Think of all the jobs you've ever had, some job you stayed too long in. Think of all the mornings you did not want to get up because you did not want to start the job. Think of how the job ate into your life, how you dreamed of better occupations. Can cycling - this glorious act of spinning our feet around and rolling over the earth - really feel like that?
Yes. And no. Every pro I've ever met - whether that's a racer, mechanic, messenger or coach - alll talk of one day waking up and realizing that what they once did for love they now do for love or money. Or, sometimes, just money. They can tell you how it feels to enter races half a world from home when all you want is to see your home so you can remember what it looks like. To be ordered to attack when all you want to do is fall to the ground and close your eyes. To ride harder than most people ever ride, every day. To hammer through mud and cold rain, sick, getting sicker, but unable to stop.
But these are priviledged complications- the complaints of the gods - and the pros know that. The good ones, anyway. They know they live magic lives, even when they won't admit it you can see it in how they carry themselves. You can see it in how they regard the rest of the world. The world is the place they'll go when their luck runs out.
There's something else amazing about the average, ordinary, work-a-day bike rider: The worst pro in the world is a fantastic cyclist. The riders we give no chance of winning a race are exquisite bike handlers and hammers unlike any we have ever ridden with. That menacing messenger you cursed for running a red light then turning against traffic was riding a no-brakes fixed-gear bike down the busiest street of one of the worlds busiest cities.
The mechanic with greased hands and no home except in a box van or on his brother-in-law's couch can fold himself out of a car window, stretch across a rotating wheel and adjust a jittery derailleur at twenty miles per hour.
If you ask any of these cyclists about any of these things, they'll just tell you they're just doing their jobs.