epic place again this year. I will loathe it when I find it…until just after it’s over – and then celebrate.