I 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.