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Bill Strickland

Bill StricklandI opened myself to absorb the suffering of the pack, rising up and over the hill into blurriness, then blankness. My wheels sang that strange knifing music of speed, and I became aware of other bikes beside me, then falling back, and at the line I was third, gaining fast on first and second: Two points. I eased off the pedals. The pack washed around me. Recovery was the hardest part of racing. In contrast to immolating your body in a sprint or a chase, simply trying to hang on after one of those efforts was a slow undertaking that demanded not the glorious scaling of a peak but the grim tenacity to stay out of the valley, to summon the focus ninety times in a single minute to not ease off on one pedal stroke. My entire ambition had to be marshaled and spent on each revolution of each foot, with no grand treasure such a point awaiting me, no reward except the gift of being able to keep doing this to myself. And though it felt like life or death, of course it was not: To stop, all you had to do was stop. The same mind that generated that thought implored me to ignore it. Things ripped loose inside of me that I had spent a year building for the sole purpose of being able to rip them loose. I spit my breaths out. I drifted back, in love with the sport of cycling.