Today was one of the few days in the year that I look forward to and dread at the same time – the day when we (myself and the local chap I usually cycle with) go out for a bike ride with the regional cycling group. It’s all very nice thinking you’re doing a great job on your own, but it doesn’t mean much if you can’t keep up with anyone else.
So today was the big day that we were to find out. Each year a route is planned from one of the local towns that us mere mortals can attend, without the usual need for multiple copies of a doctor’s certificate.
If you go along to one of these group rides yourself (most towns hold them), the most important thing is not to have a bike that looks more expensive than anyone else’s. If you have a flashy bike and do well, everyone will think (or at least claim) it was because of the bike. So if you usually ride around on the latest Trek Madone carbon fibre model you need to leave it at home and hire something decrepit from the local bike hire shop. Preferably with a shopping basket on the front.
The second thing to remember is to take your turn at the front of the group of cyclists. Riding at the front is much harder than following behind someone, because of wind resistance, and if you spend the whole day following and then shoot ahead at the end feeling fresh as a daisy everyone will say you are a dirty cheat. Which you are.
These two important facts in mind I tootled along at 8.30 this morning ready for the big ride. There were about 30 of us poised to cover 80 kilometres of hilly terrain in about three hours. Pretty tough for us rank amateurs, especially as it finished with three steep hills in rapid succession. (I had been secretly training quite hard, but I kept that little fact to myself, as did everyone else there…who had also been secretly training very hard)
The ride itself went quite well, but I have to say that some of the members of the local cycling group don’t have a very happy smile if you pass them going up a hill. Perhaps because of a lack of oxygen to the vital organs, or perhaps because they are competitive like me, and I don’t like being passed either, but for whatever reason you don’t get a happy smile so much as a look that says ‘If I wasn’t struggling so much I’d beat you to death with my bicycle pump’.
That reminds me of a not-very-related story: In ‘It’s not about the bike’ Lance Armstrong talked about how he would go cycling in between chemotherapy treatments. He went out with various ex-world champions and thought he was doing a grand job, as they all looked like they were struggling together but he was keeping up. Then one day an overweight 50 year old lady on a mountain bike went sailing past them up the hill and the secret was out.
I had a niggling suspicion that our unshaved legs and worn out old cycling clothes didn’t help matters either. Most of those present had super cool team-kit clothes and close-shaved legs. It’s much more cool looking for a cyclist to have shaved legs of course but I barely remember to shave my face, and adding legs to the list just isn’t going to work out.
Anyway, the morning was long, hot, and very difficult but I turned in a creditable performance, as much to my own astonishment as anyone else’s. It does mean that I’m completely exhausted this afternoon, but of course no one can see me now, sprawled on the floor because my legs are too weak to carry my weight, and blogging with my toes between bouts of unconsciousness.
Same time next year, come along if you’re in the region.