The following is an extract from My Hour by Bradley Wiggins, Yellow Jersey Press, £20.00. The British rider broke the UCI Hour Record in June and here recounts the final minutes of his ride, where excruciation makes way for euphoria.
Seven minutes to go. I tell myself, 'Try not to look at the clock for ten laps now.' Two laps later, I can't help it. 'Six minutes. Oh shit.' I'm glancing at that damned screen all the time. I can't get away from it. I can't ignore it. I want to get off the bike. It's not just the actual effort of turning that blasted gear at 105 revs per minute, and thinking, 'Banking, straight, banking, straight,' it's a feeling: ‘I need to get off this bloody bike now.' It's horrific, really painful. Then there's the numbness – I've barely got any feeling between my stomach and my thighs. I'm trying to block out the pain in my backside: I want to move around in the saddle but the slightest shift in position makes it worse. My mouth is drying up: how hot is it in here now? It can't still be 28 degrees?
I'm in that red zone where you can't go any harder, you're just hanging on to your pace, you're waiting for it to end. I've got to keep my form: avoid hitting those sandbags on the left, keep watching that black line. I know my head is dropping, I can feel my line changing, then I pull it back, each time it's harder. I'm definitely a bit out of it now. I'm keeping the effort going, but the splits tell me I'm going slightly slower all the time; I haven't hit the wall yet, but it's not far away. I'm trying to stop clock-watching but I just can't help looking. How can each minute take so long to pass?
It's the last five minutes; the fatigue distracts me from my pedalling on one banking, so I lose a little bit, come round, see a slower lap split, then pedal harder to make up for it. The drift between the splits seems huge. So I pedal too hard in the straight and recover on the banking, which is completely wrong. This is just about survival. I'm losing it.
Zero on the clock, but I've got 60 seconds to go. The last minute – I'll try and lift the pace like I always do, but there is nothing left, no response from my legs. Still, I can sense the end: 'It's done now, this is done.' I'm so happy to be finished. The gun goes: relief. Thank God it's over: 54.526km. I know what it's going to be like, as it's the same when you finish any race: you have a picture of what you're going to do, how you're going to celebrate but you end up doing what comes naturally. I've seen it watching Indurain, Rominger and Boardman's Hours on DVD: that visible euphoria that it's over. It's actually done, that Hour is over.
I'm just so pleased that I can move at last, although I have to sit straight back down again, because I've got no strength in my legs. I can't find a comfortable position for my backside even now. After this I'll be getting the drinks in at the bar standing up. I manage a warm-down lap or two, and then I remember the image I've seen watching videos of Indurain's Hour during the week. Miguel never went overboard with celebrations, but he used to do what I call the Indurain punch – a modest push of the fist up into the air. Let's make that gesture, the Indurain salute. Ernie Feargrave catches me as I slow up, and then I roll up the banking on the finishing straight by the rail so I'm elevated above the crowds, then I can get off and hoist the bike in the air. Then I try to walk back down and it hits me: there's nothing left in my legs. They are buckling. I find Cath – there's nothing better than that hug when it's all over – and then I drop to the floor.
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