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Today I was Laurent Fignon

June 4, 2012

Today’s Ride: 120km—This

Weather: Cloudy, overcast, windy, stormy. Heavy rain at the end of the ride.

Over the past week or so, I’ve been reading Laurent Fignon’s autobiography, We Were Young and Carefree. Along with Steve Bauer taking the maillot jaune at the Tour de France, Laurent Fignon is one of my earliest memories of pro cycling. Among a host of cyclists, le professeur stood out with his spectacles and long blond hair. There was something fluid, natural, noble about his style. Even in years when the Tour didn’t go his way, Fignon—the former two-time Tour winner—always commanded the camera’s attention and respect. Even when his strength wasn’t there—at the end of his career when EPO-infused riders took the pace to inhuman levels—there was a beautiful efficiency in his stroke.

In his autobiography, Fignon described going on training rides, which consisted of his riding in the 53×14 or 53×15. Today, I was Laurent Fignon, riding almost exclusively in those two gears. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been running lower gears. Wondering when and hoping that I might be able to ratchet up the power more comfortably. Sometimes, of course, the problem is more psychological than physical. Today, in spite of wrestling with fatigue from not having ridden a great deal over the past week, I pushed myself. Several days off the bike, and I start to feel sluggish, flabby, weak. Regular riding, and everything is easy. But today didn’t really involve pushing, even though I was tired. My body responded, and the ride went well. I felt strong, but the rhythm itself took over.

I was ragged to start and worried about the length of the ride, since today seemed like it might be a jour sans. But patience—waiting to develop the strength, waiting to write off the day’s writing—paid dividends, and I settled into a comfortable cadence. The winds buffeted from in front and from the side, but I still moved well. The tailwinds allowed me to maintain a terrific speed with little effort. I was flying down 25 Sideroad, reminded of why I enjoyed riding and riding solo.

The grey clouds only added to the ride’s ambience. Until I was closing in on home and the heavens opened. In the space of twenty minutes I went from strong and fast to drowned rat. A moment of vanity had me admiring the glossy, wet sheen on my legs from the rain. And the pace only slackened a little in the wet, instigated likely as much by the fact that I was on the home stretch as because of the rain. I shifted down the cassette just a little, and rode 53×17 across the top of the escarpment and then down, squeezing on wet and fairly unresponsive brakes.

But it was a good ride. I managed the 120km in a whisker over four hours. Not a bad pace at all given the distance, the rolling hills, and the conditions.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Turning circles permalink
    June 6, 2012 5:48 pm

    Laurent Fignon was an outstanding rider and worthy of being channelled. It is interesting that about ten days to two weeks after a long ride, one often develops a surge in strength and can handle bigger gears and pace.

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