I was asked in a questionnaire earlier what my secret to staying “on the rivet” was. There’s an irony in this question, because I’m not particularly fond of catchphrases and hashtags even if I, along with any participant in social media feels compelled to use them. So I could feel that very secret welling up within me. Anger. Yes, that endorphin-heavy emotion that will allow you to chase a car who has just close-passed you at 30mph and almost catch it.
There’s a double-edged sword to this of course, because anger can just as easily lead to sometimes disastrous and more often than not embarrassing episodes if not adequately supervised. It is like human nitrous oxide, to be used sparingly and in a heavily supervised manner. Specifically you’re better off not using anger to chase a car if there’s actually a chance of catching it. However time the red mist to the beginning of a Strava segment and you could well find yourself King of the Mountain.
I often find the weather makes me angry, mainly when I’m being drenched or buffeted. I have therefore been under the influence of the angry mood on a fairly regular basis of late. I think the Team Sky psychologist would call it letting my chimp out of its box. Well my chimp has been out of its box and screaming blue bloody murder for weeks, since the clocks changed at least which confirms my SAD theory that I don’t get enough sunlight.
The thing when you’re caught in weather, and recently I’ve had buckets of rain thrown over me and winds that stop you dead in your tracks, is that it is very easy tio blame climate change - especially when the weather is extreme. “It was never like this when I was a kid!” I think as I grit my teeth and conveniently forget the 1987 hurricane.
I mean it’s hardly as if November has ever had a reputation for being a particularly calm month. Even a Tin Tin cartoon the other day depicted Novemver with leaves and gales and rain and people walking along with inside-out umbrellas. And this is just the beginning. Snow at the weekend, they reckon, and we’re not even into December.
You can prepare for this with one of those nice new foul weather softshells that seem to be the more desirable alternative to a rain jacket, mainly because it doubles as one. And overshoes, they’re essential. Dare I utter the words mudguards? There, I just did. I’ll go and wash my mouth out in a minute.
And cyclocross! The sod it I’ll just go with the flow and get filthy attitude to weather. It’s quite good, cyclocross because you can begin a race with your chimp running around all over the place, bouncing off the trees, swinging around in branches and give it half an hour of maxed-out heart rate and he’ll be safely back in his box without so much as a whimper or whatever noise chimps make.
Not all cyclocross races go well though. Poor old Rapha, the victims of a hurricane and health and safety that shut the Supercross after a couple of races. There were plenty of chimps running around after the race got cancelled, quite merrily laying the boot into the organisers. It’s easy to kick what you see as a faceless organisation when you’re in a mood but it’s worth remembering that there are real people who will end up on the receiving end. “At least it brought everyone together,” I overheard someone saying as he queued for his free beer that Rapha had laid on as a commiseration and I thought “yeah, exactly” and that’s what racing is all about. I was due to race and went to great lengths to get to King’s Cross, not least risking life and limb darting through the Lord Mayor’s procession. Little did I know that was going to be the extent of my cross riding that day. I was disappointed but these things happen, especially when the climate has been wrecked by millions of car owners causing more and more extreme weather.
There’s no point getting angry about it.
This column first appeared on www.thetimes.co.uk/onyourbike on November 20 2015