I remember riding behind the 160 guys yesterday on some rolling, winding back road. I'm on the motorcycle, remember, with effortless power ready to hand and a speedometer in front of me.
We're 60 miles into the race, further than I ride more than a few times a year. The guys have done that 60 miles in their big chainrings, even the huge rollers out on the highway before we turned onto country roads.
As I watch, the pack surges over another roller, still as usual in the big ring, thirty-plus miles an hour, and I cannot get over, though I've seen it a thousand times, the power in these skinny guys. I'd be in the 39/19 or something close to it (maybe lower) and they're going over thirty mph.
That's the truth of it, the reason for the training and personal selfishness and all that focus. And you can't see it on TV or from the sidelines, where the guys look fast but not that much faster than you and me. Trust me; they are much faster than you and me.
After 75 miles out in the wind, the pack turned a corner onto a little used road and climbed a long hill. Miles long. For a mile maybe, the group hung together. Then splits opened, maybe only a bike rider long. We moved up little by little, moving around riders from split to split.
We didn't see the finish from where we sat...maybe 10 or 15 riders back. Some of the guys sway on their bikes as they suffer, some merely pedal as if on a ride to coffee. No one pants or thrashes on his bike.
They know their limits because they have experienced them again and again. They come up against them almost every time they race. No one "blows up." They ride as hard as they can, no drama. It's an amazing thing to watch. Amazing in its lack of heroics or histrionics. Men at work.