There is a volunteer in the sport of cycling that for most at sometime in their life of competitive cycling will share a difference of opinion. The humble handicapper has to have skin thick as that of a rhinoceros, the hardness of the head of that of marble or granite and the mind like a steel trap and recall of an elephant that never forgets.
The handicapper also must have a keen sense of humour and interpreter of cycling language. Such conversations are held around trying to find out the performance of a rider that has not been on the circuit enough to have a profile or just coming back from a lay off. The handicapper may well inquire “have you been doing much training of late?” it would not be uncommon for a response along these lines. “Nah not much at all just the bare minimum”, this could well mean what is called secret training where the rider has not sighted can safely say “Nah not much training at all.” When in fact it could be hours a day on the bike or ergo in the shed!
Training is only official training when sighted by those in the know. Or the handicapper may well ask “how are you performing on the bike at the moment?” answer has these connotations “barely creeping struggling to hold on !” which when translated could well mean “Going quite well but waiting for the right mark so my full potential to win is taken”.
The handicapper will always be a friend to those in the winning group as they have had their turn and the enemy of those chasing and not making the finishing cut in the finishing bunch.
We can feel for the handicapper as they have to work with a bunch of riders on paper of similar fitness but not the necessarily the same skills and ability to match and try to get the optimum value for the mark (guess this will always be something that developing riders have to sort out themselves on the road). So in any bunch there is the fine line of the weakest verses the strongest and if changed back or forward will be the strongest of the bunch forward or the weakest if sent back a bunch.
Taking all this into consideration not to mention the diverse personalities that cycling can bring and the moods of who is up and who is down on the day makes for the old saying “you are only as good as your last race”, today’s a new day with new challenge’s slipping under the radar of the handicapper is just another. There are many other factors that must be considered for the handicapper to get the desired affect at the finish of a race where all riders are within the finish line with a chance of a win. As someone was known to have said “Life was not meant to be easy” this sums up the handicappers time each race day.
While there are many formulas that can work out distance covered at an average speed and the time gap between each bunch to bring them all within throwing a net over them at the end. There is not much that can take into account the changing winds of fortune head tail and cross winds all take a toll on most groups even scratch riders can come to grief if not well paced and tightly united. The handicapper really only sets a framework for riders to enjoy and give their best, competing against themselves and not the handicapper.
They also give opportunity for the riders to take the best opportunity that the handicapper has presented if the strongest rider to ride in a manner to get as many in the bunch as far as they can and as quick as the can before being court or winning the race. If being the weakest rider it can be finding out who in smoothest and strongest rider and make it a point to follow their wheel and learn as much as they can in developing to earn the place of stepping up another mark.
Be always appreciative and forgiving towards the handicapper if they are trying their best and remaining impartial as your race is not against them but the other riders and yourself to ride to the best of your potential on the day.
See you on the road soon God willing