Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We Are Hardmen

In most things we do, the biggest battles come from within.

The above statement holds no truer meaning than to the cyclist. The ability to push ourselves whether in racing or training, to push beyond what is comfortable, to battle with our bodies telling us to stop while our brain tells us to push even farther and harder and for longer, that is what makes us hardmen.

This time of year always brings to the forefront the hardmen of our sport. In races like the Ronde van Vlaanderen, or Ghent-Wevelgem and of course the queen of them all, Paris-Roubaix, we hear words like epic, and fierce and battle thrown around to describe race conditions and we love it. To hear the descriptions from writers and commentators of the atrocious conditions in which these men race is humbling, yet we can all empathize with them because we have all been there at one point. We are all hardmen. All of us who put a leg over their machine and set out to conquer the local "classics" or grind their way up a 20% grade to see if they can beat their own best time, or simply push the pace for no other reason than to test their own mettle, we are hardmen. To ride in the weather that we call spring with the gusting cross and head winds that never seem to be at our back, we are hardmen. When the radar says rain, yet you head out to put in the time, we are hardmen. When the clock only reads 5:30, and your family still sleeps, we are hardmen. When you push your body and mind to the breaking point, and you can only think about quiting, but you don't, we are hardmen.

Most of us will never fulfill our cycling dreams because of age, or ability, or family or for a million other reasons, yet each time we dress and head out the door we are one step closer. And each step closer to realizing your potential is a mile closer than you were the day before. Every time we conquer our fears and push the pace harder and faster than we ever had before, we become stronger. What makes us hardmen is that we are passionate about what we do. Cycling consumes our thoughts and emotions and desires. It takes over our lives and gives us more than we could ever measure. It is when we surrender ourselves to this lifestyle that we truly become hardmen. When we wake and think about what the plan is for today, or train for the next race, or work on the bike, not because we have to but because we need to, we are driven from within by a desire to succeed. That is when we become hardmen.

Hardmen are no longer only the PRO's who race the Northern Classics in horrible weather, on horrible roads, but also those of us who also put in the time and the effort and the sacrifice for our own glory. Often times we sacrifice more than the PRO's do, we give up time with those around us that often need us the most, yet we find a way to make it all work. We spend more money than we know we should in an effort to push ourselves up the ladder of cycling's hierarchy, all so that we may one day live up to our expectations of ourselves. And there is no greater motivator than the fire that burns within each of us, the fire that pushes us out of bed, and onto the road when commonsense says not to. We do this because it makes us stronger, it makes us faster, but most of all it makes us harder. The training and the racing make us fit, the mental battles that we fight on the bike and against our selves is what makes us hard.

The next time you have to decide what to do, whether to back down or stand up and fight against the weather or the road or yourself, choose the fight, because every victory is one worth fighting for.

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