We're pleased to welcome back a favourite blogger of ours, Rebecca Love: mother and long suffering partner to a road-cycling obsessive known only as The Cyclist.
Rebecca's blog is the wonderfully titled Domestique Bliss that chronicles the highs and lows of her life with The Cyclist and the impact that one man's obsession can have on those closest to him and, in particular, on our heroine!
In the first of a two-part series, Rebecca faces the prospect of full-frontal male nudity in a village hall car park at 9am on a Sunday morning.
A Day At The Races - Part 1
It’s that time of the year (ignoring the unseasonal snow, if you will) when your cyclist will start to feel the rising of the sap in his legs. He may have spent a week in February on a training camp in Majorca or Tenerife. More likely he will have spent a week in February in a sulk because he wasn’t on a training camp in Majorca or Tenerife. He’ll become obsessed with checking the tweeted training progress of his frenemies (frivals?) on Twitter and getting himself in a bit of a tizz (expect explosions along the lines of “Argh! VeloBoy344 reckons he did 11hrs of solid hill repeats on nothing but a banana sandwich and half a pint of Ribena!”). And as the watery spring sunshine begins to make tentative progress across the country, thoughts may turn to the prospect of putting both himself and his bike to the ultimate test, and signing up for a race or two. This piece looks at what that means, not for the cyclist, but for his long-suffering support team (partner).
So then, the nudity. Well, they're not shy, these cyclists. And God, I love my mirrored aviators. It's like Mr Ban knew. Now, I'm not going to insult you, dear reader, by trying to suggest for one minute that you won't know where to look. You know full well where to look, and the effort of not looking will be blinking SUPERHUMAN. And exhibitionist cyclists lycra-ing up in the car park are just one of the things you need to be prepared for if you find yourself attending a race in support of your cyclist.
Please note I can only speak from my own limited race-going experience. If you are lucky enough to attend (for example) a stage of the Giro and don't catch an eyeful of Cancellara in a village hall car park before the stage start it's not my fault, I suspect it might work slightly differently at WorldTour level.
Races generally start ridiculously early on a Sunday morning. And they are - almost without fail - in the middle of nowhere. So on the morning of the race be prepared to be up at stupid o'clock, pale and bleary-eyed and making porridge; as prior to racing, your cyclist you will need 'loading’. One time, my cyclist put in a pro-style request for pasta for a pre-race breakfast. He got it, but strangely enough it didn't hit the spot at 6.30am and porridge has been henceforth officially proclaimed the 'Breakfast of Champions'.
Pre-race, expect your cyclist to be stomping around the house like a bear with a sore head, as he performs the rituals of Getting His Kit Together and Loading the Car; the ProTip here is to ignore him and watch cartoons as your involvement will not be required until you a called up for an impromptu 10-minute round of Hunt the Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap, and possibly a quick go of Where's the Car Key (I recommend the “Well, You Had It Last” version for maximum fun). Also, expect the drive to the race to be conducted in near-silence as he gets his race head on.
The race HQ is likely to be a Village Hall, with parking spaces for about 6 cars. You will almost certainly be parked on a grass verge about a quarter of a mile down the road with someone's Punto halfway up your exhaust pipe. Let me make a serious point here; ladies, if at all possible, do not go to the toilet in the race HQ before the race. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you're lucky, you'll be faced with the sight of a couple of 3rd cats doing their Chamois Cream application face in there. If you're unlucky, you'll wish it had been the 3rd cats Chamois Cream face. In fact, don't go to the loo at all. Pre-race, cyclists have no regard for the differentiation of the Mens and Ladies facilities. Prior to the race start there will be 60-odd fellas 'getting to race weight' in there. And after they've all set off, the loos will be Glastonbury-level post-apocalyptic. And they'll have used all the tracing-paper type looroll. Stop at the nearest service station on the way to the race, or else get to the race HQ 3 hours before everyone else and ring yourself out and don't so much as suck a wine gum after that. And if you require a caffeine hit because it's a Sunday and it's 8AM, you will be better off eating a spoonful or two of nescafe granules straight from the jar than having a coffee. Trust me when I say that this is one of those times in life where dehydration is your friend.
So, back to the rampant nudity in the carpark. A few tips: Focus on the middle distance. For your own sake, NEVER casually glance through a car window; no good can come of it. And if you are mid-conversation with a complete stranger about, say, the weather, or the road conditions and he starts stripping off and getting changed don't be too surprised.
As well as the exhibitionism, there will be a certain amount of posturing, pouting and preening going on prior to the start of the race as the cyclists puff out their chests and show off their plumage. Ignore it. It's not for your benefit, ladies, at this point they couldn't be less interested. They are trying to psyche each other out. Some of it will work, most of it's complete rubbish. But if you catch someone trying to psyche out your cyclist, you are well within your rights to give them evils.
Once the race has started you may find you need to get back in the car and drive for a bit to actually get to the race, as the HQ is often a few miles away from the action. Make sure you have some form of entertainment for yourself. The majority of races I have attended have been laps of about 9 or 10 kilometres, and mainly involve me sitting in the car shivering for 20mins at a time between spotting my cyclist coming round again, getting out and having a clap and yelling a few words of encouragement (keep them general in case you have accidentally mis-identified your cyclist and are cheering on someone else's. This can happen). Take a book, a magazine, your iPod, knitting, Rosetta Stone Foreign Language CD etc. And in the extremely rare event of the weather Gods smiling on the race, have some sort of folding chair with you. If you do have a folding chair you will be far more pro at this than me, cos I always mean to take one and I always forget.
Generally speaking, supporting at the race is pretty fun, providing the weather is not totally grim. There is a blitz spirit camaraderie between the hardy spectators, dressed in everything they own and trying desperately to remember which bidon's got the special energy drink mix in and which one's got the protein shake in. The worst part about being race support crew is being asked to run the gauntlet that is 'The Feed'. I dread being asked to do 'The Feed', which appears to consist of playing chicken with 60 fellas doing 40kph up a hill while they swear at each other, with your eyes tight shut and one arm stuck out into the road. You then get an empty bidon chucked at your head and 2 of your fingers broken passing across a full one, all while trying not to cry or do a wee. If you're lucky, you'll only have to do it once in a race. If you're really lucky, you won't need to do it at all, your cyclist recognising the abject terror in your eyes and deciding you'll only mess it up anyway and he's better off pacing the bottles he's got.
If you liked this article, then check out Rebecca's other posts on Wheelsuckers:
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