My legs feel like Eric Zabel’s face looks.

I’m not sure I really ever experienced ambivalence until I became a cyclist. Prior to cycling, my world was one of startling clarity. As a musician, I either liked a piece of music, or not. I either liked a performer or band, or not. Same for foods and movies.

But as a cyclist, I came to experience the thrill of seeing an utterly dominant ride by a guy I didn’t like, such as Andrei Tchmil. Everyone I know in the industry uses the D-word to describe him. But dude, seeing him in action at a race like Paris-Roubaix was a thing of beauty.

More recently, I’ve had to contend with performances such as Alberto Contador’s in stage 16 of the Tour de France. I plain didn’t like the move. However, seeing that acceleration and watching him keep the pressure on left me breathless. At the end of the day, what we want of our champions is a performance so impressive their dominance is apparent.

My real education in ambivalence came with regard to my own body. During my periods of sharpest fitness my hardest workouts leave me shattered. I’ll be able to walk when I get home; I can get through the shower, dress and eat without any real difficulty. But an hour or two after the ride ends the desire for a nap—a consciousness-blotting entombment of body—comes at me like the villain of a horror movie. Escape is as uncertain and tenuous as survival is in said movie.

While I marvel at the destruction I can impose on myself in just two hours, the fact that my legs feel like the Ninth Ward for the rest of the day really isn’t any fun. In fact, the only reason I can tolerate it is because I know what it does for my organic savings account. It’s embarrassing to walk around like a physical therapy project and the leaky concentration while I attempt to work is as frustrating as trying to win the lottery.

Like I said, there’s one reason I tolerate this feeling: At some point in the not-too-distant future I’m going to be fast—at least, faster than I’ve been—and that’s fun enough to pay for in blood. My own, in fact.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International



  1. randomactsofcycling

    I’m not sure ambivalence is the right word for my feelings about cycling. However after watching the ‘Queen’ stage through the Pyrenees this morning, I am with you that my feelings regarding AC are ambivalent. Disappointed he seemed to only attack once all the way up the climb, disappointed that he seemed happy to ride defensively, but pleased he didn’t contest the ‘sprint’ for the stage victory. (yes, yes, I know he was on the limit)
    For my own cycling, I love to suffer. Be it a training ‘race’, solo training ride or a roller session, since I made the decision to really structure my riding, I love it all. Now when I leave the house I know exactly what I want to get from each ride and having that goal helps to keep me motivated. Even if the goal is to simply turn the legs over and chat with a friend on the way to coffee.
    So upon reflection I am now asking myself: Is it human nature to only be ambivalent about others and not oneself?

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  3. Lachlan

    or, in other words… “man… you look just like I feel.”

    Good pic. Great comment.

    Makes me think of the other thing this whole Andy-Alberto thing has thrown up.

    We often seem to argue this stuff the way people argue republican vs democrat. ie blinkered rabid black & white…. Was it always like that? Maybe, a bit, but not quite so fox newsy….

    My hero is Greg Lemond. But I still wish on the stage Fignon boosted out his lead to 50 seconds that Greg had had the legs to help Delgao and not just sit up and expect Pedro to ake the running. I also wich he had a bit more tact and grace at times in the drug debates of the age. BUT he’s still my number one.

    And with both Schleck and Contador I am a fan… yet see faults in both… is that wrong? do I have to support Alberto no matter what? Or hate him no matter what, for that matter. I don’t think so. I think he’s great, AND that he showed a lack of greatness, class and fair play with the whole chain thing.

    Someone (I forget who) once said “dont ever meet your heroes, the reality is always a let down” or something like that.

    I think thats a shame. I like my heros human, touchable, fallible, yet still on occasion bloody, unbelievably brilliant on the bike…. if it isn’t so how can I pretend to emulate them on my own local hills? If they’re do-no-wrong, feel-no-pain-gods, where’s the anticipation or tension in watching? Where’s the aspiration in me riding??

  4. Robot

    @Lachlan – I’m right there with you. I like both Alberto and Andy very much, and yet, day-to-day they expose themselves as mere mortals, a little weakness here, a little lack of tact or class there. The ones who appear TOO perfect are actually the ones who turn me off, to be honest.

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