A Real Racer

After making a u-turn i caught up to Michael, not myself, a different Michael (just to clarify, i was not in the midst of one of those self-conversations i have talked about before; all you psycho-analysts out there with dollars in your eyes, those conversations never extend to a second me). As i pulled even, he had to do a double-take and said "for a second there, you looked like a real racer." Hmmm, "real racer". Did he mean someone actually racing the Bud's Ride, rather than someone trailed off the back, or never in it to begin with? 

The idea that the statement might have been a simple greeting between two racer-types never crossed my mind. A moment of joking banter between comrades of the spoked wheel.

Instead, what i heard was the double-entendre version - "for a second there, you looked like a real racer." Rather than the wannabe i seem to have become, in other words. I must have been smooth pedaling, the power rippling from my legs. There must have been a certain air of confidence demonstrated by my position on the bike - elbows bent to 90º, in battle with the surging headwind, back flat, head cocked ever so slightly up, and tilted a degree to the side in order to see beyond the brim of the cap, just enough to see the road ahead, horizon line hidden. Focused on being up the road, and off the front.

If only reality had matched that image. I certainly did not feel i was riding much like a racer at the time. Running on fumes, legs on the verge of surrender. Form, a hazy memory from a week earlier, not quite sloppy, but certainly at that end of the spectrum. The smoke and mirror, was good enough, though. If you can't play the part, you can at least look it. Decades of riding can teach you to disguise temporary shortfalls, hide behind your poker face, trick others into thinking it is all easy. Like smiling while you climb. Masters of the peloton are not always the strongest, they know when to use other methods of achieving a goal.

It was a statement that could have been mis-construed as a slight by someone less easy going than myself, and for the fact that it was mostly true. There are no races under my wheels this year, i keep waiting for those guys (meaning my competition) to get old and slow. That does not seem to be happening, and so those days of looking like a racer have shrunk to mere moments, or seconds, if Michael is to be believed.

But really, does one ever stop being a racer? Does anyone not consider Eddy Merckx to be anything other than a racer? I doubt it; he will be one until the day he passes on. Once you are in, is there ever any getting out? Well, yes i suppose there is. But that involves complete abandonment, no bike and no riding. Taking up golf instead. It is the reason Super Dave used to be a racer, but is no longer. It is the reason the old guy (wish i could call him by name, but i seem to have forgotten it) from the Montrose Ride, wearing thirty year old shorts which fit like baggies, remained a racer up until his last ride.

There is a quote in Slaying the Badger that struck a nerve when i read it and resonates on-topic here: "I stopped my career very quickly, which gave me the opportunity to not go too far ... to not get into something from which there is no return ... no return."