With Worlds upon us, we are fully into the season’s wind down. Riders who peaked for the Spring Classics may have mustered one more burst, or managed their work load with an eye on some of the Fall races. The big guns of summer have been laying low thinking about the end of year stage races. It’s all about peaking at the right time, or the right times.

Meanwhile, from my saddle, the onset of Autumn looks like a brand new day. I was thinking about how the pros plan their years, the races they target, the way they ramp up and cool down, and it led me, as it usually does, to examining my own patterns.

As a year-round rider, I also have peaks, and those correspond, roughly, to the seasons. In the spring, when the first warmth creeps back into the morning, and my gloves shed their fingers, I experience this great burst of form. I am fast. I am motivated. I can climb, and I can sprint, and it all feels good. Then the rains come. What started as a sunny rebirth turns into a wet slog that leaves me praying for the first strains of summer.

Then, too, I get a lift. The hot summer air gets me down to my lightest riding kit. Being lighter makes me faster. The summer blasts away. After a month of sweat-soaked speed, I get tired of rubbing salt into my eyes. The heat takes its toll. It wears me down.

Then the fall descends on us. Cool air blows up my hill. I pull on a pair of arm warmers, and I’m on top of it again. Instead of feeling as though I’m losing my soul to the constant flow of perspiration, I hum along at near perfect temperature, dropping triathletes in my wake, like the dust off a Trans Am’s bumper.

The leaves fall. The rain returns. Wet leaves turn the roads into brown ice. My knickers are sodden with cold water. By late November, I’m ready for the snow to fall. What portends months on the couch for some, connotes daily rides bereft of joggers and hybrid-pedaling accountants for me. To ride, as those first fat flakes drift from the graying sky, is sublime. It’s like the whole road is mine again. I ride down into the city, along the river, alone.

By February, I’ve been barking against the cold for too long. My tights are grimed with salt and sand, put down to keep the cars from reenacting a carnival ride. The elastics in my winter hats are all distended. I’d sell my bottom bracket for Spring to spring up from the icy crust.

These are my seasons. At the beginning of each I peak, by the end I’m just hanging on.

Sam Abt wrote of the pros:

“Out in the countryside of France, the fields are brown and barren, their corn long harvested and the stalks chopped down for fodder. Until the stubble is plowed under when winter wheat is planted, the landscape is bleak and the air full of despair.

“For professional bicycle riders, April is not the cruelest month. Far from it. In April, hopes for a successful season are as green as the shoots just then starting to push through the fields that the riders pass in their early races. The cruelest month is really October, when the nine-month racing season ends and the riders finally know what they have failed to accomplish.”

With no trophies to hoist aloft, no podium girls to kiss, I’m left to the elements. I ride to be fast and smooth, to find myself “on top of it” as Souleur wrote this week. All winter I ride to be fast in the Spring. All Spring I ride to be fast in the Summer. All Summer I ride to be fast in the Fall. All Fall I ride to be fast in the Winter. Seasonal.

I wish the pros luck in the coming month. Some will be sprinting for victory in Australia. Others will be eying Lombardy and Tours to salvage the hopes they sprouted in Sam Abt’s Spring. I will be riding too. Trying to be fast.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Robot

    @Yorkie – I would be willing to bet that, whatever it is that you do ride, you are faster on it than I am on whatever it is that I ride. If you’re ever in Boston, we ought to get together and not race.

  2. James

    Living in Portland Oregon I get to ride all year long. The trouble is that I never get fast! Oh well…the old legs keep going round and I’m still able to ride through the whole year!

  3. Jon

    I am with you Robot on the excitement that comes with the change of season. Living about 40 miles west of Boston I will be rolling out on some chilly rides in the coming weeks and I can’t wait for the cold air and knee warmers that signal the start of a great riding season.

  4. sophrosune

    Nice piece, Robot. I read this after coming back from a late afternoon ride in the early fall here in Madrid, and I was thinking as I was ridign that my form is so out of whack. By the beginning of August I am dust, and as a result this year I have been riding 80 miles or less per week for the last two months. But now I feel strong again. But it doesn’t matter because the guys I ride with and measure myself against are already getting into their hibernation mode and if I push it on a club ride I’ll quickly be all by myself. My peak never seems to come at the right time. I guess I’ll have to look into cyclo-cross.

  5. Janet D.

    And then there are fans like me who hibernate for several months, waiting for racing season to begin anew. It’s you guys, you solitary trainers, puffing up hills or grinding through canyons, who give us happy proof that it’s all going to happen again. Thanks boys, always nice to see you out there!

  6. wvcycling

    Hmm… lets see how this year went for me:

    Hopped off the trainer in February, felt great.
    Got annihilated by those training harder than me in May.
    Went on vacation, then got really sick in July. Almost a month off.
    Started to really shine/peak in Early Septermber, but Road Season in WV is winding down.
    October? Cyclocross and MTB
    November? Pray for no snow. MTB.

    Eh, I’ll prabably be on the trainer by Thanksgiving, or just go for casual rides with the GF ’til snowdown.

  7. gil

    I know triathlete accountants who would drop you like the bad prose you just dropped on us. I hope next season you find something to write about other than disparaging those who get out there on two wheels and do their thing.

  8. Robot

    @gil – I poke good-natured fun. I hope your triathlete accountant friends won’t hold it against me as I suck the wind trailing off their rear wheels.

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