We’ve not all been there, but we’ve all endured it through empathy: the heroic day when one rider decides to take their chances and back themselves against the might of the peloton.
Without breakaways, racing could get boring pretty quickly (though, frankly there was no saving stages 10 and 11 of the 2019 Giro d’Italia), and solo riders chipping off the front account for some of the greatest wins in history.
No one will forget Chris Froome’s winning Giro d’Italia stage 19 sufferfest in a hurry, how Kasia Niewidoma won the 2017 Women’s Tour overall with a heroic effort on day one, or indeed the way relatively unknown rider Jacky Durand spent 217 kilometres alone to win the Tour of Flanders in 1992.
Wins like these take physical excellence and mental strength that knows no ceiling. Honestly, we’ve no idea what goes through the heads of these guys, as they churn the pedals to take them further and further away from the 150 odd other riders in their wake.
But what goes through the head of a normal human being in the break? Oh, we know all about that…
You have to press go. Now.
That attack needs to happen when everyone else is tired. Which, unless you’re super human, means you’re going to be tired too.
Somehow, you’ve got to roll that fatigue into a big ball of ‘shut up legs’ and push hard into the pedals until the remnants of the mouth breathing bunch is but a memory somewhere down the road.
Why is no one following?
A solo break is great and all, but really, you’d quite like someone to bridge over around now. As long as it’s not someone who is better at sprinting, climbing, descending, or… OK, never mind.
This is no one’s fault but your own
You’ve successfully ridden clear, you’re out on your own, there’s motorbikes and cars plugging the gap between you and the peloton. There’s nothing for it but to try to put all your eggs in your own modestly sized basket.
Time to settle into an intensely painful rhythm, somehow softly treading the line between being caught and blowing up.
Time to sit up?
That heart crushing moment when you catch a glimpse of the bunch coming back into view. Do you sit up, and drift back to safety with time to rest up for a sprint, or keep on going until the very last moment?
The answer is the latter – because there’s always that small chance they’ll take a collective foot off the gas, or some hardy soul will bridge over to bolster your efforts.
What’s going on back there?
The race is drawing to a close, but every kilometre may be stringing the bunch back on to your tail.
Whilst the pros have radios, the rest of us have guess work (and perhaps some jumbled information from a marshal who may have said 25 seconds or 45 seconds – you’re not really sure).
Don’t get caught. Don’t get caught. Don’t get caught.
If there was ever a time to believe in yourself, it’s now!
The bell has gone and you’re well past the point of no return. Whilst the bunch is charging its pedal strokes with rage and frustration in a bid to make the catch, it’s fear that’s keeping you going.
How is it possible to feel this good, and this bad, all at once?
Physical pain entangled with emotional elation is a complicated mixture to process. Plenty of time to think about it next time you decide to ride off the front, yeah?