The legs are the tools of the cyclist’s trade.
When a pro cyclist has a good day on the bike they talk about having ‘good legs’, as if riding well or riding badly is less to do with all the training, sacrifice, and sports science, and more to do with the whim of the legs.
They’re either good or bad.
Conversely, after a day of suffering on the bike you won’t hear a pro talking about not training properly, or a poor night’s sleep due to his room-mate snoring, but simply, “what can I say, I just didn’t have the legs today.”
Not my fault. The cycling gods have spoken.
These things tend to filter down the cycling hierarchy so that we rank amateurs may also be prone, in our more pretentious moments, to get semi-mystical about our successes and failures.
Whilst out on your regular Sunday morning ride what do you tell your mates as you fade off the back of the group each time the road heads upwards, struggling to keep pace and puffing and blowing like a pair of dusty old bellows?
The kids are currently sleeping in intermittent two hour bursts? You went out last night and had one too many beers? Work is sucking the marrow from your very soul?
All (at least semi-) plausible excuses.
You say, “pppfffhhh, what can I say chaps? Just haven’t got good legs today!”
If your companions are feeling charitable they’ll shrug and pat you on the back; “happens to the best of us mate.”
More likely (and quite rightly) they’ll mock you for your grand excuse, make a mental note of your pitiful pace, and continue to barrel along just to teach you a lesson. You have no option but to cling on as best you can and see the funny side later.
Reading an interview with former Grand Tour contender Andy Schleck, who retired in 2014 whilst still in his late twenties, it sounds like he’s struggling to get to grips with his new relationship with his legs. As they make the transition from tools of his trade and masters of his destiny, to functional limbs which transport him between daily tasks, Schleck and his legs seem to be slowly drifting apart.
As he explains the slide from cycling superstar to normal bloke in a recent interview with Cycle Sport:
“All the years you have people around you who do everything for you…the only thing you have to do is wipe your arse. And suddenly everything is gone. You don’t recognise your legs any more.”
Now there is an excuse I could get on board with.
“Oi, Ragtime, why are you so embarrassingly slow today? You’re holding us up!”
“Sorry chaps, to be honest I don’t recognise these legs. Are we sure they’re mine?”