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…