I’m sure you all know what I mean by the term ‘winter racer’. The man (it’s always a man) who arrives to a winter ride carbon-fibred up to the eyeballs, and rides like it’s the last 20km of the World Championships.
He is not an admired figure. No one tells their children bedtime stories of the man who attacked a merry group of riders on every hill of a Christmas Day ride and hopes they’ll grow up to be winter racers. No, the winter racer is generally regarded as a gargantuan, egotistical, inconsiderate, pain in the arse.
So here’s how you become one.
You must embrace the nobility of your calling. You will be a hate figure, but look at it this way: if you spent your summers travelling the country doing ‘proper’ events, you might well have nothing to look forward to but a succession of meaningless mid-table placings against a random group of strangers.
As a winter racer, every week you get to thrash the same people round the same roads over and over again until they get the message. Best of all, they’re your friends. Or at least they were.
You must obey the winter racers’ omerta. You never admit that’s what you are – and even if you meet another one, you must never discuss what you do. So while you have to train hard all summer to be ready for the winter racing season, you must do it covertly.
The price of training in a Groucho Marx glasses-nose-moustache set is itchiness, but the rewards to be reaped on the New Year’s Day ride are beyond measure.
Be the best
You must remember that the aim of winter racing is not to ‘win’, not as such. In a summer race, the breakaway is a valuable tactic because getting to the line first is what matters. In a winter race, if you pile off down the road on your own everyone will just wave you goodbye and be happy to see you go. They might even change the rest of the route to make sure you can’t find them again.
No, the aim of the winter racer is to be ‘the best’, and you can’t continually rub people’s noses in that unless you’re actually there to do it. On the flat, ‘easy’ sections of the ride, you must use the deeply aggravating half-wheel (the technique of always riding just ahead of the person you’re supposed to be riding beside) at all times. Apologise every mile or two, and drop back. Start doing it again immediately.
You must wind up the pace on every hill, having, of course, made sure to find yourself relaxing at the back of the group for a mile or two beforehand. If you can ride the group off your wheel take 50 yards, then back off: “Sorry, guys, I assumed you were right on my wheel. I’m full of riding for some reason – funny, since I haven’t trained since last winter. Yell at me next time, and I’ll wait.” If you’re quick you can manage it again on the same hill. If you can’t ride them off your wheel, don’t worry; you’re still annoying the hell out of them.
You don’t have to be first across the ‘line’ at the end of the ride. Instead, you can display patronising largesse, and let one of the underlings take it. Or, even better, don’t finish with them at all. Turn off with a few miles to go, so you ‘can get a longer ride in’. This will give them a few miles to stew in their collective fury.
On your joyful ride home through the gloom, dream of the day that winter racing is in the Winter Olympics.
Acts of cycling stupidity
A recent trawl through the archives looking for patents relating to helmet design turned up an old newspaper story about a 19th century inventor who devised a top hat for safer bicycling. From the outside it looked like a normal, if slightly tall, topper. Inside was a powerful spring, designed to absorb any impact. And presumably leave the cyclist bouncing along on his head.
Another patent I liked was an airbag helmet that under accident conditions would, if the diagram was anything to go by, faithfully simulate a cyclist’s brain exploding.
It’s only a matter of time before the Daily Mail demands they both be made compulsory.
This article was first published in the December 12 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!