Phil Anderson tries in vain to hold Le Blaireau's wheel.

Getting Dropped

Getting Dropped

by / / 90 posts

I can can feel his cold breath on my back, like a shadow drifting through an alleyway. He’s not yet upon me, but the Man with the Hammer is lurking nearby. I’m not even sure he has the intention to strike; he’s just staying close, cruelly reminding me that my fate is in his hands.

I feel the heaviness in my legs from the first turns of the pedals as the road tilts upwards; its not the usual resistance that I know will spin out once I find my rhythm because finding my rhythm will be impossible when the pace is as it is. I’m not on the rivet yet, but the pressure foretells my future; no graceful arcs of the pedals, I’ll soon be pedaling squares in search of the power I need to hold the wheel in front of me.

The pitch changes, not steeper but the change disrupts whatever grasp I had on the rhythm and the gap opens a bit. Handlebars are chewed and the gap is closed again, for now. I know it, and the shadow knows it: this is a temporary fix, not a long term solution. The end is coming, but I’m determined to hold it off for as long as possible. The next symptom is that I can’t find a gear that works, I’m shifting constantly, back and forth between the same two gears trying to find the magic ratio that lets me hold the tempo more easily.

All the shifting of gears has broken my concentration and I as I look up I discover I’ve let the wheel go without even noticing it. The shadow reminds me that I hadn’t even cracked yet but I let it go just because I let my tired mind occupy itself with a detail like what gear I’m in when what really matters is pushing on the pedals. The price I pay is more handlebar chewing and clawing back onto the wheel. The effort means the end is just drawn that much closer, but still I will do anything to delay the inevitable.

I’m starting to wonder if I’ve dug too deep already, that if after the inevitable happens will I be able to limit my losses? Maybe the smart thing to do – I try to convince myself – is to let go and find a steady tempo to ride to the top. If I do that, I can probably bridge up on the false flat at the top, or on the descent. Failing that, I’ll catch them back on the flats.

But there is no catching back after letting go; it is the reality of our world. These are just the things we tell ourselves in order to face the harsh reality of getting dropped. The only thing that truly exists is the fact that I will be dropped, and that there will be a long, lonely road home.

The wheel in front moves a few centimeters ahead. I see it and push harder on the pedals but still the gap opens. It is only a meter now, but it might as well be a kilometer; the wheel is gone and I am alone.

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus // Riding Ugly // The Rides

  1. Only a cyclist can understand this pain! But this goes a long way to explaining it to non Veluminati and young Pedalwans! Great article!

  2. @frank

    This was based loosely on the Book Signing ride on Saturday in SFO; my base is really lacking but power is good, so I was doing fine for the first half of the ride and then the tempo on the climbs along the coast was too much and I knew from the start I was fucked.

    At a point, you get so worn down you’re not even in that much pain – in fact, I’d be in much more pain if I was the one doing the dropping and using that as motivation to spur me on – but at a point the body just stopped delivering the power to the pedals. There was nothing.

    I thought that might have been the inspiration.  You were certainly climbing strongly on Mt Tam; knowing my form I wasn’t going to try to keep up with the lead pace.

    Learning how to gut it out and ride with what you have left is part of the path we are all treading.

  3. @Nate

    @frank

    This was based loosely on the Book Signing ride on Saturday in SFO; my base is really lacking but power is good, so I was doing fine for the first half of the ride and then the tempo on the climbs along the coast was too much and I knew from the start I was fucked.

    At a point, you get so worn down you’re not even in that much pain – in fact, I’d be in much more pain if I was the one doing the dropping and using that as motivation to spur me on – but at a point the body just stopped delivering the power to the pedals. There was nothing.

    I thought that might have been the inspiration. You were certainly climbing strongly on Mt Tam; knowing my form I wasn’t going to try to keep up with the lead pace.

    Learning how to gut it out and ride with what you have left is part of the path we are all treading.

    Yes – that

  4. @frank

    @girl

    I’m riding with the boys for the next few weeks. The entire time the mantra that goes through my head is ‘hold that wheel, hold that wheel, hold that wheel.’

    You have perfectly captured the process the brain goes through as you begin to doubt that you can stay on. I have the luck of having my coach graciously sitting on my wheel for the next few weeks. He knows me so well he can pick the moments I’m beginning to doubt myself and squashes the doubt in a few simple words.

    If you coach can do that rather than make you want to turn around and punch him, then he is a coach you should hold on to.

    The words of wisdom/encouragement I can handle. It’s when he pulls up beside me to have a quick chat while I am gasping for breath that make me want to punch him. Or more easily just push him off his bike. Then he just seemlessly rolls back again. That’s infuriating.

