The season has a distinctive ebb and flow; from spring to autumn, each passing month has its own qualities. Races early in the year are run in hard conditions, the cold and wet, with muddy roads, embrocation and arm warmers. But the bunch is keen to race after a winter of steady rides and soulless turbo hours – everyone is anxious to put their training to test, and to start ticking off those pre-season goals and targets.

By summer everyone is in full flight, the edges of tan lines have sharpened, bodies are leaner. The pinnacle of the season has been reached; the rider is now en forme. There is a deep feeling of satisfaction when the climbs seem shorter, and the pace of races feels less fraught – these are the sensations that make the hours of training and the suffering in the early season worthwhile.

When in form everything seems to go your way and confidence is sky high. Your pedal stroke becomes smooth and effortless, as if the wind is always at your back. Every joint and pivot is like a balanced oiled machine, from the ankles to the knees, power flowing from the thighs through the hips. The buttocks feel moulded to the saddle, there’s no squirming to find comfort. The bike feels compliant, you flow through corners and plummet down descents – the hours upon hours spent hooked over your racing machine have instilled an instinctive trust in its capabilities.

Results arrive, and it feels like a natural occurrence. At this point it could be the case that a new racing licence arrives for you through the post – congratulations, you’ve been upgraded to the next category.

But moving up can be a curse in the disguise of a blessing. It carries kudos, a promise of prestige and recognition. But an upgrade also means an introduction to a whole new breed of competition; no longer forcing the winning breaks, it’s now a return to suffering in the wheels of more capable foe. From top finisher to mid-bunch fodder.

And so every summit is followed by a descent, top form is only fleeting. By autumn motivation begins to fade, fatigue begins to mount both physical and mental. With targets achieved there’s not so much to race for. Suddenly the racing routine becomes a chore; the travelling, early mornings, and as results begin to dry up so does the enthusiasm.

Talk turns to next season and the winter in between. What are the new targets? How will your preparation be tweaked or altered to propel you to higher standards? The appeal of a fresh start begins to take hold.

Right now I feel like I might have the best form I’ve had all year, but even so, the plans are already being set in order to climb even higher the next time around.

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