Why do you race your bike?
Sometimes (okay, usually) I race for results, whether team or personal. It’s easy to get caught up in the placing on the results sheet. Did I win? Podium? Beat that one chick? Was everybody, like, totally impressed? Did I get beaten by that person who I cannot believe was faster, WTF, OMG? Should I hide in the team trailer?
The problem with this approach is that you can win one day and come in 48th the next. It could be a crash, a mechanical, poor preparation, crap luck, or just that your legs forgot to show up. I raced the San Dimas Stage Race a few weeks back and had a disappointing time trial, a strong road race, and a crash that broke my bike and ended my chances in the crit at one lap to go, despite feeling great and being in the right position to launch a sprint. I walked away from three days of hard work with this:
But the rewards went beyond a 5th place medal and $27 (and thank god, because that barely covered our tab for Burger Sunday). I got to race my bike. I spent time with friends and had personal victories throughout (did not explode on the QOM laps, learned to be patient in the road race, held good position in the field). While each day’s result felt make-or-break, these accomplishments ultimately last longer in my mind.
I think that is the only way to race your bike and stay sane, healthy, and happy. As good as it feels when things go well at the finish, results are so fleeting. Bike racing doesn’t pay well or make you famous, either, so you better have some deeper reason for chasing this dream.
As my coach put it, “In racing you are never going to come out ahead; there is just way too much you have to give up to ride well. It is crazy how much love goes into the sport from the riders. You don’t get rich, you don’t buy a house on your earnings. You are doing it because something inside says Race My Bike. But you are all in; that is the only way one can do it.” Such excellent wisdom. I don’t race because I love the podium, I race for the experience, the suffering, the tiny victories and moments of growth. Those exist whether I win or lose.
Yesterday’s TT didn’t go as well as hoped, but despite my initial disappointment, that doesn’t mean the day was a loss. Big Bear is a beautiful place to visit and ride a bike. I saw friends, rode hard, and learned more about the art of time trialing. And even if I’d won, there is another stage waiting today that will have a new victor and a new lanterne rouge anyway. To only get on my bike for a placing is to ignore the beauty of everything that happens along the way. I will never win all of the races, but that doesn’t mean each race can’t be an experience to be savored.
There is never truly a destination in cycling, so the only approach seems to be to enjoy the journey.