I’ve largely given up on winning, although even that phraseology hints of some podium chasing form in some long past phase of my life. Loose vowels I’m afraid*, in that other than a brief dalliance with that cock-munching class who confused winning with counting money, and a much re-lived 13rd place in my first proper MTB race, I’ve always been closer to the back than the middle**
So tonight when under-commuted legs met over-sized hill, grumpy sighs and wheezy rasps charted my glacial progress into a stiff headwind – cheekily flipped 180 degrees since battering me this morning. So distracted by the world being against me, I was very nearly blown into the roadside vegetation by a pristine roadie flying by like a homesick angel.
Let us pause to examine this cycling mismatch before the inevitable excuses begin. My tarmac conqueror was a vision in white from his Sidi Road shoes through tight Lycra sponsored ensemble topped out by a £200 peakless helmet. His bike – and that word completely fails to describe the engineering miracle reeling in the horizon at frictionless speeds – was somehow even whiter, draped in expensive componentry, and sporting a set of tyres so thin I honestly thought they’d been pencilled onto the rim.
Now allow the eye of disdain pass over a rather grungy middle aged man bedecked in a flappy set of paint stained shorts, a careworn top of dubious vintage, a £20 helmet much repaired with packing tape and shoes clearly stolen from slumbering tramp. The bike was a perfect match, tired from many campaigns, heavy and made heavier by commuting accoutrements, held back by tyres knobbly and wide. On top of this rather unedifying spectacle was the legendary commuting sack, now divested of the emergency badger, but still the unhappy receptacle for the weighty laptop of doom.
“Give up now” I thought. Preserve the few remaining strands of dignity by feigning a mechanical or hacking an arm off with a rusty multi-tool. I am sufficiently self aware in my old age to understand the frustrating dichotomy of ambition gapped by ability. And I know enough about bikes to realise that Mr. Shaven-Legged-Sculpted-Thighs was going to hand me my arse on a plate if temerity became my watchword.
And yet. And yet the last vestige of an overworked competitive gland fired up some anger and demanded death or glory. Death then probably as I snicked a couple of gears, took in a huge breath and went commuter racing for the first time in 18 months. And you know, I’d forgotten how to do it because a determined effort saw me close the gap to a blissful draughting distance where everything just got a whole load easier.
But it felt like cheating. And that’s odd because I like cheating. Always preferred it to hard work on the grounds it leaves more time for beer. Never really been troubled by feelings of guilt when looking for angles and bending the rules. Tonight though, it seemed the wrong time to die wondering and somehow losing worthily trumped winning ugly.
No idea if he knew I was there. He certainly did two seconds later as I waved like the Queen I can be while pulling along side. Duck like, all was serene where it could be seen, down below the legs were piston pumping at a rate that’d have Scotty chucking a big one regarding Dylitherium crystals. The next 45 seconds were horrible. Proper going to be sick, going to explode, going to just die right here horrible.
I dared not look round as I was already spent and even the sight of the cycling Jesus right behind me could not have spurred me on. Best I could have managed would have been a hearty pebble dashing of his lovely team gear with a rather fine pie I’d inauspiciously downed a few hours earlier. So tired now, my default position of cheating seemed a good place to skulk back too. What with the alternative being A&E.
Although my turn off was some 300 yards distant, I came off the drops, passed the momentum baton to the freewheel and ripped off a Rimmer-Like Signalling Salute. If he comes back on the inside, that’s okay I reasoned. It’s fine, I’ve still won. In my own head anyway. But he didn’t, he was MILES back, miles I tell you, honestly sweeping away onto a new course, I almost had to stop so I could barrack him remorsely as his humourless form finally swept pass.
Rationally there’s an explanation. He may have had all the gear but I’m not sure he had an idea what to do with it. His level of spring chicken-ness was similar to mine from what I could determine of a face squashed between expensive clothing. I have to accept that maybe he wasn’t very good, and the very act of overtaking yours hedghoggingly had left him without the physical wit to respond.
But you know what? Don’t give a flying fuck about that. Don’t care one jot. No difference to me if he was a thousand years old. I won, he lost. Oldest game in the word and Christ I cannot tell you how good that felt.
Shallow? Like a tea spoon. That’s me 🙂
* I blame loose bowels from last week leaving me vocationally undernourished, but I can see that’s information you’d rather I’d not shared. That’s the hedgehog for you, we’re all shop front and tackle out round here.
** Feel free to insert your own sexual innuendo here. I’ve done it for you far too many times, it’s about someone else showed their smutty credentials.