It’s a dilemma facing middle-aged club racers all over Australia. You’re good, but you could be better. You’re fit, but you could be fitter. If only you had the time…
There comes a time in every club racing cyclist’s life when he or she has to make a choice. Before you are two roads. Both have their ups and downs. But only one can be travelled at any given time. So, what’s it going to be?
The first road is without question the easier. Like riding tempo along a pancake flat, luxuriously wide, newly-sealed hot mix racing circuit, it requires a far lower exertion of time, energy, suffering and, in all likelihood, money. On the flip side it’s a little dull and somewhat bereft of challenge. It’s also unlikely to see you realise your true riding potential, nor deliver an avalanche of Strava PBs or glowing kudos from friends and colleagues. Yes, this road is all about staying in your comfort zone and cruising in a lower grade, rather than extending yourself by racing up. Hand on heart, this is pretty much me at the moment. I’m going okay. I’m fit enough. But I know I could be considerably faster and stronger, if only I worked a bit harder – on and off the bike – and injected more structure into my training. Thing is, I’ve weighed it up and the sacrifices of doing so are just too difficult to justify, for now anyway.
Which brings us to the second road, an altogether different beast. This path is all about biting the bullet. Sucking it up. Pushing yourself to explore how good you can really be on the bike. Whether it means stepping up to A-Grade from B-Grade, B from C, or even C from D, being competitive in this company does not come easy. It will probably begin with the humbling ritual of being spat out the back in several races, well before the finale in a brutal reminder you ain’t in Kansas anymore. But if you hang in there, commit to the journey and keep working at it, the wheels of form will eventually begin to turn in your favour.
Of course, unless you’ve been shamelessly sandbagging until now, this tipping point of form will typically require a whole new level of dedication, bordering on obsession, to your training. This, in turn, will almost certainly demand an upsized allocation of your scarce time and energy. If you’re really serious, it may also include the addition of a formalised training regime and/or coach. These are commitments that, speaking from experience, have the potential to make you much, much faster. Yet they also have the potential to send shockwaves through other corners of your already hectic 21st-Century life. Relationships, family, sleep patterns, study and work, for example, can all begin to implode if you’re not careful, leading to even more pain than your legs and lungs feel during those maniacal hill repeats and VO2 interval sessions. Mind you if you can pull it off, and not end up divorced and/or sacked and/or estranged from your children, you will feel like a right boss. Chapeau.
Racing competitively in the highest possible grade is great for your ego, no question. But where do you draw the line? How much is too much? Is it really worth it? That’s the dilemma, the opportunity cost, that mortal club cyclists all over Australia wrestle with every day. There’s no right or wrong answer. Just opinion. So, what’s it going to be?