I was contemplating the absence of a Team GB representative in the U23, women’s and junior women’s time trials at the Worlds last week.
Specifically, I was contemplating a rare instance of near unanimity among the internet’s cycling consultants. (A fine body of men, even if they do occasionally lose a whole Pepperami in the folds of their body fat.) The consensus was clear: there is no point in giving someone a skinsuit and dispatching them to the World Championships unless they are going to win.
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There is, of course, a bit of a problem with this, namely that if everyone thought about it that way, almost no one would actually turn up at all.
It can happen. My friend Bernard’s first win was a time trial to which no one except for him, the timekeepers and the marshals showed up. He once told me about it – everyone else felt that due to the wretched wet, cold conditions, they ought to just call it off.
“The hell with that,” he said. He commanded the marshals to marshal, and timekeepers to timekeep. “You might think the lack of any opposition whatsoever would have taken away from the victory, but actually the thought of those poor sods standing in the rain just for me made it even sweeter.”
The timekeepers missed a trick. To pluck a lesson for them from my own family history, my mother, when she was nine years old, entered the Belfast schools’ piano competition. She was the only entrant in her age group. She was nonetheless placed fourth, because the judges felt that her performance wasn’t really podium material. I would like to say that my mother hasn’t been taking this injustice out on the world ever since, but, well…
In general, though, sport needs losers much more than it needs winners. For a start, it needs more of them. And it needs them to be prepared to turn up for less personal and financial reward.
I rode the time trial Worlds last year, and my primary function was to add a little to Tony Martin’s lustre when he won. Back in Germany, when his mum asked how he got on, and he said he won, and she asked him how many people had been taking part, he could say 51 rather than merely 50. (And incidentally, can you imagine my mum’s conversation with my grandmother?)
Hutch beating local CW hero Hugh Gladstone
Berating the masses
If I were Tony Martin, I would include among my vanquished not only my fellow racers, but anyone else who would like to have been there too. I would imagine the multitudes who sat in front of the TV, especially those whose hopes I’d crushed at one remove by beating their local hero.
I would imagine them all gathered at once in a stadium, while I addressed them from a mighty podium on their failures as both cyclists and human beings.
I’d make them wear the same clothes. I might even invent a salute for them to do, though I concede that that might possibly give the wrong idea.
In a way, of course, I do this already. Every suit I overtake as I nip around London, every innocent pensioner I pass on the roads of Cambridgeshire, every middle-aged woman on an exercise bike at the gym whose screen I can see, all of them are mentally spirited off to my own personal stadium.
Just because someone has no idea they’re in a race is no reason why they shouldn’t be classified as a loser.
I think I’ll get them to do that thing from Queen’s ‘Radio Ga Ga’ video. I’d really enjoy that. I just need to find another 80,000 of them.
Dear Dr. Hutch
I’ve just finished watching the World Championship time trial. Obviously we were all very disappointed that Sir Bradley Wiggins didn’t win. But I wanted to ask, why he didn’t just use a bigger gear? Surely the bigger a gear you use, the further you go for each pedal stroke? If he’d used a couple of gears smaller at the back, surely he’d have beaten Tony Martin easily?
Yours quizzically, Ronan Smith
Well done, Ronan. I do believe you’ve cracked it. This is without doubt the secret of fast bike riding. However, I’d suggest you keep it to yourself, since clearly all you need to do is find a gear big enough and you’ll be able to win the Worlds yourself.
How to .. Be a Crown Court judge
Wig straight? Robes flowing ready to sweep into court in an intimidating manner? A couple of breath mints to disguise the amount of claret that accompanied that long lunch? Excellent. Sweep right on in.
Pretend to listen to the arguments presented. In a case concerning a motorist alleged to have committed an offence against a cyclist, remember that cyclists are of the flat-cap wearing variety of men one hires once a year to clean out the duck pond, and whom one has the gamekeeper watch like a hawk lest they steal any mud. On the other hand, motorists are chaps just like yourself, and honestly, whom would you trust more?
After counsel for each side has concluded their summing up, direct the jury. Tell them they must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that not only did the motorist commit the offence, but also that he ate his own wife and children when he got home afterwards.
In the unlikely event that the jury convicts, try to resist the temptation to suggest they have another go, and move on to passing sentence. A driving ban is the worst thing you can do to anyone, so for God’s sake don’t do that. Remember also that imposing a community service order on a motorist rather than a prison sentence will be much less likely to prompt feelings of over-worth among cyclists.
Finally, point out that if the cyclist had been wearing a helmet, no harm could possibly have befallen them. If they were wearing a helmet, suggest that perhaps they should have worn two.
This article was first published in the October 3 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!