The perfect ride, I'm not talking about winning, the perfect ride is something else, something more. It's when everything works. Your equipment works perfectly, your technique is effortless and efficient and every part of your body performs optimally. You feel invincible. Instead of dreading the pain caused by the next steep, long climb or the tortouress pace required to reel in the break-away, you welcome, yes even impatiently search for the next moment of hard effort so that you can pour some of that strength into it. And when the moment arrives, at the base of the climb or when the group forms into single file and the pace quickens, you feel as though you are powered by some invisible force with unlimited energy. You think to yourself, that now, now you are going to show your opponents, now they will experience the real feeling of pain and suffering. As you peak the climb, instead of resting a bit, you switch into that monster gear and spin it like you've never done before. You feel that you are recovering from the effort of the climb much quicker then usual. Even on the decent you are taking chances, no playing it safe today. With all this extra energy and power comes the feeling of being invincible. Nothing can go wrong today, today you are going to steal time both uphill and downhill.
You simply cannot seem to be able to find a use for all that energy. These days are rare, very rare. Maybe once a season, sometimes even less. Maybe a few times during training. The perfect ride starts before you even get on the bike. It starts with the previous night's sleep. You have no problems sleeping, no tossing and turning, no worrying about the race. Just a deep, calm sleep. You awake with lots of energy, before the alarm-clock goes off. You get out of bed, you try to feel the body, the legs, as you dress. You wonder, is this the day? Is this the day when everything will work? The legs feel good, very good. Everything is ready for the race, all your equipment has been prepared the day before, including dry clothes to get into after the race. You know that it's crucial to avoid spending energy on useless things today. You want to bottle up all the energy and reserve it for the event that is going to take place 4 hours from now. You eat your breakfast quietly today, avoiding anything that is not crucial for the race. A big bowl of oatmeal, a couple of bananas and the glass of orange juice goes down fine. One cup of coffee finishes the morning ritual and wakes you up, gives you that little bit of “extra". You prepare your after-race recovery meal, making sure it's ready as soon as you get off the bike. You arrive in the start area about 2 hours before start-time. You are focused, getting ready mentally. You check the equipment again, is it all ready? You arrange for the recovery meal and dry, warm clothes to be ready at the finish area.
This is what you have been working for, all those training hours. Those long, hard winter rides. All the hard work, it accumulates in today's event. Usually this “pressure" would cause negative feelings, but not today. Today you are focused, calm and clear. Today you want to show them all. Today is your day. You can feel it already. Is the day? Will this be the perfect ride? You warm up, the feeling as your feet hit the floor this morning is still there. The legs feel good, very good. But you are cautious, you have felt like this before. You know that you very well could feel super now, only to discover that your legs are full of lead after 3 hours of racing. You tell yourself to be conservative, realistic. Stay focused, do not celebrate the victory before the race has even started. You know that it's extremely important to directly all your energy and strength towards something positive. Happy thoughts, man, happy thoughts. The sweat starts to drip from your face, legs spinning effortlessly and fast. You are getting warm, the body is responding well during the warm-up. Finally, the time has come. The race starts, as usual, it starts fairly slow as we pull out of town. Riders chatting, exchanging stories, alliances are being forged, only to be broken 1 hour from now. Welcome to the peleton. As the race progress, you feel that this is the day! You recognize the feeling of the perfect ride. This is your day.
I am a full-time endurance athlete, working towards the 2012 London Olympics. I maintain a blog, describing my ups and downs of training / racing. http://roadrace1.blogspot.com