Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Personal Best (and, On Losing Part II)

Stephen Roche on La Plagne, Tour de France 1987.

On Monday, three of us met in the morning and headed over the bridge for a training ride. We had no lofty goals for the ride, no intentions of long mileage or tough paces, but we did want to take advantage of the nice day and get some miles in to our legs. And we wanted to ride together, outdoors. Al and I went after some hills together, and on the flats Gui joined us for some traffic light sprints. On the way back from Piermont, Al and I decided to turn off of 9W to take a run at Sherriff's Hill (the Alpine climb), one of the few challenging steep sections within a short ride of New York City. We were a bit exhausted from our ride (despite my intention to work on re-fueling during longer rides, I messed up and felt it), and so looked at each other and decided not to crush it up the hill, just to take it steadily and do it because it's there. We descended the bumpy, twisty cliffside road, called Gui to ask him to time us, and set up the road.

On the bottom third, Al set a steady pace that reminded me that climbing hurts. Two-thirds of the way up I made my way around to embracing the pain, having it drive me with that teeth-gritting damn-the-torpedoes attitude that I'm not entirely familiar with in myself. Gui was there, circling where the road started to level out, and when we drew even he road next to me as I heaved side to side and yelled, "Faster! They're right behind you! You're almost there!" and then, "Six minutes and six seconds," which is faster than I've ever climbed that hill - despite our set-no-records approach to the day. Needless to say it made me feel like I'm making progress and gaining strength for the upcoming season.

I can't climb hills without thinking about Stephen Roche's performance on La Plagne in the 1987 Tour de France. There's a terrific video clip here, where you get to see footage of him collapsing and a later interview ("I just et the road" - priceless). I actually meant to post this as part of On Losing, but forgot, and never went back to edit. Take it as an example of a way to lose with style, pushing yourself so hard that you collapse at the end and your rival doesn't even realize that he's only gained 4 seconds on you at the end of the day. Utterly hard, utterly bad-ass

Roche also gets bonus points for being bashful about his cheeky comment, and translating it to hindsight-language as "I don't think I'll be going dancing tonight."


  1. Never seen that Roche segment before. Compelling stuff, very. Talk about leaving it all on the road...

  2. Stephen Roche video, wow.

    I think I said "he's right behind you," as I goaded you to the finish. Al was actually 10 seconds back, but the mind works in strange ways when the body is pushed to it's limit. ;)

  3. I usually resist goading, but I was pretty cross-eyed at that point!