I have a nemesis.
At least I think I do. Either that, or there is a fellow cyclist out there who coincidentally happens to ride on exactly the same roads as me at random occasions during the week, and then proceeds to overtake me with a ‘whoosh’ of expensive bike, and disappears off into the distance with alarming ease.
I suppose that’s entirely possible, but I like the nemesis storyline.
Although I’m no slouch, this guy appears over my shoulder and is past me before I can react. I’m pretty sure he usually grunts something in my direction, but it’s entirely possible it might be a grunt of mild surprise coming from me as this prime athlete appears in my peripheral vision and has gained ten metres before I can offer so much as an “‘ow do mate” (that’s the standard greeting in these parts).
This lack of human contact is all part of the problem, you see, and is what has caused him
to gain nemesis status in my over-active imagination. If he were to sneak up on me and exchange even the briefest of pleasantries before demonstrating his physical dominance we would have an altogether different relationship; as it is, he remains an enigmatic, nameless, faceless, personality-less cyclist.
To coin a phrase: half man half bike.
There is perhaps one glaring hole in my description of him as a nemesis. The definition of a nemesis is of an opponent that you can’t beat or overcome – so far so good – but this assumes that some kind of struggle has taken place in order to confirm that fact. When we two meet out on the roads of Lancashire, take it from me: only one of us is struggling.
So who is he? What does he look like? Perhaps there are cyclists all over Lancashire being systematically emasculated by this phantom menace?
Having only ever seen the back of him it’s hard to say. I’ve noticed that he has a habit of half glancing back once he’s gained those initial five metres just to see if I’ve jumped onto his back wheel; if only mate.
Truth is, if I knew he was coming I could jump onto his wheel (whether I could hold it for more than a couple of miles is another matter), but the surprise element catches me out. He sneaks up so quietly that he’s past me and away before I can say ‘wheelsucker’.
Now, at some point in every ride I’m occasionally overcome by that unexplainable feeling that someone is behind me – a cyclist – and I’ll glance back in casual fashion in the hope of catching him sneaking up on me. But so far, nothing. Once I’ve switched off mentally and I’m busy mulling over the relative merits of some potential bike related purchase, or I’m watching the cows munch grass in the nearby fields and wondering if they ever get bored of it, before I know it he’s there, he grunts at me (I think), then he’s gone!
“DAAAMMMNNN YOOOUUU!” I want to scream.
I never do.
I expect he pops up on all the local top-tens on Strava under some enigmatic pseudonym like ‘PM’ (phantom menace – see what I did there?), or ‘Bridley Waggins’, or maybe he preserves his cloak of anonymity by steering well clear of social media of all descriptions and exists only in the paranoid delusions of the likes of me.
More likely, he’s probably a really nice bloke who’s just genuinely very quick on the bike, and all this hand-wringing on my part is a simple reflection of some (not so well) hidden persecution complex. But I’ll stick to the nemesis theory.
It helps with the motivation and makes my mid-week rides more interesting.