Peon Pro

Cyclist. Peon. Wannabe pro.

Season One

At the end of November in 2011 I talked about what this is all about. An unrealistic attempt to become a professional cyclist. From the very bottom to the top.

2012 will be my first year of racing - road races and criteriums. Start at Cat 4 then move up from there. Maybe I’ll never get any higher? Maybe I’ll reach Cat 1 by 2013? I have no idea where this might take me but I’m going to train hard and ride hard and see what happens.

I didn’t really have a clue. The dream of riding at an Elite level was nothing more than a dream, but I was ready to jump into racing and give it my all. Now that we’re at the end of my first season, it’s a good time to look back and see how things went.

The Spoils

to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy

A brown envelope for rider number 16 who finished 1st in the 4th Cat race

A white envelope for rider number 48 who finished 2nd in the Cat 3&4 race

In the Red

Heart rates and power outputs and zones aren’t very interesting. I know that. But I think you’ll agree that after the miserable failure that was my first race, I sorted things out in the second.

my heart rate is insane my heart rate is sane and I spend most of the race at tempo

About Those Ten Points

I tried my hand at racing again today. 4th Cat only. I just wanted to finish the race this time and stick with bunch.

I’d had two weeks to think about everything I’d done wrong last time. It all came down to one thing: wind. So today I tucked in and made sure I didn’t do any work. I think I even smiled.

My thoughts, in roughly chronological order:

“This is fun, I think I can make it to the end this time.”

“My legs feel good.”

“Wind and legs. Wind and legs. Cycling is just wind and legs.”

“And a brain. You gotta use the legs and avoid the wind.”

“Just ride. Wind and legs.”

“I wonder if I can finish near the front.”

“I wonder if I can get some points.”

“Whoa, you’re near the front. Last corner. You’re in a good spot, what the hell happens now?”

“(roughly 30 seconds of nothing)”

“Huh? What the hell just happened? Did I just win a race?”

So the story of my ten points wasn’t long or romantic or meaningful. I raced once and got dropped. I raced again and won. I have my ten points and I’m now a Cat 3. I wonder what happens next?

The Blues

Jersey
Saddle
Garmin
Frame
Shoes

My Ten Points

Racing is hard.

Yeah, you know this. I know this. I knew this.

That doesn’t stop the thoughts and the dreams of a sprint to the line and raised arms and meaningless Cat 4 glory.

But the reality is harsh when the pulse stays at max and the bunch spins away and the wind beats you back and you realise you don’t have any of the things you thought you had.

Disappointment and hatred and loathing burn bright.

A nobody with no legs and no talent and no results. But that nobody is still a hell more of a somebody than most of the people out there.

So the burning ignites the training and the miles are covered and the hills climbed and the legs get better. Next time I won’t get dropped. Ten points are a long way off, but they’re coming. They’re coming.

Riding

I haven’t always been like this. I vaguely recall days where I would wake up, grab a coffee and shuffle off to work without ever thinking about getting on a bike.

Bike-disturbed is as good a definition as any. Wake, look out the window, think about what kit to wear and tyre pressures and ouch the thighs still hurt from last night’s squats and hopefully I can get a hundred in and home before the wife complains.

It’s a good obsession, I think, when it not only takes over a huge part of your life, but also amplifies and improves everything else. The fitness and competitiveness and the simple joy of spending time riding make those hours at the desk sweeter, the time with family, the half day walk up a mountain with a kid on your shoulders that was never possible before.

The cold and the pain and the suffering and the sweat and the fast descents and the mud and the heart-bursting climbs and the bloody traffic and the views. Wow, the views. All of it.

A random chat in the park with a stranger. Schools and the weather while the kids play nice and the swings get pushed.

I ride bikes for a living. It’s my job.

Dammit. I want to do that too. I’m going to do that too.

What This Is All About

I wish I’d discovered this whole cycling thing 15 years ago. Or even 10 years ago. (Or maybe even 5 years ago.)

At 29, with a wife and son, it’s far too late to want to cycle at an elite level. But you know what? I’m going to give it a shot.

I figure I have a five year window.

At the beginning of 2011 I weighed 89kg and could barely run 5k. I’ve come a long way in 11 months - I weigh 10kg less, I can run 5k in 22 minutes, I comfortably commute 100 miles per week on my bike, and I can cycle 70 miles at a good pace without too much of a struggle.

2012 will be my first year of racing - road races and criteriums. Start at Cat 4 then move up from there. Maybe I’ll never get any higher? Maybe I’ll reach Cat 1 by 2013? I have no idea where this might take me but I’m going to train hard and ride hard and see what happens.

If I get to 35 and haven’t made it, well so be it. But feel free to join me. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Why not, hey?

I Am a Peon

Welcome.

So where do we begin? Overweight? Working too hard? Can’t run without getting out of breath?

Yep, that’s where.

Bus trip after bus trip after bus trip. How much time have I spent standing at the stop doing nothing?

Along comes the cycle-to-work-scheme. Or at least, my boss says they’ll buy me a bike (I can do some overtime if I want to spend more than £300).

Ebay, reviews, bike shops. Specialized seem OK for a first bike. “Make sure you get at least 105’s” says my friend. What the hell is a 105 I wonder.

Research, groupsets, bids. Lose. Lose again. Regret. Should have gone £20 higher. Eventually I win. Drive to Brighton. Gorgeous blue Specialized Allez Elite. Yep, Shimano 105.

And that’s when it really starts. Pedals slowly turning. Walk up the steep hills. 9 miles to work. Give the legs a breather. Next week, we go again.

1032 km for the year. Not too bad. But then winter comes and it’s dark and I don’t want to buy lights or ride in the cold. So the bike goes away and the legs disappear.

But February hits and it’s riding time again. And there have been gym sessions every week since Christmas. Swimming and weights and running. And instead of 15 km/hr it’s 18, then 20, then 22, then 26.

And as the weight drops and the muscles grow and life just gets better, and as I stare at the driver’s when I overtake them in their clunky unmoving cars, I know what it means:

The emptiness of those lives shocks me.

It doesn’t take long. I haven’t raced yet, but I’m a racer.

I’m 29 but it doesn’t matter. I am on my bike. Riding. And I will race.