Cycling: Motivating the madness

Jono Lovelock Columnist

By Jono Lovelock, Jono Lovelock is a Roar Expert

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    It’s 4:45 am. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s starting to drizzle. The houses you pass are filled with people sleeping. In reality though, they seem much further away.

    There are no words that capture this sense of seclusion.

    The night sky is vacuous. The void between each streetlight is chilling. This is not normal.

    At this time of the night (or morning), you should be in bed or yet to reach it. You should be deep within the confines of REM sleep or perhaps REM music. Yet you find yourself on the bike, utterly alone.

    So why on earth would anyone do this?

    Well, the answer is obvious; you want too. All cyclists, in fact all athletes, have a fierce motivation within that compels them on the path they follow.

    What differentiates cyclists from other athletes, however, is their ability to embrace loneliness and turn solitude into fortitude. The addiction to intense suffering grows and the pleasure of pain only increases as the duration of the ride augments.

    By this point it is pretty clear; we’re all completely bonkers.

    Hinault? Mad.

    Pantani? Insane.

    Indurain? Certainly of questionable sanity.

    Armtstrong? Not one speck of normality within him.

    Some cyclists are internally driven, they strive to improve continually. To nail the ‘one percenters’. To sleep well, to eat well, to train hard and to remain focused.

    These riders arrive at a race fueled by the confidence that they have done everything they possibly could. They banish any nagging doubts about their preparation. It’s about perfecting the process rather than proving yourself through your performance.

    Some cyclists are externally driven. They struggle to train properly on their own. They need regular groups or training partners to fire their competitive spirit. It is this incessant desire not just to win, but to unreservedly crush their opponents that makes them such fierce competitors.

    They don’t like the way you look. They don’t like the way you ride. They don’t like anything about you. They will not just beat you, they will humiliate you. One famous Texan (ex)cyclist famous for ‘Strong Arming’ his opponents comes to mind. A pathological desire to control and sculpt his own journey fueled his every move. He will remain a case study for generations to come.

    Other cyclists need to continually stoke their social lives in order to fully apply themselves on the bike. In an apparent juxtaposition, the night owls and the party animals need to have their all night benders from time to time in order to perform.

    Of course, no sleep and a dozen drinks make for a tired cyclist. But cyclists are not logical. Bleary eyes and a BAC still within illegal confines gives some riders the psychological edge.

    Then there are some cyclists that are truly anti-social creatures. Long rides, rainy days and prolonged isolation fuel them. It’s this punishment of the two wheel variety that keeps them  addicted. Sometimes the addiction, unfortunately, can go too far.

    Marco Pantani and Frank Vandenbroucke are prime examples of the internally conflicted beings cyclists can become. Both used performance enhancing and recreational drugs. Both enjoyed the highest of highs. Both suffered the lowest of lows. Both took their own lives.

    But don’t let that sombre note push you back into bed when that alarm starts ringing.

    Don’t let what gets you fired up, also get you down.

    Cyclists are as hard as they come, and we should embrace it. A paradoxical package of shaved legs and an incredible tolerance for suffering. A confusing mix of tight lycra, colour coordination and self-flagellation.

    Yeah sure, footy players hit hard. But so does asphalt at 60 km/hr.

    Yeah we know, boxers cop a few fists to the jaw. But cyclists do the same. All the while jousting around opposing riders all trying to get to the line first, be it upright or otherwise.

    Cyclists will battle cars, climbs, rain and road rash. Sometimes we will battle each other. Sometimes we will battle ourselves.

    There is little doubt though, that each battle is worth having. Because if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.

    Cycling is as tough as it gets. Now I challenge you, to convince me otherwise.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • February 6th 2013 @ 8:01am
      MickyC said | February 6th 2013 @ 8:01am | ! Report


      after reading that I’m actually looking forward to my 4am alarm going off tomorrow morning

      Thanks for a great article

      • Columnist

        February 6th 2013 @ 8:29am
        Jono Lovelock said | February 6th 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        I got up at 5am yesterday for the first time in a while, I’ll just say, I don’t want to do it *every* day, but sometimes it’s pretty envigorating. I have a lot of respect for the people who train at that hour day in, day out.

