‘Labrador’ illustration by Philip Deacon. Check out his website www.philipdeacon.co.uk for more witty cycling related artwork and prints available to buy.

I remember the dog very well. It was a yellow dog, a boxer. I remember I was the last to see him alive because I was the one who hit him. At the same moment, I felt my front wheel give way and my handlebars twist against my left arm. I felt the breeze from the peloton, opening up and yelling all around me, and then I woke up, sitting on the Longchamp pavement, trying to scratch my phone number in the sand, in case I passed out again. Paul Fournel, ‘Need for the Bike’

Like most cyclists I prefer the predictable.

I like weather that is warm and sunny and stays that way. I dislike sunny days that change their mind halfway through and choose to be petulant little brats and start raining on you.

I like cars that indicate they’re about to turn, and then actually turn the way they’ve indicated. And dislike car doors that suddenly swing open on you.

I like the reduced odds of a breakaway rather than the lottery of bunch sprints.

I don’t like children who run up to the curb and are only stopped from venturing further at the final moment by a firm parental grip.

And I don’t like dogs.

Of course, dogs are perfectly amiable in the right circumstances, but when I’m on a bike I get nervy in their presence. I feather the brakes, tense my arms, and expect the unexpected. Comparatively speaking, dogs are bright animals – they can fetch sticks, lick their own bits, and even ride bicycles. But cycling history shows they’re not to be trusted.

They’ve made several cameos in the Tour de France that have been unflattering to their species – bounding about in the peloton, dozily wandering into the path of a big German chap in pink lycra, and worse, diving into the road to dramatically end the hopes of a breakaway escapee (the dog was later shot by firing squad after being found guilty of treason – Sandy Casar was offered the opportunity to shoot one of the rifles, but declined).

Over the winter my path to new season fitness has been scattered with a wide array of unpredictable obstacles. Admittedly one of those obstacles was a pothole, and although they don’t tend to move at any great speed, its presence was cloaked in darkness and was able to pounce through stealth rather than agility. Ice, illness, the pub – all contributing to my schedule being constantly rubbed out and revised, mileage and hourly targets missed or adjusted, and a whole raft of excuses not to ride exhausted.

And so I begin the season on unsure footing. Have I done enough miles? Is my base fitness sufficiently base-like? Have I let my weight slide from ‘thin’ to merely ‘slim’? But as I found out in my return to racing Sunday, the cruelty of racing is not in the knowledge of inadequacy, but in the unpredictable nature of failure. All it takes is one little pooch to make a dash for your spokes – or in my case the sly cunning of yet another pothole – and even the most prepared racer could find themselves scrawling their phone number in the sand.

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