The Tour Down Under
Langkawi. Qatar. Down Under. These are the new code words for the early season. There was a time when conjuring the spring for the PROs used terms like Besseges, Omloop or Nice. Today, early season races like the Tour Down under or the Tour of Qatar give riders a chance to enjoy racing in warm weather at a point when nearly all of us are doing what we can to muster the fortitude to head out the door for a ride that even for the luckiest among us may only nip the 50s. And with the winter we’ve had this year, many riders can’t really even contemplate trying to ride slick 700C tires on the roads and the dream of riding in weather that isn’t frozen is just that—a dream that will go unfulfilled this week, next week, and probably some weeks to come.
It’s difficult to watch someone lead a peloton in short sleeves over a sand-washed blacktop or through monsoon rains. Difficult not only for the fact that the PROs are flying along at 40 mph or more as if they were motor pacing, but difficult because our options are fewer, usually involving either a thermal jacket or the trainer.
We look to the gods of the peloton for inspiration, something us to help suck it up and get out for four of five hours when it would really be much easier just to stay in with a book and the family. We want to see them in jackets and tights or arm warmers, vest and slathered with an embro that could melt the paint off your car.
Little can make us appreciate their suffering more, or wish to emulate it more than a long, quiet shot of the peloton rolling along at 22 mph, the riders hands on the bar tops, the leaders evenly spaced across across the front with the order of bricks in a wall. You tell yourself: See?! Even the PROs know how to keep it in check in the early season.
Never mind the fact that 30 miles from the finish the pace will ratchet up to the fury of the Tasmanian Devil, we love the juxtaposition. After all, nothing can make the peloton seem faster than having seen them ride slow. And that’s what we need right now. Whether you’re braving the elements or the trainer, it’s so much easier to summon the strength necessary to suffer when you know someone else is out there, someone you know is tougher, stronger and more dedicated. That’s the very font of inspiration.
Of course, there’s always the chance that seeing the peloton enjoy weather of which we can only dream may inspire us to log miles no matter how miserable it is outside.
Images: John Pierce, Photosport International