With the Tour de France kicking off this weekend, most of July will be a complete write-off for Cycling Widows across the globe. Which is why I decided to launch my Cycling Widows sequel on Saturday, 1 August – hot on the heels of The Cycling Widow’s Survival Guide… And this month, in the lead-up to the book’s release, I’ll be posting a few Sneak Peeks – which I hope will act as a kind of antidote for Cycling Widows to the endless pedal-strokes and yawn-worthy commentary of the Tour de France as it reaches fever pitch.
So let’s get stuck in here with an apt extract from the start of the first chapter of Cycling Widows 2 – MADNESS & MAYHEM (Weathering the Dreaded Racing Season)…
Picture a sperm racing towards an egg in the womb. Its little tail wiggling for all its might, frantically hoping it’ll be the first to reach its destination – the prize egg. It’s got millions of others to contend with – but, though the odds are stacked heavily against it, it doggedly races ahead regardless in an attempt to be the champion.
Now, with this image in mind, you can get some idea of the strength of motivation that lies within a cyclopath’s psyche. How so? By imagining for a moment that this very same sperm isn’t actually a sperm at all but a dedicated cyclist instead. He’s gritting his teeth, pedalling at full force to reach the finish line – but the prize isn’t an egg now, it’s a trophy, or prize money, or a few points towards a championship. Unlike sperm, however, who have a one-time-only chance at reaching the egg, if an avid cyclist doesn’t reach his prize one day, there’s always the promise of success another day.
Perhaps your beloved was a rider before you got together, or maybe he got into cycling after you met. Either way, somewhere along the line, he will probably follow others in his club and have a go at racing and begin to exhibit determined behaviour such as I’ve just alluded to. For the Cycling Widow, this can be quite a shock – especially if her hubby wasn’t a rider before they embarked on their relationship.
It all starts off innocently enough, of course, with the cyclist tentatively dipping his toe in the water, but once he gets that time-trialling adrenalin surging through his veins, it’s like a drug. Basically, when he first starts achieving respectable times, he’s like a gorilla who’s found a hidden stash of bananas. Inwardly, he’s beating his chest with glee. Then, if he starts to improve on his times – ie find more bananas – he’ll compare his times against others’. How many bananas has he got compared with the other gorillas? As the years roll on, his cravings for better times – more bananas – will grow steadily worse and he’ll only want to up his game, to up his cycling drug habit.
Isn’t the odd race enough? you’ll wonder with a sigh. Sadly, it isn’t. A whole jungle of bananas wouldn’t be enough. (OK, enough of the banana analogy!)
If you’re new to the Cycling Widow game, it’s time for you to brace yourself. Because your life is going to change radically. Cycling will be like your spouse’s new baby. Not your baby that you planned together, mind. But a demanding baby all his own that will leave you in just about the same shape as if you had had a child. Money will mysteriously seem to vanish from your bank account. The laundry bin will heave with stinky cast-offs. Basically, you will have a needy entity on your hands that requires constant feeding; and it will leave you both exhausted – he from riding the bike at all hours, and you from trying to take up the slack of household jobs he’s left in your midst. Hours will be taken up as he tends to the new addition to your lives – although he won’t mind, because he just loves his little ‘bike baby’, doesn’t he? Unfortunately for you, as the years roll on, this entity will only get bigger and more demanding, and he will only love it more. And, unlike children, the blighter will never grow up and leave home.
A MOMENT IN TIME
Given all the hours a Cycling Widow has to stand by watching her cycling-obsessed spouse training, planning and preparing for races, anyone would think he was training for the Tour de France, or the Olympics or something. After all, the technical talk and carefully-conceived activities all look and sound so important and all-consuming, don’t they? And this can be the case even when he’s a novice getting ready for his first racing season.
The underpinning mantra that will come across to you as a new Cycling Widow is that ‘every second counts’ in time trialling – according to the Lore of Cycle Racing, that is. And, as time goes on, you’ll notice that clocks rule the roost in your husband’s life. Not only will they dictate how much time he can go out with his cycling mates, but they also demonstrate to him how bad he is a lot of the time in a race.
It may seem completely ridiculous to a new Cycling Widow to hear this, but the promise of gaining just one small second of time in a road race can make a cyclist do a totally disproportionate number of extra activities in order to achieve it. Unconvinced? Then let me elaborate…
Let’s say that one season, a cyclist’s time for a 25-mile time trial was 1 hour exactly. A pretty respectable time, you might think. But do you think he’s going to let out an excited WHOOPEE! and say, “Wow! How fantastic! Isn’t it great that it’s 20 minutes quicker than I did last year?”
