Hallelujah/I Know it’s Over

In the end, there was no cataclysm, no serious injury, not even a disastrous lack of competitiveness.  Just a persistent, nagging, unarguable voice in the back of my head…

“I don’t want to be here.”

Hardly an ideal scenario in the high risk, testosterone-fuelled world of bike racing.

You see, I’ve simply lost my nerve, if indeed I ever had one.  It’s not a proud admission to make, but it’s the truth and that’s always the best place to start.  Maybe if I still had the boldness of youth?  Maybe if I’d had better results to pay back the hours of toil and rivers of sweat I’ve shed in training?  Or maybe not.  Just as a leopard can’t change its spots, neither can I suddenly become braver than I actually am.

For two races in succession – Friday’s Dunsfold 4ths and then last night’s opening Lewes Crit – I spent the entire time fretting about danger, like an over-zealous health & safety inspector unleashed inside a Chinese metalworking factory.  Every swerve, every brake jam, every near miss dampened my enthusiasm a further notch, until it eventually reduced to zero, leaving me wheeling home barely out of breath and well away from the sharp end of hostilities.

To be honest I was ready to call it quits after Dunsfold, but with an entry to the Lewes Crits already paid for it seemed to make sense to give it one last try.  I’m glad I did, if only for the purpose of confirming the initial evidence from Dunsfold.

So, that’s it.  There is clearly no point whatsoever in persisting with a hobby whose only present purpose seems to be my unhappiness, so with a good deal of reluctance I have to call time with the job only half-started.

Not on cycling per se, you understand.  Just the bunch racing bit.  I could never stop cycling now; it’s become such a crucial part of my personal identity I would feel invisible without it.  I’ve no intention of quitting my team, either (assuming they’ll still have me) – those guys are the best around, a source of friendship and camaraderie that has made adapting to a new life outside London many times easier than it might have been.

So anyway, at the risk of turning this into some sort of maudlin, Oscar acceptance speech-style blubfest, I do want to sincerely thank everyone who has followed and commented on the blog, all the guys in my team and others who’ve offered tips and support, plus the Twitterati and Facebookers who’ve also been along for the ride.

The training will continue – if I don’t keep it up I’ll be as fat as a house within months – and I’m definitely going to dip my toes into the dark arts of time trialling, which may well suit my diesel-like riding style and – apart from when others overtake me – should offer less close contact with my fellow competitors…

I’ll probably still put the odd post or two on this blog in the coming months, although clearly the updates won’t flow as thick and fast now there are no more race reports coming.

In the meantime, I can reflect on having given this nonsense the best shot I could, allowing for my physical and especially mental shortcomings.  My solitary top five finish will always be in the record books and, of course, there was also the career highlight of racing alongside the legend that is Sean Yates.  I guess I’ll settle for that.

Cheers everyone and ride safe!


P.S. Full marks to anyone who got the Jeff Buckley reference in the title without googling it… keepin’ the flame alive since 1997…

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4 Responses to Hallelujah/I Know it’s Over

  1. David Barber says:

    Oh boy! I’m just at the start of the journey that you’ve just been through! I’m 44, wife, 2 kids, big mortgage and just done my second race! I’ve always wanted to race, but never got over the worry of crashes – finally decided I’d have to give it a go! You see I need to have a purpose to my training, I want to make comparisons between myself and other riders – done the TT thing you just don’t get the same sense of competition I think. Every article i see about crashes dampens my enthusiasm and casts doubts over my intentions – am I being fool hardy? Sorry to see you leave – really enjoyed reading your blog… Can you recommend anyone to reassure me?

  2. Crikey – just been reading the posts in the order they were published – so surprised to read this one! Keep up the blogging, there’s plenty of mileage in writing about bikes without talking about bunch racing…

  3. Paul webb says:

    Hi Martin happy for you that you have made a decision it must be a relief to you (and your loved ones). Believe it or not the decision you have made is being made, thought about not made and re-made troughout the cycling community….. you are by no means alone.

    I have discussed this with other compettitive cyclists myself and the question i / we always come back to are

    1) “What is the impact on my training?”
    2) “How do we satisfy our competitve nature?”
    3) “What is going to be our place in the cycling community?”

    Perhaps your blog may answer some of these questions in the future blogs.

    Before i began racing again this year i loved the “Club Life” and was riding (dare i say it?) quite a lot of sportives which i really enjoyed, i also love to ride abroad (and sportives abroad) and have been compiling a list of the great climbs i have bagged, and i am sure i will continue to enjoy these aspects in the future whatever happens ….

    Thanks for your blog its been great, please dont be a stranger, maybe we can get out for some joint club runs in the future

    Take care mate

    Paul Webb

  4. carl says:

    Interesting how your perspective on your own riding differs from an outsiders viewpoint. I actually made a point of following you round the bunch at Dunsfold a few weeks back, the week Sean was there. I thought you looked good, confident, strong, moved around the bunch well… you looked pretty good to me. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blogs…. sure you don’t want one more crack at getting out of the 4ths?? That would be a nice note to end it on…

    Best wishes

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