EV­ERY MONTH

TO WIN RACES THE PROS NEED TO BE IN PEAK PHYS­I­CAL CON­DI­TION, SAYS NED

Cycling Plus - - CONTENTS -

The thing about cycling, and specif­i­cally try­ing to win cy­cle races, is that your body has to work prop­erly. It’s no good try­ing to race the Tour de France, for ex­am­ple, if your body is a bit rub­bish. That won’t end well. If you wheeze, limp, cough, hob­ble and gen­er­ally hurt, then it’s un­likely you’ll be at­tack­ing Chris Froome and sprint­ing to vic­tory atop Alpe d’Huez any time soon. It is, to para­phrase a cer­tain Lance Arm­strong (who un­der­stood so acutely the dan­gers of hav­ing a rub­bish body that he chem­i­cally pimped his), Only A Bit About The Bike.

So, the body mat­ters as much as the bit of kit it perches on. Of course, there is a whole col­umn to be writ­ten about the in­san­ity of a three-week stage race po­ten­tially be­ing de­cided by a punc­ture, which still seems to me a quaintly 19th cen­tury kind of in­ci­dent. Chris Froome still be­lieves, deep down, that an ex­plod­ing in­ner tube de­nied him an equal chance of vic­tory in 2012. His one-and-a-half-minute deficit to Bradley Wig­gins, sus­tained af­ter a punc­ture on stage two, sank his GC chal­lenge be­fore it had even be­gun. Five years later an­other mal­func­tion­ing push­bike al­most cost him his fourth Tour vic­tory. Only a lack of brav­ery by his op­po­nents, and some stel­lar ser­vice from his team re­stored his place in the group of favourites. Then there was the time he ended up run­ning up Mont Ven­toux be­cause he ac­tu­ally didn’t have a push­bike. It is an un­avoid­able fact of cycling that your bi­cy­cle must work, all the way to the fin­ish line. But the body bit has to work too.

Luke Rowe’s body doesn’t work very well at all, sadly for him. He smashed his leg to bits lark­ing around in the wa­ter at a stag party. There is no Ther­a­peu­tic Use Ex­emp­tion for this. He can­not ex­pect a Jiffy Bag full of legally-ap­plied-for reme­dies to be de­liv­ered in time for next year’s Paris-Roubaix, which seems a tri­fle un­fair. Af­ter all, what’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a mal­func­tion­ing leg, and a mal­func­tion­ing im­mune sys­tem? They’re both bits of the hu­man body, right? Per­haps, in­stead of an in­haler, he should be al­lowed a mas­sive head start, hav­ing his own per­son­alised, neu­tralised roll-out from the Car­refour de L’Ar­bre. That would make up for rid­ing with a bro­ken leg.

I jest, of course. And I com­mis­er­ate with the im­mensely like­able Welsh­man, who must be face-palm­ing him­self into a bleed­ing pulp on a daily ba­sis, for which there is also no known TUE. But there is a (half-) se­ri­ous point here.

Be­ing well mat­ters. If, for ex­am­ple, your GC ri­vals no­tice that you are hav­ing a bad day, per­haps strug­gling with a tem­po­rary bronchial im­pair­ment (a “snif­fle” to you and me) they will ex­ploit that. In fact, they will be du­ty­bound to put you un­der pres­sure. It’s part of their job, be­ing first and fore­most phys­i­cal ath­letes, to lord their supremacy over you when­ever pos­si­ble.

Would you slow down if your ri­val had a sud­den hunger knock? No. Would you ease up, there­fore if your ri­val was a bit wheezy? No way. Would you have waited for Tom Du­moulin when he needed a sud­den poo dur­ing the Giro d’Italia? Um…

And so, we hes­i­tate. The lines get blurred. We draw a dis­tinc­tion be­tween the moral­ity of the res­pi­ra­tory sys­tem and the di­ges­tive tract, which seems an odd thing to do. But there it is. Poos are per­haps so com­i­cally em­bar­rass­ing, and no­body can func­tion with­out their oc­ca­sional ap­pear­ance, that their sud­den ur­gency rep­re­sents cycling’s equiv­a­lent of a safety car. But I main­tain that the abil­ity to ride a race with­out hav­ing to poo can be trained, and should be re­warded. At­tack any rider seen div­ing into the bushes with a copy of L’Équipe, I say!

Ev­ery phys­i­cal im­pair­ment is in­her­ently unique. I speak, of course from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing re­cently rup­tured a ten­don in my fin­ger pulling off my socks! The fact that the socks in ques­tion were a gift from David Mil­lar’s Chpt3 brand didn’t stop me from mes­sag­ing him ur­gently, in­struct­ing him to is­sue an ur­gent prod­uct re­call – “Your socks are death traps!”

“Your ten­dons are not made to the same high spec­i­fi­ca­tion as my socks,” he replied. A fair point. As I said, the body has to be up to the job. Mine isn’t. Not even for get­ting un­dressed.

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