Lion bar, Kit Kat Chunky, Double Decker. These are a few of my favourite recreational chocolate bars. I don’t have a dealer. I don’t buy them on a street corner. Usually a petrol station or a supermarket is my preferred location to purchase. A petrol station ‘cos you can fill up your car and buy a bar as an after thought. A supermarket ‘cos you can hide it amongst other healthier options in your basket. Going into a shop to buy a single solitary chocolate bar. That’s like buying a top shelf magazine. It’s embarrassing. You're feeling like all eyes are on you. It’s only a treat you try and say with your eyes. I’m not greedy. Honest!
You’re probably wondering at this point why you’re reading about a confectionery item containing cocoa, milk and lots of sugar on a cycling website. Are you reading the ramblings of the next Willie Wonka? Have I got a pet Umpa Lumpa living under my stairs? Well no. But it’s the off season. And that means one thing. Junk food!
The Mars and Snickers of this world are resigned to the history books. Those are performance enhancing chocolates. The type you eat when you feel yourself getting hunger knock on a long ride. The type you buy from a guy in a gym who’s a mate of a mate. That’s not what we want now. Energy isn’t the currency we operate in this month. Taste and indulgence is what we want. But why? Surely you can buy chocolate all year round, even in Lancashire.
Junk food in the season is like a playboy model. You want it, you look at it longingly, your heart starts to race. But then you remember you have a girlfriend and you have to quickly lock that thought away somewhere in your brain where she can’t get to it. The season is all about living like a monk. It’s about 100% commitment to your profession. For 8 months a year you go to bed by 10pm. You don’t touch alcohol, and even looking at Kinder Bueno longingly fills you with guilt. Girls aren’t even considered. Everyone knows women weaken legs. As well as emptying your bank account. You remember the words of Zamo from Grange Hill, “Just say no!”.
At least that’s what people think happens. Having ridden with a few top level riders in my time, that’s 99% true. When it’s a key part of the season or a big race the level of commitment and dedication is amazing. At those moments, winning that big race is everything. And every part of their life is controlled to ensure nothing gets in their way. The other 1% I can’t mention. The team manager might read this…
But bike riders are human, just like everyone else. They like to have fun. They like to eat nice things and drink beer. They like pretty women. And after a full season of fighting to keep themselves on the right path, it’s only fair they have a bit of time to relax. And that means eating those treats you’ve be longing for so long. Hitting the night clubs with the friends whose faces you barely remember. And if you're single and lucky, waking up and realising you don’t recognise those curtains. You’ve not seen that wall paper before. You don’t have a pink duvet. Wait a minute… Please God, let her be good looking...
And that’s the off season in a nutshell. Living like a normal person. Going on a holiday with the lads, or your girlfriend or wife. But never both combined. That’s just silly. And enjoying life. Seeing your friends. Watching your favourite team. While the bike sits in the garage getting lonely, the body and mind get a chance to forget about the battering they’ve taken all year. And you take your chance to be a little bit wild. Because after the New Year you find yourself once more looking jealously at the children eating their Mars Planets. And you remind yourself you need to stay focused till the next off season. And there’s always that 1% to keep you occupied…
Thanks for reading.
When not eating chocolate (which he could stop doing at any time) Ben Greenwood rides for Rapha Condor Sharp