From the latin “tempus” meaning time, tempo has come to represent a large number of definitions across different parts of life. Typically read on a page of music notes, determining how fast or slow a piece should be played, it takes on new meaning when applied to cycling. We’ve all heard the ubiquitous phrase of “setting the tempo”, usually at the front of a peloton (note that said phrase is often augmented by specific adjectives denoting suffering, like “infernal” or “blistering”. And more often than not, someone of the Jens or Fabian stature is the said disher out of epic pain, simply adding to the mystique of the setting of that tempo. But I digress…) We’ve come to realize pace, speed and tempo are almost interchangeably linked, much like the internal tempos we become acutely aware of the deeper we delve into the cave of pain, either of our own volition or that of those sitting in front of us.
Getting back to tempus, we could articulate many different bodily machinations as fitting it’s definition. The pounding of our heart as we grind our way up our favorite climb is a perfect example of the rhythmic undertones of tempus. Our breathing falls into this category too, as inexorable as the march of the second hand on your wrist watch. But in cycling, as in the face of a clock, we think of tempo as the metronomic revolutions of our legs upon the pedals, incessantly ticking away a beat to accompany the rhythm section playing throughout our bodies.