  5. @frank

    @ChrisO

    Nice – I like the description of the metre which might as well be a mile (to mix my units in the interests of alliteration). So true. It’s only a small gap but you know that even if you temporarily get there it will be back soon.

    But when I go through these emotions it isn’t usually on a climb. I don’t worry so much about it on the hills because it’s a question of power to weight, not power to will.

    Where I hate this sort of getting dropped is on rollers or flats, especially when there are echelons. The gap happens in front, maybe not even your wheel but the effect is the same. They can move away slowly and maybe even stay in sight for a long time but you know it is impossible to get across and eventually you surrender to it.

    Don’t get me fucking started on getting dropped in a crosswind. The knowledge that the riders in front in the group are getting an easy tow when you’re suffering like a dog only to watch the gap widen is such a painful thing.

    I remember one regular Saturday morning ride with a vicious crosswind. We caught some remnants of the fast group at traffic lights, and they pushed the pace along the beachfront. Diving into sand-dusted roundabouts trying to hold the wheel, knowing ig a gap opened I’d never get it back.

    I was on the wheel of a big guy and was going ok. I knew I wasn’t the only one struggling when I saw a girl we ride with dropped – she is *strong* (rode the Cape Epic) and I’ve never seen her lose a wheel before. She was dropped when the guy in front of her was gapped, and once that gap was there no one was closing it.

  6. @frank

    @Chris

    Btw @frank, stunning photo there. Those are fine guns.

    Puegeot was a fucking awesome team over the years, so many greats. (Unlike @frank, Eddy didn’t get dropped from memory)

    Oh, but he did. To be fair, when he got dropped, he made it count and lost the Yellow Jersey for the first and only time in his career.

    My comment was in relation t the Simpson photo only. I had it in mind that he had been dropped but in some strange, rare moment of befuddled clarity actually dug the Merckx book out and checked the photo.

  7. @frank

    @Chris

    I surprised myself today a couple of times by, subconsciously, shifting to a smaller cog and pushing harder as I began to lose momentum on hills. Normally, I’d have done the opposite to hold my cadence.

    That’s the best; being on the rivet but then somehow finding more power. There is a very strange physiological thing for me as well where I have to burn the legs once early on to get the power up; after that I’m much more open and can resist better. Before that, I struggle much more.

    I certainly take a while to warm up but this was about 80 – 90 km into the ride. It felt good. Weird but good.

    After writing the previous post I sat down to catch up on the last few days of the Giro. When I next got up from the sofa I was hit by the most evil cramp from just above the inside of my knee right up to my groin on both legs. I suspect the Man with the Hammer is a lurker here on Velominati took a strong dislike to my hubris and snuck into the house to deliver a humbling retrospective kicking.

    It took me ten minutes to get to the point of being able to walk and to make matter worse it’s just happened again – this time just to one leg but strong enough to make me nauseous.

    Fuck, I’m deeply afraid to go to bed now. I kind of get how the Pantani era riders felt, I’m off to the garage with a box set of Breaking Bad to keep me awake on the rollers…

  8. @Ccos@unversio@Buck Rogers Thanks for the words, gents — a lot of rides between now and then and some of ChrisO’s interval sessions in there somewhere and I’ll give it a decent crack.

  9. I’m no fan-boy, but here is a master class in dropping cyclists, Sir Brad is perhaps one of the best technical riders around, from the hips up his movement is barely perceptible, his guns however just blast away, if he is riding for Froome at TDF , then all Froome has to do is stay upright and  he will defend his title for sure.

    http://www.steephill.tv/tour-of-california/

  10. @piwakawaka I liked it that he barely looked around during the climb. Must have sent quite a strong message “I’m not that interested in who’s with me in this group, we’re going up here at my pace”

  11. @piwakawaka

    I’m no fan-boy, but here is a master class in dropping cyclists, Sir Brad is perhaps one of the best technical riders around, from the hips up his movement is barely perceptible, his guns however just blast away, if he is riding for Froome at TDF , then all Froome has to do is stay upright and he will defend his title for sure.

    http://www.steephill.tv/tour-of-california/

    I loved that – Sir Brad setting out his stall for TdF inclusion – the word imperious came to mind – fine sight watching a trackie riding a long climb – a lot of doubting was evident in the line behind him – classy

  12. Getting rolled, this is just mental, more cameras on more bikes!

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F7aH1bn6yUI

  13. @Chris white socks,black shorts, white jersey, fucking awesome!

  14. @piwakawaka and if Froomey’s not there, that’s the kind of riding that’d put him pretty close to the top of the bookies list.

