“The hardest part about going training is putting on your socks”, so says Simon Gerrans’ coach Dave Sanders. However, for me, the hardest part is actually finding my socks in the first place. And then trying to remember where I put the strap for my heart rate monitor, and then realising I forgot to lube my chain or fill my drinks bottles… and then, before you know it, I’m already late.
So prevalent is the habit of cyclists to run behind schedule that Rapha deemed it necessary to create an iPhone app to help more punctual riders cope with the problems lateness causes. “Where the hell is Fausto?” is their tagline. Now I’m not sufficiently sophisticated and Euro to actually know anyone called Fausto, but I imagine many of my club mates have uttered similar queries that curse my name. The ‘Five Minute Wait’ is the traditional feature to the start of any group ride, and beyond the usual banter (“Been out on the bike much?”, “Are they new wheels?”, etc, etc), is the familiar “Did anyone else say they were coming?”. Or at least I imagine this is what people say – I generally only arrive, sweating and panting, as everyone else is clipping in and about to set off.
I’ve never tried Rapha’s app but, putting aside the fact that I don’t even own an iPhone, isn’t it just one more thing to fiddle about with before setting off? I’m already wasting valuable seconds having to wait for my Garmin to warm-up and finish its interminable search for GPS Satellites. One more bit of gadgetry could spell the difference between ‘just in time’ to ‘just too late’.
Keeping your riding mates waiting on a Saturday morning is one thing, running late for a race is quite another. I’ll admit to getting pretty nervous on the eve of a race, but the cause is not the pressure to perform, or the nightmarish visions of crashing and ending up propped up in a hospital bed nursing something broken or dislocated. My nerves stem from the dread of forgetting something, or over-sleeping, or missing my train, or one of the dozens of other little details that could go wrong. How many of us have heard of guys arriving at a race only to find they’ve left their cycling shoes at home? Or encountered some poor soul desperately trying to borrow a spare helmet from somebody (anybody!) whilst their own sits serenely back on the kitchen table enjoying the stillness of an empty house?
And so the scene is set, and every race day morning I dash frantically around stuffing everything into my bag, ticking off my checklist as I go. Train timetables are carefully jotted down on scraps of paper, with corresponding alternative routes if Option A proves just out of reach for me and my disorganised bag packing. When I eventually find myself in the race, with all equipment and accoutrements present and correct, I can finally give sigh in relief and relax.
Except of course, if I happen to find myself competing in a time trial. A nightmare scenario! So not only have I had to make my way to the start line exactly on time (and no doubt at some ungodly hour of the morning) but there’s a couple of old guys waiting for my arrival with clipboards and stopwatches a few miles down the road. In a panic I over-compensate, starting off in such a rush I quickly find my lungs burning and head spinning, before settling into a rhythm of despondency, until the finish line draws into view and I attempt a final pathetic spurt to limit my losses. “Sorry I’m late”, I gasp to the timekeepers.
(Regular readers may have noticed the timely relevance of this post, coming as it does several months after we visited the first of the Deadly Sins way back in September. I would like to claim that this belated entry on tardiness is a stroke of genius on my part, biding my in order to add a witty nuance the post. But alas – with one thing or another – I’m just running a bit behind schedule. As usual.)
Photograph of the 2010 Catford Hill Climb by Martin Godwin