Here we are, mid-April in the north of England, and I’ve ridden my bike once this year in shorts. A single, paltry occasion. It was a Wednesday evening and the mercury had nudged its way up to a heady fifteen degrees. The legs were out, white, translucent like milk bottles in the glare of the late evening sun. And that was that.
One ride. A cold snap blew in, “enough!” said the weather gods, and it’s been back to wearing tights in public ever since.
And while I am disappointed that meteorology itself saw fit to tempt me, briefly, and then withdraw its golden bounty, that single bare-legged jaunt was enough to get the juices flowing. Because, as if by magic, on that night I felt like a cyclist.
Instead of a man wearing tights in public.
I felt light and quick. Ish. I felt skinny and stylish. Ish. I felt psychologically hungry for a wrestle up the next hill and a sweeping, swooping descent down the other side. I bounced on the pedals, no longer constricted by a full leg of Lycra and several deep layers of technical jersey.
Shorts. A skinny base layer and a fancy jersey. Fingerless mitts. A light gilet flapping in the breeze. That’s all.
Every winter I forget that feeling. I dig in from November through to March, diligently clocking up mileage, at first with a solid remembrance of being fast that fades to a ‘was I?’ I know in my bones that the reason for all the training is for the feeling fast, because the feeling fast is worth any number of grim winter hours on the bike, but into each new year I only know it because I trust that I know it.
I’m training on faith.
The feeling of fast so long gone it’s no more than a cave painting scratched inside my skull.
Hours and miles, for weeks and months, into January and Feburary and the Strava numbers say I’ve plateaued. That I won’t go faster despite my diligence. Maybe this is it? The year when I won’t go faster? Will I even go fast?
And then BOOM! Sun’s out, limbs out, and i’m risen like Alejandro Valverde, middle aged and drinking deep from whichever (ahem) magic well keeps that old dog up at the sharp end of pro cycling.
Ok, I’m not quite that good. And my milky pins are a far cry from the deep mahogany of the Spaniard. But I’m stripped down and feeling good for another year. Just wait until that thermometer hits double figures again. Potentially somewhere around July. There’ll be no stopping me.