Is it about the bike? At the very top level, as Chris Froome demonstrated yesterday, it's even worth swapping bikes to gain that crucial advantage. But surely a top rider will beat any of us run-of-the-mill cyclists however much he is handicapped by being made to ride a heavy, slow tank of a bike?
That's what The Guardian's bike columnist Peter Walker and elite racer Iain Cook set out to find out in this video. Walker scored a rather luscious BMC TMR1 aero rocketship and lumbered Cook with a succession of, ahem, more practical bikes: a £250 Pinnacle, Walker's own Dutch commuter complete with child seat and basket full of newspapers and, of course, a Boris Bike.
Starting at opposite sides of the Herne Hill Velodrome, they duked it out in a series of two-lap individual pursuit sessions to determine whether man or machine reigns supreme. The results might surprise you.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.