Instead of looking at how much he’s achieved in his last 12 whole months of gruelling training, a cyclomaniac will look at his time and feel total regret. If only I’d done something different, pushed that bit harder, I would’ve got under the hour. And, for the next 12 long months, that need to do a second better will rule his every waking choice – whether it’s to do with his training schedule, diet, weight (ie that of himself as well as the bike) and so on. Not only he but the bike will be bordering on the anorexic by the time he’s completed another year’s training. I don’t mind my chap losing a bit of weight, but I’m sure my mother-in-law thinks I don’t feed her poor son enough already!
If you’re super lucky, your chap will do a ‘rubbish’ time like this earlier in the season, thus leaving him with more races that year in which he will have a chance to redeem himself and achieve his goal. If he doesn’t, you’ll have to watch him go through a whole winter in which he doggedly trains towards that ‘under the hour’ goal for next year when he should technically be easing off the pedals, recovering from his racing season (or the Season of Heightened Obsession, to more accurately name it).
Skip ahead a year (or two!) now to that glorious moment when he finally achieves his time of 59.99 seconds. Does he feel satisfied? Well, maybe for a second or two. But before you can breathe a sigh of relief that the torment is finally over, he’ll be setting a new, speedier goal – as though he’s got some Dickensian school master standing over him with a thrashing device telling him that his time just isn’t good enough and that he ‘must do better’ or face the terrifying consequences.
It’s a sad picture indeed. And I know new Cycling Widows will be reading this open-mouthed, aghast at the kind of ridiculousness that goes on in the cycling world. Concepts like ‘under the hour’ and ‘four-minute mile’ may all be manmade, but they are of deep significance to a sportsman, who attaches a certain personal prowess to smashing through these mental and physical boundaries.
My chap Steve once spent a whole cycling season doing races to achieve some fancy shmancy cycling award. The idea was that each of his race times would be totted up and by the end of the season, if he’d averaged 22 miles per hour or quicker, he’d be awarded a certificate from Cycling Time Trials for the BBAR (British Best All-Rounder). After a whole year spent training for this, he finally averaged just 21.999mph. I can only imagine how disappointed I would feel if I’d put in that amount of time and energy, only to fall short of my goal by a sliver, a mere 0.001mph below the threshold for the prize! And to think! That 0.001mph was averaged across all the races for my chap’s cycling season. How many cycling fanatics do you think would be delighted with such news? I’m thinking not many.
To any ‘normal’ person, this kind of result would be tantamount to having the winning lottery numbers, only to realise you’d lost your ticket. Or investing in some stocks and shares, only for the market to come crashing down the minute you’d handed over your hard-earned. Faced with such a situation, most would be tempted to get rat-arsed down the pub as a way to drown their sorrows, or feel like throwing themselves off the nearest high cliff without a parachute. After all, we’re talking here not only about a single race-gone-wrong, but a whole season’s-worth of arduous, dedicated training that’s been flushed down the proverbial pan. In fact, if you’re a seasoned Cycling Widow, you’ll know that the commitment and effort reaches even further beyond that, since most cyclists would need a year or two’s previous training under their belt before they could even consider going for such an award.
Failure is a strange thing for a cyclist, however. After reaching his goals shy of that prized second or two, a cyclopath will look like he’s in a depressed pit for a while. But it won’t be long before he dusts himself off and emerges victorious from his murky hollow with a new ‘masterplan’ for how he can snatch success from the jaws of defeat (ie do a measly few seconds better in the future). The promise of redemption in the year to come is the kind of thing that tends to spur a cyclomaniac on. And, although you may know that your husband is just as likely to fail the following year, it’s best not to tamper too much with the perverse pleasure he seems to derive from the failure-achievement-failure ‘cycle’ of events (pardon the pun!).
If you’re going to continue to live with or be married to your cycling spouse, then you really do have to know the truth of what you’re up against. The truth, it is said, sets you free. It can, of course, depress you for a while – sometimes for years, in fact. But, hey ho! We Cycling Widows soldier on!
For goodness’ sake, if you know anyone whose hubby will be tuning in to the Tour de France this year, pass on the link to this blog and throw them a lifeline! Not only can Cycling Widow readers get a Sneak Peek at the book, but I currently have the following offers running:
- Pick up a FREE copy of The Cycling Widow’s Survival Guide.
- Get DISCOUNTS on all my cycling-related books – including Cycling Widows 2 (available to preorder). Click here for info.
- Read the latest chapter from the original CYCLING WIDOWS book on the blog each week in the weekly FREEBIE MONDAY slot.
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Look forward to more Sneak Peeks coming up on the blog shortly.
See you tomorrow!
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