Both Burke and Maas suspect that Twigg is so intelligent that she only seems unconcerned—it may be a sort of reverse, double-backspin psychological ploy—and perhaps they are right. "She may seem not to care," says Maas, "but she's very conscious of who beats her and whom she beats. She doesn't say anything and appears not to worry, but, listen, she knows where every person in the pack has finished."
When Burke calls Twigg a "nervous" rider, he means it as a compliment. "At the world championships there she was, up against the mighty Russian," he says. "The pursuit, as you know, is the race in which a handler has to hold bike and rider upright before the start. Well, Twigg was so tense that I thought she was going to fall right over. But at the same time she muttered, 'I know I can beat her,' and she did."
Dr. Andy Jacobs, the official stress psychologist for this and other U.S. teams, recently presented the cyclists with an exercise in imaging. "He told us to picture the race and then to picture ourselves winning it," says Twigg. "But I find it hard to think in those terms. I think about the wind and I think about where my competitors are. In pursuit, I start out hearing some voices and crowd reaction at first. Then I can hear only my coach yelling splits. By the last lap, I can't hear a thing."
As happens when success comes in bike racing, Twigg is now well sponsored, and supplied with bikes and clothes and all manner of racing accoutrements. She is a member of the elite 7-Eleven team, one of five national squads competing under commercial banners, and her "expenses" are paid, though not on as handsome a scale as are those of, say, members of the U.S. ski team.
Still, the tough times lie ahead, and Burke, for one, has nightmares about one aspect of what's to come. "Just imagine the distillation that's about to take place," he says. "Think of it. Out of all these women, the best in the land, we must cut the field down to just three who'll go to the Olympics. We'll get the three finest, of course, but that could also be counterproductive. Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the surviving three are Twigg, Carpenter and Novara-Reber. O.K. Everybody knows that it's an unhappy fact of international racing that if you've got three cyclists on your team, something's going to happen to one of them and you will be left with two. There'll be a flat tire, or a breakdown, or a crash or something—and you're left with two. It always happens.
"Now, then. Suppose, by luck or whatever, that Carpenter is in the breakaway, the small pack that suddenly takes off into the lead. That would leave Rebecca and Sue back in the pack, right? Now in international racing, they're supposed to block for their teammate who is out in front. The French have an outfit called Team Mystique that does it best—seven guys who are not in there to win, whose only job is to see that their star wins it. But here we are, at the 1984 Olympics, in a similar situation. Will Rebecca and Sue throw themselves off the bridge, in effect, to keep Carpenter in the lead? Would Carpenter do it if either of the others made a break for it? Or will they all go blooey and start some mad, all-out reckless dash?"
Who knows? Certainly not Burke and assuredly not Twigg, who avoids such hypothetical discussions just now. She's too smart for that. Literally. Speaking of stress psychology, she has a little mental image of her own. She says, "I picture myself on the attack."