It IS About The Bike


I’d been jonesing all week to get on the bike but weather and schedule weren’t cooperating. By Friday morning I couldn’t wait any longer. Despite the forecast for rain, I woke up early, had some coffee and headed out. When I retired from racing full-time I adopted some new rules: no riding below 50 deg F, no riding in the rain. I haven’t really followed them but it was a way to make up for all the winters and really shitty conditions I endured when I didn’t have any choice.

Now that I had the choice, I was rolling out at the crack of dawn beneath humid, overcast skies.

Within 5 minutes it had started to rain. But I was warming up and the rain wasn’t too heavy so I continued. The things that had always annoyed me about the rain were cleaning the bike afterwards and having wet cycling shoes. The shoes take forever to dry out. I remember a story about Greg Lemond drying his shoes out during the Tour de France. They put them in an oven but left them in too long and they were ruined. He was pissed. For cyclists, shoes are something special, something with which you develop a long-term relationship. Not like runners and their casual trysts who discard theirs every 6 months or so. I’ve had my pair of Sidi’s for 15 years, only recently upgrading to a newer pair of Sidi’s.

As I rolled into it and felt better, the easy ride I had planned evolved into a sprint workout. I would do 10 sprints over the next hour and a half (roughly 40km). I wasn’t used to this, even though the sprints were short — the distance between 2 or 3 telephone poles — and slightly downhill, just enough to turn over a reasonable gear (53×18 in my case) and have it spun out by the end. The first 5 sprints were okay though the front end of the Cyfac felt sloppy and mushy. The rear wheel was hopping up as I wound up. I was concerned about popping a foot out of the pedal. Although the rain had stopped, the roads were still slick.

By sprint number 6, I started to feel nauseous. This would be concerning if it weren’t so familiar. I think it has something to do with the intensity of the sprint; the effort compresses your diaphragm which presses on your stomach. Your blood gets saturated with CO2 from the efforts and it makes you dizzy even as you try to breathe it out. Your eyes cross as you twist the bike while you try to stay focused on your line, the road and all the potholes and obstacles.

The little bit of coffee and yogurt in my stomach was starting to come back up, so I had to stretch out the intervals between the last remaining sprints.

But I made it to 10, then soft pedaled the rest of the way home.


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