University was different. Most of the team had already tested themselves against races like the Interhigh and knew what the competitive field was like. For the newcomers, they were serious about the sport or they didn't last beyond the first practice. No one considered joining just for the sake of having a club activity on their resume.
Kinjou was no longer a captain, at least not yet, but his time as such served him well. His first year had found him taking the newer first years under his wing, and that had continued into his second year, but most of the team didn't need more than some steady guidance, a nudge here and there, and the occasional word of encouragement.
Then there was Imaizumi. For all that he had grown significantly as a cyclist since his first year of high school, there was quite a lot that hadn't changed at all. Like how quickly a seed of doubt could take root in Imaizumi's mind, and how difficult it could be to remove once it had taken hold. It had all started with Midousuji all the way back when Imaizumi had been in middle school, and Kinjou had lost track of all of the iterations since. The self-doubt wasn't as crippling anymore, but Kinjou could always tell when it hit. He didn't need to know the source to notice that Imaizumi's practice logs suddenly lost rest days and jumped 50% in distance.
The current spell had started after the last training race, and for once, Kinjou had been there to witness the trigger. It had been a passing comment from a passing captain--the not-uncommon questioning of the logic of putting a first-year on a competition team. It should have ended there, but then Yonan had placed third. It was a respectable finish, especially for a race where they had intentionally held back, but they hadn't won. For Imaizumi, that was enough to have him convinced that the failure was his own and that the other captain had been correct in questioning his place on the team.
That had been nearly two weeks ago, and Kinjou had tried just about every reassurance and guidance he could think of to no avail. It was time for more drastic measures.
Sometimes there was nothing to do but to strip away all of the layers of self-protection and denial and lay bare the core seed of worry so that it could be destroyed.
There were so many easier approaches, but as usual, Imaizumi had been too stubborn for any of them.
prillalar you're up!