I can understand how some pro riders feel pressure to dope. I don’t agree with it, but I can understand it.
After a bad race, and then another, you start to have doubts. When you’re doing this “just for fun”, it’s not such a big deal (though it doesn’t feel that way).But if you’re a professional, and your livelihood depends on your performance, the stakes are higher. How do you handle that pressure?
I had a (relatively) bad race at the Groveport Time Trial. Then my legs felt tired and heavy at the Thursday night Leroy TT. At that point I was about ready to just stay off the time trial bike for a while.
So I waited until the last minute, literally, to sign up for the State Championship time trial. That put me on the receiving end of a cosmic joke: starting 1 minute in front of Paul Martin, multi-time national champion. Great. Being passed in the TT would send my confidence even lower.
We pre-rode the course the day before the race. After a hard week of training my legs felt bad. So while others were doing their pre-race “openers”, I rode slow. Really slow. So slow it was tedious riding the entire 19 or so (no one seems to know the exact distance) mile course. I even stopped for a pee break. Not a good sign.
But maybe the easy ride was exactly what was needed, because I woke up with legs that felt fresh.
Standing in the start house, I was not happy knowing that Paul would be chasing me. It was going to be a tailwind on the way out — Paul would be flying. And a headwind, with more uphill, on the way back — Paul would be hammering. The challenge for me was to ride my own race, and not spend energy worrying about getting caught. Yeah, I kept repeating that over and over.
It worked, until the turnaround, at which point I could not ignore the sight of Paul chasing. I started to push harder — harder than I should have, but I just couldn’t help it. As I started to fade, I could almost feel Paul closing in on me. With every whoosh of air from a passing car, I fully expected Paul to be flying by me. But I didn’t dare look back.
Somehow, with 2.5 miles to go, I found the strength to push to the finish. Only then did I look back and see … that I couldn’t see Paul. At that point, I didn’t care what my time was. I wasn’t close to having been caught.
The bonus was finding that my time was good enough for the podium — 3rd in the 1-2 field and 3rd overall.
And just as quickly as the doubts can enter, they can exit after a good ride. I think it’s similar to what golfers say: that one good shot on the 18th hole will make you forget about all the triple bogeys on the first 17 holes.
Excellent photo set here. (kudos to Robert)