Mr Competitive can’t help himself. Wherever we’re all heading next – the top of a climb, a road sign, the showers at the end of the ride – he has to be there first.
If you beat him, he won’t talk to you.
His sense of self worth is directly related to how he performed on the bike on his most recent ride, and how many people witnessed that. If you find that Mr Competitive is suddenly ignoring your phone calls, or no longer joining you for a weekly ride, it’s a sure sign that he feels threatened.
He will be at home, birching and berating himself, before heading out for a punishing session on the bike – on his own – to drive the weakness out of his body and ward off any possibility of future embarrassing defeats.
Along with this pathological fear of failure, Mr Competitive will also have any number of Armstrong-esque mantras which he uses to stoke his inner motivation. Phrases like:
- ‘Pain is temporary, quitting lasts for ever’
- ‘Pain is simply weakness leaving the body’
- ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’
- ‘Sweat is just fat crying’*
What’s wrong with being competitive, you might say?
What’s wrong with challenging and pushing yourself to achieve ever greater physical goals?
Nothing, of course, but apart from the fact that Mr Competitive is willing to compete at the expense of all else – friends, health, sanity – there is one other major flaw in his choice of lifestyle; he refuses to accept the passing of time.
Cycling is not just a young mans game – many an old timer has clocked up so much mileage over the years that, although they might no longer be quick or explosive, they can literally ride for mile after mile, day after day, propelled by sinewy legs and overdeveloped lungs.
But as he gets older Mr Competitive refuses to accept this natural evolution from Baroudeur to Randonneur. He continues to judge himself against much younger men who can still attack a climb by selecting the big ring and pushing their heart rate up towards 200 bpm.
The ageing competitor cannot physiologically compete with this but stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the evidence before him.
So, what can Mr Competitive do to come to terms with his cycling mortality?
Accept the inevitable. Revel and reminisce on all those years spent royally kicking the arse of your cycling companions.
Even in your twilight years they’re probably still afraid of attacking you on a long ride on the wrong day.
* It’s possible Armstrong never said this, but you get the idea.