Call me soft, call me fair-weather, what do I care?
I’m warm, and I’m enjoying a Sunday morning with the papers.
Cycling is still, despite the evidence beyond the bedroom curtains, a sport involving shorts and short sleeves, a sweating brow, and the red parched face of a day in the sun.
A good day in the saddle includes the gathering of salt in the bunches of a lightweight jersey, and a feeling of tiredness, but lightness, and fitness.
But then, in November, after a couple of weeks in denial, it clicks.
It’s a crisp morning and my breath snorts out in front of me, visible. My calves are spattered with mud – Ok, let’s be honest, it’s cow-shit – and the job of the café is to warm me up, not cool me down.
I’m on the right bike, I’m wearing the right kit, and it’s all there to be relished.
Six weeks ago I mimicked Barguil, Froome, and Contador, on long days in the hills – in the very broadest sense, of course, of the word mimic.
Now, along the lanes of Lancashire, I’m in Belgium. I’m in the big ring, crushing it like Van Avermaet.
The science of it doesn’t bother me. There are more efficient ways to train in the winter, but what do I care? I only need to be as fast (or a tad faster) as last year.
Long, slow, fat-burning base-miles is what I do. It takes me from café to café. It brings me home with the scorched and wind burnt face of a day in the northern cold.
I wish it were sunny – I always wish it were sunny – but it’s clicked now, so that’s fine. I will attack the weather, and the base-miles, and the cow-shit, until February.
Then I’ll snap, because I have my limits.
I’ll be hanging on for the first trickle of April or May sun. No longer enjoying, but enduring. There will be occasional Sunday mornings with the papers, but the work will be done by then.
Because the work is being done now. Just when I didn’t think it would click, it clicked.
Because it always does.