On Being a Racing Cyclist

I’m reading what is turning out to be a great book from the UK called The Escape Artist; the memoirs of an amateur cyclist. I haven’t finished it, so I won’t offer a full review of it yet, but I thought this paragraph from the Prologue was worth sharing with you:

A certain willed stupidity is useful to the cyclist - the type I was, a racing cyclist. To train as hard as you must merely to be able to race, to reach the minimum standard of fitness and speed and stamina necessary even to finish a race, let alone to win a place in one, for that you need to acquire this willed stupidity. The racing cyclist must be a Nietzschean hero without an idea in his head. The goal, attainable by slow degrees, is to be fitter and faster, to be able to push on beyond those moments when the body is begging for respite. To race well, you have to be willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to transcend yourself, again and again. You have to push yourself and it has to hurt. You have to put out of your mind the burning desire to stop by the side of the road and take a rest. For the racing cyclist, there is always another hill, another sprint, another lap, another mile. The dogged belief in your own perfectibility works like a drug; it makes you feel chosen to belong to an elite. - The Escape Artist

All I can say is wow… If that and the first few chapters (or Stages) are any indicator, this will be one of the best books on cycling I’ve read. I’ll post more once I can make the decision though.

If you’re curious as to what willed stupidity is, it was riding on the road tonight… solo. It was a nice 65 degrees outside, with a 30 mph wind out of the north. Winds out of the north here are always cold. My guess is that the wind chill was somewhere in the upper 30s. It took ten minutes of being inside before I could feel all of my toes after the ride tonight. So what makes you want to freeze just to ride? What makes riding into a wind so strong the voice in your head has to yell just to be heard fun? What makes that a good way to spend a Friday evening? A dogged belief in my own perfectibility… It doesn’t work like a drug, it is the drug and if you haven’t partaken, you wouldn’t understand.