The starter’s hand is a barricade, separating the rider from his conquest. The hand is raised in front of his face, fingers extended, slicing the sun’s rays into wedges that warm segments of his face as it dips in concentration.
The clock ticks inexorably, time pressing forward, closing the gap between before and after. How much time expires in between these two points is down to the rider: his body; its power, its will, its limitations.
The rider visualises the finish line. How to compress his body so the air will sluice around him, how to trick the clock, perform impossible feats of sleight of body as he slides between particles, an aero-dynamic fugitive from time itself.
The starter’s hand quivers, poised for action. In a few seconds he will begin the five second countdown, and once his fist is closed, the rider will be released from limbo, freed onto his natural habitat; the road.
The clock slows. Time is elastic; it toys with him, mocks him. He is no more its master than he is master of the wind, or the slick patches lurking on the shady corners in the final stages of the course, ready to steal his wheels from beneath him.
The rider is a bystander as the past unravels in his mind: folding the yellow and black jersey, tucking it neatly into his kit bag. Pulling on in place of it the purple points jersey that he has won the right to in silent reverence as he considers his achievement. Shouldering the burden of expectation for this last day of racing, as he warms up, alone with his thoughts, just as he will be on the road.
The starter’s hand moves. One by one, his fingers fold, the wedges of sunlight converging in a monumental glare that slams his retinas and fuels his muscles with purpose. The last finger closes, the arm drops, the buzzer sounds…
Go, go, go.
They tell you it’s you against the clock. To be the fastest man, you must post the quickest time.
Narrow frame, head low, shoulders tucked, elbows in, legs pump, breathe… breathe… breathe…
It’s an illusion though, a conspiracy of players in a game you aren’t a part of.
You are lean, you are light, you are strong, you are fast. Power, cadence, rhythm, drive, control, posture.
This is not a competition. It is a triumphant symbiosis of mechanical virtuosity synchronised with a honed body and the killer instinct of a great white shark.
Right turn, drop knee, straighten up, power down, full watts, burn… burn… burn…
This is not science, nor is it art. It’s alchemy. Enchantment. Pure magic.
Kilometers tick down, time ticks up, lactic acid builds, pain increases.
Time holds it breath. You have the edge. Seconds split, explode into myriad shards in your wake.
You are lean. Narrow frame. Straighten up. Burn. You are aero. Elbows tucked. Left turn. Breathe.
Your body is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You whisper between moments, a streak of purple like a bruise on the horizon, a blur of wheels and subterfuge.