Christmas, for the cyclist, is a time of psychological struggle.
The majority of the UK population rather touchingly embrace the true spirit of the festive season; they eat and drink almost without pause, for the entire second half of December. Any free time they do accidentally find is either spent furiously internet shopping for gifts, or taking on the tough physical challenge that is Christmas shopping in a major city centre.
For the cyclist, it works slightly differently.
Since late October the summer form and fitness will have been ebbing away. By late December the light and springy feel in the legs is a fuzzy memory. This is fine – in fact it’s normal – but what happens in those final couple of weeks of the year may prove definitive.
And if you’re not careful, this crushing psychological pressure could be your undoing.
The super-committed and frankly inhumane approach to Christmas is to carry out a brutal scientific experiment on your own will power.
You refrain from alcohol; you avoid the work Christmas party; you turn down every mince pie; you walk repeatedly past the boxes of chocolates propped open at every turn; you eat a sensible portion of Christmas dinner (no seconds); you get an early night at New Year; and in between you make an attempt at a personal record for festive kilometres ridden.
You then emerge on January 1st primed, honed and lean, and ready for your best year on the bike.
This approach is uncompromising and not suitable for anyone with a family, a social life, or anything resembling a fully rounded personality.
You will be riding quicker than ever, but you’ll have no friends.
So, swings and roundabouts then.
If you really want to take this approach but are worried you’ll crack, why not consider contracting an unusual, but not life threatening, infection.
That way you can enjoy the holidays under the influence of powerful medication, with the perfect excuse to avoid people, alcohol, and fun of any description.
You might be off the bike too, but at least you’ll avoid piling on weight. Not that I’ve ever tried this approach. Obviously. Of course I haven’t.
From this extreme benchmark follows a sliding scale.
At the bottom of which sits an overweight former cyclist surrounded by chocolate wrappers and empty wine bottles, regaling passers–by with guilt soaked tales of past exploits on the bike.
Indulge too much and you’re forced to begin January dragging your rolled and pickled body up hill and down dale, in a sluggish search for some light at the end of the tunnel.
If your loved ones were kind enough to shower you with gifts of smart new cycling kit for Christmas, the effect of this is amplified. Riding slowly is one thing. Riding slowly in box-fresh kit is never a good look.
My advice would be to pitch your festive exuberance somewhere between these two extremes. It’s a tricky balance, but your ambitious aim is to be both the life and soul and a respectable cyclist by the new-year.
Oh, and avoid the bread sauce. I’m never 100% sure what it is, but it doesn’t sound like the best fuel for a semi-serious cyclist.
And good luck.