Sprinting, time trailing or climbing. You are a 26-year-old established professional and you have the opportunity to select your speciality, what would it be?
For me, I'd be a sprinter.
Sprinters get to stand on the podium more than anyone else. It's the area of cycling that has the greatest amount of raw opportunities to succeed and at the end of the day sprinters/sprinting as a specialty, is plain old cool. The pressure, the excitement, the build up, the risks, it's so engaging as to how the sprint is going to unravel and from an outsider (that can't sprint) to win a bunch kick and reward your team mates must be one of the most satisfying parts of the sport.
Sprinting also has its pitfalls. You can't really climb; yes, I know there are a few exceptions to the rule (Sagan, Matthews ect.) but even within the hypothetical world of the Stanley Street Social, I can't imagine myself being able to sprint and be a part-time climber. So anything that involves a hill results in suffering. One of the most enjoyable parts of the sports is making others suffer but in this specialty, you are on the unfortunate receiving end. Sprinting also involves a lot of courage, but within this conundrum, it's your specialty, so you have courage. But the biggest burden to the sprinting profession is, the time cut. Having to make the finish in a certain percentage of the winner's time and ride at a difficult tempo all day through mountainous stages would be a nightmare.
Climbing involves a lot of suffering. Being able to suffer at a higher power to weight than the others, means you win. Yes, winning is still satisfying but you don't have the action and excitement of a sprint - a lot of the time it's just a gangly man riding to the finish by himself. A major downfall of the profession is that being skinny is beneficial. Alas, your figure resembles a malnourished gerenuk and you spend the majority of your life stressing: food, training ect - performance is everything.
Climbing does have its pros; you can get over early climbs with some enjoyment, there's a team around you to drop you off at the bottom of significant climbs, you reap the benefits of having a sprinter on your team by not having to do any work while being positioned at the front of the bunch before taking a cut of his stage win's prize money. But I'd still take the trade of sprinting.
Time trialing (TT) - the pragmatic athlete's dream come true. It's the most controlled environment of the sport, it's quantifiable, it's honest, it's the rider and the clock. Some people say that they enjoy TTs, they’re lying. TTs consists of two minutes of feeling great and thinking "wow this disk wheel feels nice" before suffering for the remainder of the event. Time Trialists are generally a bit weird, they have to be, it's a lonely event and you have to see some kind of positive in suffering by your self in an unconventional position, within a claustrophobic helmet, with no one to motivate you except the annoying DS in your ear telling you to suffer more.
Time trialing does have its pros. You’re the king of the team time trial - an unique event that I imagine would be enjoyable if you were as strong as an ox and could direct your team to victory. You are also the peoples' person: you can help the sprinters, you can help the climbers, you can get in the break away, you can ride the front - your teammates love you!
After discussing this within the Stanley Street Social members, I'm still happy with my decision of being a sprinter.
See you back at the social club,