World Championships 2010: in the books. There’s nothing like capping off an 80 race-day season that runs from early February through October with a six-and-a-half-hour, 265km bike race with the planet’s best cyclists all duking it out for world-wide supremacy. Throw in the fact that the race takes place on virtually the entire other side of the planet and it’s just slightly more taxing than the average bicycling endeavor.
With a mere 36-hour day of travel to return me back stateside, I jumped headlong into the off-season. Ahh, legs up, loosen the belt a notch or two, and it’s time to begin enjoying the bounty of 11 months of laboriously hard work.
And roughly fifteen minutes later, I was bored.
OK that might be a bit of a stretch, since I’m pretty sure I lasted 18 minutes. The point is, though, that I love my job! I love the same giddy emotion I have every time I roll out the door, I love not knowing where my ride will take me, I simply love spending time on a bike.
As a result, this time of year is actually heart wrenchingly conflicting for me. On one hand, pro cyclists’ bodies are absolutely ravaged from the continual onslaught of training, racing, and seemingly endless travel at the end of a season, so the prospect of consecutive weeks without mandatory time on the bike is novel and therefore welcomed with open arms and often a running leap onto the couch.
Contrary to that, however, is that I find this particular page of the calendar to be the unequivocal best time of year to spend time on a bike. Removed from the pain and stress of racing or the drain from intense training, with pristine cool yet sunny weather, man oh man to simply ride a bike without a care in the world in October is one of the best feelings in the world.
And therein lies the problem.
It requires a different type of discipline to convince yourself not to ride in the off-season than it takes to push through that searing interval at the end of a five-hour training session in-season. We are professional athletes after all, so staying active often comes naturally. You’ll hear stories of cyclists lacing up the ol’ running shoes, going for a jog, and subsequently hanging up the shoes to collect another year of dust courtesy of the paralyzing leg cramps the next day.
In addition to my annual slog, I’ve been known to sneak off on my mountain bike and rip through some of New England’s finest trails to stay limber as the days get cooler and winter looms (by “rip” of course I mean slowly negotiate roots, rocks, and exceedingly tight lines between trees in a terribly cumbersome fashion… but have an absolute blast in the process).
I’m not quite sure at which point in one’s life that the appreciation for scenery can be a highlight of one’s day, but I’m pretty sure it happens around the same time that lima beans change from disgusting to delicious. Over the past few years, coming home to New England in the fall — even if I can only muster a few days because of my schedule — is one of the best parts of my year. It’s virtually impossible to convey just how beautiful this corner of the world is during autumn, so I won’t try beyond this next sentence. On a sunny day while zipping through the woods when the sun hits the combination of fiery red and awesome radiant orange leaves, it can produce a seemingly impossible explosion of colors. I’ve found myself literally stopped in my tracks to take it all in.
All cheesiness aside, this time of year is spectacular. The off-season is short yet refreshing as it’s filled with seeing friends and family, delicious pint-sized libations, an ample intake of pumpkin pie, and just maybe a casual pedal through New England during its most beautiful time of the year.
(Related: All Ted’s columns)
This year Ted King is in his sophomore year with the Cervélo TestTeam. After getting a taste for the European peloton with the U.S. espoir national team in 2005, King returned to the United States for three successful years of domestic pro racing. The 27-year-old is a native of New Hampshire and despite his affinity for hearty servings of coffee, he is slowly adapting to the smaller European portions. Slowly. His diaries appear monthly on VeloNews.com; between the scanty portions we serve up, you can follow Ted at www.Cervelo.com/team and www.iamTedKing.MissingSaddle.com. Those of you content with 140 characters or less can track his activities at www.twitter.com/iamtedking.