        • February 6th 2013 @ 9:33am
          MickyC said | February 6th 2013 @ 9:33am | ! Report

          I got up at 4am yesterday to train and while it always hurts when the alarm goes off regardless of the time, it only takes being on the road for 15mins to make it worth while.

          In saying that I almost fell asleep in front of my computer at work later that day…

          • Columnist

            February 6th 2013 @ 6:53pm
            Jono Lovelock said | February 6th 2013 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

            4am is definitely still night time

    • Roar Guru

      February 6th 2013 @ 9:37am
      Bones506 said | February 6th 2013 @ 9:37am | ! Report


      Great article. I have thouroughly enmbraced getting up at 5:15 to hit 6am North Road Ride. For a long time on a Tuesday and a Thursday I would get popped off the back and tha would be it. Finishing my first Tuesday and Thursday with the bunch was as a good a feeling as winning a crit.

      If you want to win you need to out train the game.

      Even at an amatuer level, cycling is one of the most competitive sports on the planet. I can’t think of another actually.

      • February 9th 2013 @ 10:49pm
        kosh said | February 9th 2013 @ 10:49pm | ! Report

        6am is ass. What a rabble. The 5:45 bunch is choice. Get up earlier 😀

    • February 6th 2013 @ 10:02am
      nickoldschool said | February 6th 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      No doubt cycling is up there among the toughest sports. I see it as the only sport where athletes push their limits at almost every race/occasion. Plus the training. Plus the weather, the hills, downhills, falls etc.

      We all can play a football game, rugby one, run a 100m or even a marathon, even slowly, with a bit of training. No matter what amount of training most of us get on the bike, we will never be able to finish a tour de France or even a single mountain stage.

    • Roar Guru

      February 6th 2013 @ 10:35am
      delbeato said | February 6th 2013 @ 10:35am | ! Report

      My body doesn’t function at 5am, I don’t know how people can get out at that time. I would have thought the full time pros had enough time to sleep in a bit.

      Jono, how was Indurain insane? He seems like the calmest person you’d ever meet.

      • Roar Guru

        February 6th 2013 @ 12:08pm
        Bones506 said | February 6th 2013 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

        You get used to waking up at a certain time. Eeven though I am a full time professional. I sleep, eat and train like a top level amatuer trying to push it to the next level. takes time to get the body clock adjusted but when I think about falling asleep I quickly remind myself I want to win and be a better cyclist and that is enough.

        Most of teh top level pro’s are pretty calm guys. They train like maniacs though.

      • Columnist

        February 6th 2013 @ 6:52pm
        Jono Lovelock said | February 6th 2013 @ 6:52pm | ! Report

        Not good ol proper gonna rip your head of insane.

        But in his ability to endure and suffer.

        As in, ‘that guy, he just won the giro and the tour, he’s insane!’

        If that makes any sense at all…

    • Columnist

      February 6th 2013 @ 4:41pm
      Lee Rodgers said | February 6th 2013 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

      Agreed, great article Jono! I’ve often heard boxing compared to cycling as comparable in the effort it demands from its participants, but a 220km stage crammed in amongst a ten or twenty day race is a heck of a lot longer than 12 rounds!

      As Greg Lemond said, it never gets any easier, you just go faster…

    • February 7th 2013 @ 12:35am
      Dirk Westerduin said | February 7th 2013 @ 12:35am | ! Report

      Well, I don’t think you can say cycling is more difficult than running. Of course, if you compare elite cycling to jogging a marathon, then elite cycling is more difficult.

      – And boxing? I’d rather run 24 hours, or ride my ass off in the mountains, than fight Mike Tyson for 3 minutes (i.e. one round). But that’s me.

      I am a former ultra long distance runner. I ran a 120 km trail run in 9 hours, 23 minutes and 30 seconds. Can’t say that was easier than even some grueling 7 hour rides in the Taiwanese mountains (I live in Taiwan).

      Cycling is heavy, but not the heaviest.

      Riding at 4 AM is something new to me. I mostly ride at 5 AM. Feeling like a sissy.

      – Very good article indeed!

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