“What’s that?” exclaimed our team DS Mark, almost recoiling in horror.
‘That’ is something I’ve grown rather attached to during my 40-plus years on this planet. However, when signing in 60 riders for our recent Bayeux-organised road race I spotted just one man with them; and as far as I’m aware I’m the only member of our team who still has them.
I’m talking, of course, about the hairs on my legs.
When I decided to pursue the frankly ludicrous idea of becoming a cycle racer it didn’t really occur to me that the process would ultimately necessitate leg-shaving. And indeed I’m not sure anybody in the team initially knew whether I was hairy-legged or not, since the weather has only just become warm enough for bare legs to be an option (Mark’s comment above was the overture to the first such ride of 2011).
The pros have always done it. But so, clearly, do amateur riders down to and including my ‘novice’ 4th Cat level. So much so that I’m currently feeling rather out of place with my long, thin hairy legs.
The reasons quoted for breaking out the Bic are several. They include making ‘road rash’ easier to treat as well as facilitating the use of various rubs and balms that loosen up the leg muscles pre- and post-race. There are even a few people who claim an aerodynamic benefit from hair removal, although I’m never sure if they’re actually being serious…
But me? I’m really not convinced. Not convinced at all. Coming hot on the heels of a notable drop in my form (thanks mainly to a notable increase in beer and curry consumption), plus more evidence of the perilous nature of this sport, it’s forcing me to examine where I’m going with this whole project.
I’ve enjoyed the racing so far, but I can’t help feeling the good shape I maintained over the winter period gave me something of a head start on the competition – an advantage that has now ebbed away as other priorities have taken over in my life just at the point that everyone else is seemingly knuckling down to some serious training.
I’m going to stick at it, but I can’t help feeling that rolling up to events looking the part with my shaved legs and all, only to pootle about at the back or, worse, get dropped from the bunch, would be more than a little embarrassing.
And there’s the ever-present risk of crashes. I’ve already bottled out of any involvement with the 2011 Lewes Crits, a seasonal highlight to many in the team but one that features open road racing of a pretty boisterous nature if past anecdotes are anything to go by. I know some poor unfortunate once managed to write a whole book just by blinking his eyelid, but if I bust my arm or collarbone and can’t type my pickings as a self-employed copywriter would be pretty slim, to say the least.
I have about a week to decide where I’m at and whether the hair stays or goes. After that I head to Majorca for a team training camp and if I’m still hairy for that I might as well stay hairy for keeps, since the stick I’m likely to get from my smooth-limbed fellow campers will easily last for a lifetime…