The luckless participants in today’s chapter of the Richmond World Championship saga can hardly claim ignorance when the pain of the effort takes maximum effect (at the finish line, if they’ve judged it right).
There is nothing pleasurable about a time-trial. It’s rarely more engaging as a spectacle than a slowly drying coat of emulsion, and if that seems unappealing, try riding one. The spectator definitely has the better end of the bargain.
Note the aspect of the riders as they cross the line: mouth agape, prone and twitching on the nearest, adequately-sized floor space. In fact, scrap twitching, which would demand more energy than most riders have at such an advanced stage in proceedings.
The Tourmalet inspired Lapize to brand the Tour’s organisers “assassins”, but he at least had the distraction of scenery. Tony Martin might have still choicer phrases for the men in blazers this afternoon.
On further reflection, perhaps not Martin. There is little the three-time champion [perhaps four by now - ed] enjoys more than mashing an inhuman 55-11 gear, only staving off complete lactic seizure by funneling vast quantities of oxygen into similarly gigantic lungs with his patented ‘Basking Shark’ impression.
Martin at least has an excuse for submitting to such trauma. The addition of another rainbow jersey to an already burgeoning collection might add another zero to his contract. Fathom, if you can, the mentality of the amateur who squeezes inside a skinsuit and heads to the nearest dual carriageway at some uncivilised hour on a Sunday morning. The reward? Pain, and nothing more.
Rohan Dennis, Tom Dumoulin et al will hope for more this afternoon, even if the price they pay is the same as our Sunday morning masochist. The lure of the stripes is strong, however, and while the course plays a key role in determining the winner of the road race, the ‘testers’ can be relied upon to occupy the sharp end of the time sheet wherever the event is held. Heck, Dumoulin now duels with climbers on their own terrain.
Tune in today, then, if slow burning discomfort rising to agony is your thing, and if it is, you might wish to seek advice. The occupants of the hot seat can pass the time by attempting to return their heart rate to below 200bpm, while team-mates lounging in nearby hotels congratulate themselves on having more sense than to subject themselves to such an ordeal.
Trial by bicycle might be considered a cruel and unusual punishment in cultures more advanced than the peloton, but for the world’s elite cyclists, the phrase has a different inference. Those who earn their stripes by passing today’s Richmond test will prove themselves a class apart.
STAT’S THE WAY, UH HUH, UH HUH
9 - the number of riders selected for the Great Britain team in Sunday’s elite men’s road race
6 - the number of riders from the original selection preparing to race in Richmond
1 - riders with family name ‘Yates’ called in to make up the numbers. Is it too late to call Sean?
"The British cic-er-list, born in Ghent." Bradley Wiggins discards his machine in disgust
"Yup, chain." David Millar discards his machine in disgust
"It's a problem that's going on for a long time." Peter Sagan discards his machine in disgust