Anyone who has ever watched cycling on TV has probably had the same thought as me: "It doesn't look that hard". But if you've ever gone out and tried to DO it, you've no doubt found out rather quickly that it's a lot harder than it looks.
I'm not talking about the easy, social riding that most amateurs are used to doing (although these rides can also be difficult if you are not used to them). I'm talking about race-paced, all-out efforts. Anything from a 2 hour road race going up and down big hills to just over one minute all-out on the track. When watching other people perform these efforts, they look 'easy' and you can picture yourself doing them with similar ease. But lift one leg over the top tube of your bike and try and pound out a similar effort with the same type of result and you will be unpleasantly surprised!
I am reminded of my first foray into track cycling. I had seen it many times on the television and thought it looked relatively simple. I mean – I had sprinted on my road bike many times so figured it couldn't be much harder to do it on the track. Boy was I wrong! Certainly riding around the track at a comfortable pace is easy enough, but as soon as you up it to race pace, the pain and suffering, even for such a short effort, is immense.
As one of my teammates said to me recently: "If it was easy, everyone would be good at it". I suppose that is what separates the best riders from everyone else – the very best make it look easy. They are able to ride through the pain, hiding their discomfort and the suffering that they are experiencing, and cross the finish line ahead of the rest, often with a smile on their face.
It has been many months since I last rode and raced on the track, but have recently started training for this discipline again. Thinking back to the last time I raced, the memories of the pain and difficulty and the effort required had faded and I was left with a significantly reduced perception of what is required to go fast (and stay fast) on the track. It was a huge shock to the system the first time I got back on the track and put the hammer down in an attempt to go fast. Sure, I was able to go fast... but not for long. I had forgotten how much real effort is required to maintain the high speeds associated with track cycling.
Nevertheless, after several sessions training on the track, I once again have grown accustomed to the feeling of going hard and fast for a short period of time and once again know the level of pain and suffering needed to succeed. Fortunately there are still several months to go before I have to worry about racing on the track, so have lots of time to hone my skills and refine my efforts.
All I can say is – I have a huge amount of respect to the cyclists who make their efforts seem easy.