I felt horrible. My legs screamed with pain and my heart pounded at a furious pace; its monstrous beat echoing within me as I continued to ride along the winding tarmac. Trying to ignore the persistant pain, and constant urge to stop pedalling, I followed my breakaway companion's wheel.
It was just the two of us, hanging desperately ahead of the peloton that constantly ate away at our 1 minute lead. Through the constant drips of salty sweat sliding past my eyes I focused on the wheel in front as it suddenly jerked to the right. My competitor then quickly flicked his arm, giving the clear indication it was my turn to do battle with the head wind. Damn it.
Immediately I gave thought to my body, what I was doing and how I looked on the bike. It wasn't pretty. Instead of looking controlled and determined, my face was twisted in a ugly grimace with my mouth stretched out wide in a desperate attempt to collect more oxygen. My body hung over the handle bars in constant battle with the machine beneath me and my breath was that laboured an asthma attack would seem like a whisper. O.K, maybe that was exaggerated but either way I looked horrible and the suffering I was experiencing was in clear view, reflected though nearly every part of my body.
(There is no hiding that face)
The rider ahead then began to drop back. As quick as I could I attempted to sit up solid, smooth out my haphazard breath and pull my twisted face back together. He looked across at me. Glancing back at him I tried desperately to look 'relaxed'. Did he notice I was completely wrecked? Did I manage to look strong? The thoughts bounced through my mind as he tucked himself behind my bike.
Unfortunately for me, however, I have a terrible Poker Face. No matter how much I seem to try, when I am in 'the box' my body has a very hard time covering up the truth. Although the above example was hypothetical, I have no doubt my attempts at looking better would have simply highlighted how much I was truly suffering. I hate that I can't bluff in racing and I envy those who can. For it is one of the most unrated skills in cycling. It can save you from getting attacked by other riders, make the other riders nervous and can help you get better positioning in a bunch.
Due to my lack of poker face ability, the stronger rider mentioned before would have undoubtedly attacked and try to crack me. He knew I was already suffering and would have used that to his advantage. If I had successfully bluffed and looked strong he might have second guessed attacking becoming nervous, worrying that it would be me who attacks and drops him. It of course works in the opposite way as well and thankfully everyone can do it. That is, when you feeling amazing and you purposely looking like your suffering and hurting.
(Please note that I am actually suffering here, unfortunately I am not purposely putting this face on)
Putting on a 'pain face' when your actually feeling great can also give you a great advantage in a race. I must admit, I've done it a number of times. If you want to miss a few turns in a break, want other riders to attack and wear themselves out or simply make other riders confused, acting like your in the box sometimes allows you get away with it. But still I sit here jealous. Jealous of those riders with great Poker Face's, who even when completely wrecked and destroyed, can appear as if they are out on a Sunday lake ride. I want to be that type of rider. I must, unfortunately, remind myself: I have a terrible poker face.
Or is that just a part of my bluff?
Until next time, Adam.