A curious reversal of roles today: while the Tour riders are resting, I’m going racing. Tonight is the last in my local bike shop’s annual series of ‘have-a-go’ time trials, and marks the end of my (exceedingly modest) competitive riding for this year.
It’s a simple 10-mile dash against the clock, fastest time wins. As always, I have no illusions about winning, or even a high finish: my sole aim is to beat my mate Kevin. In three years, the only time he’s finished ahead of me was when I foolishly decided to ride The Guv’nor and the chain fell off after two miles.
OK, so it’s not Le Tour. But I still get a thrill every time I pin on a number and make the subtle change from bike-rider to racing cyclist. Three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond once said of being a pro, ‘It doesn’t get easier, you just go faster’. Even downhill with a following wind, I won’t match the speeds Fabian Cancellara sustains on the flat. But I’ll have some idea of what he goes through, and that’s good enough for me.
MY OWN RACE
There will be no crowds
Straining to see me start,
No cameras to capture
My grimaces and smooth pedal strokes,
No helicopters overhead
Shadowing me through the lonely miles,
No team car in my slipstream
Loaded with spares and moral support,
No fans along the barriers
Shouting, waving, urging me in,
No soigneur at the finish
With drinks, towels and strong arms waiting:
Just the pain, desire, isolation
And fear of falling short
In my own race.
With only myself to beat.
Maillot jaune: Alberto Contador (Astana)
Green jersey: Thor Hushovd (Cervélo Test Team)
KoM: Anthony Charteau (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)