As a cyclist, finding a training partner can be a tricky business.
It has to be someone you are evenly matched with, whose on-bike bodily functions are tolerable, and who can go three hours without mentioning Donald Trump or Brexit.
Ideally, they will also be a millionaire, and enthusiastic about picking up the tab at the mid-ride café (we want the finest flap-jack known to humanity; we want it here, and we want it now!)
But even in the most carefully calibrated partnerships sometimes, between the two of you, there is a power imbalance.
For any number of reasons one of you is feeling strong, and the other is not. One of you is going to have a good time, one of you is going to get hurt. Words might be exchanged. Seething resentment might be involved.
Plans for revenge will probably be hatched.
At the end of the ride you’ll wave each other a cheery goodbye, on good terms, and leaving all animosity out on the road. Because that’s what grown-ups do.
Especially when one of them is a millionaire.
But like an ageing lothario marking another notch on a bedpost, the past three hours will be logged for posterity; for one side to make amends at a later date, and for the other to remember to expect it.
Occasionally, though, a truce breaks out. Something in the click-click of the drivetrain and the swoosh of tire on Tarmac brings on a silent acceptance that today is a day for a nice social ride.
Perhaps you’re both feeling your age, or maybe one of you is clearly so much stronger than the other that to dish out the usual punishment would be tantamount to a hate crime.
Either way, no shots are fired.
But all this is unspoken, so it’s best not to overthink it. Just enjoy a pleasurable and non-threatening bike ride between two consenting adults, and don’t spoil the mood with excuses.
If you start listing the reasons why your legs won’t spin around quickly enough the spell will be broken.
The whole point of the truce is that it goes unacknowledged and under the radar; as far as anyone else is concerned, this pleasant (and slow) trundle in the countryside never happened.
It’s just a lull before you and your training partner encounter the perfect storm; that day when you are both in prime condition.
Proceedings will begin with some cursory small talk, before a simultaneous and ferocious commitment from you both to break the other. You’re evenly matched today in will, determination, and leg strength and crucially, you both know it.
It’s Borg v MacEnroe, Ali v Frazier, and Armstrong v Pantani.
Only with less talent.
And fewer drugs.
You might ride for three hours and exchange four words. Locked in a silent two-person chain gang, taking it in turns to empty the tank, and rest the legs, knowing that to lose the wheel in front can only mean defeat, disaster, and disgrace.
On the best of these days you both arrive home equally crushed, legs aquiver, heart rate refusing to slow, and leaving a string of Strava PB’s in your wake. You jabber and back-slap, high on adrenaline and endorphins, and catch up on all the mid-ride chatter that passed you by.
Within three minutes you will be horizontal, on the settee, and ready for a nap.
Feeling like a millionaire.
Preparing for next time.
(Image: via pexels.com)