  15. Ahh, ya gotta love Sean Kelly. The man speaks from so much experience. Here’s a choice, and marvelously insightful, comment on yesterday’s wet stage and how he thinks it might play out..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6_KAwV8DL8

  16. @Dr C

    @piwakawaka

    I’m no fan-boy, but here is a master class in dropping cyclists, Sir Brad is perhaps one of the best technical riders around, from the hips up his movement is barely perceptible, his guns however just blast away, if he is riding for Froome at TDF , then all Froome has to do is stay upright and he will defend his title for sure.

    http://www.steephill.tv/tour-of-california/

    I loved that – Sir Brad setting out his stall for TdF inclusion – the word imperious came to mind – fine sight watching a trackie riding a long climb – a lot of doubting was evident in the line behind him – classy

    That climb pretty much defined casually deliberate.

  17. @wiscot

    Ahh, ya gotta love Sean Kelly. The man speaks from so much experience. Here’s a choice, and marvelously insightful, comment on yesterday’s wet stage and how he thinks it might play out..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6_KAwV8DL8

    Feeken mayhem! I love that.

  18. @frank

     

    Or maybe the sport is our therapy?

    Truer words have not been spoken.

    I recently had a stretch where the stress of work, school, house renovations, and the impending arrival of the Velominipper really started to get the best of me. I really started to feel all of the mental and physical effects that kind stress puts on me.

    Not coincidentally, this all happened during a period of about two weeks where I just didn’t have the chance to ride. A nice 90kms on Saturday did wonders to improve my well-being!

    Here’s to bike therapy.

  19. Great article and following commentary. Interesting article on the components of metntal toughness and training it found here:

    http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2014/05/the-psychology-of-mental-toughness.html

    I hope the author, or the community here, explores the subject more. And yes, the article is on a a running site, but I make two points in my preemptory defense of posting it.

    1. Cyclists know how to suffer, but they aren’t the only ones. Frank will hopefully confirm this from his Nordic ski racing days. And Alpinists may win the GC of the Tour of Suffering, which leads to the second point of my defense.

    2. I was referred to the article by a share from alpinist Steve House. I wasn’t visiting a running site!

  20. @VeloSix

    @Frank

    Did you somehow implant a kind of brainwave recording device into my skull? Because I just relived every last painful moment of the climb in this past Saturday’s race.

    Even the part about the false flat, and my dumbass thinking I could chase back, on the flats…..

    Yes, I have the power to read minds. Remember that if we ever have the chance to ride together.

    @fignons barber

    @Frank unleashing his inner Krabbe. Good stuff.

    Wow, high praise. Completely undeserved, but appreciated.

    The irony of racing is that to attack, you must ignore the fear of being dropped, even though the physical and emotional pain of said droppage is deserving of respect.

    So many racers don’t make the race because they ride to not get dropped rather than attack to win.

    This is the problem with the peloton these days; no panache. Just racing from 5km out and calling it a day.

  21. @girl

    @frank

    @girl

    I’m riding with the boys for the next few weeks. The entire time the mantra that goes through my head is ‘hold that wheel, hold that wheel, hold that wheel.’

    You have perfectly captured the process the brain goes through as you begin to doubt that you can stay on. I have the luck of having my coach graciously sitting on my wheel for the next few weeks. He knows me so well he can pick the moments I’m beginning to doubt myself and squashes the doubt in a few simple words.

    If you coach can do that rather than make you want to turn around and punch him, then he is a coach you should hold on to.

    The words of wisdom/encouragement I can handle. It’s when he pulls up beside me to have a quick chat while I am gasping for breath that make me want to punch him. Or more easily just push him off his bike. Then he just seemlessly rolls back again. That’s infuriating.

    The worst for me is the roadside encouragement after being dropped on a climb. “GET UP THERE! CLOSE THAT GAP DOWN!”

    What do you think I’m trying to do? Fuck off.

  22. @The Grande Fondue

    @frank

    @ChrisO

    Nice – I like the description of the metre which might as well be a mile (to mix my units in the interests of alliteration). So true. It’s only a small gap but you know that even if you temporarily get there it will be back soon.

    But when I go through these emotions it isn’t usually on a climb. I don’t worry so much about it on the hills because it’s a question of power to weight, not power to will.

    Where I hate this sort of getting dropped is on rollers or flats, especially when there are echelons. The gap happens in front, maybe not even your wheel but the effect is the same. They can move away slowly and maybe even stay in sight for a long time but you know it is impossible to get across and eventually you surrender to it.

    Don’t get me fucking started on getting dropped in a crosswind. The knowledge that the riders in front in the group are getting an easy tow when you’re suffering like a dog only to watch the gap widen is such a painful thing.

    I remember one regular Saturday morning ride with a vicious crosswind. We caught some remnants of the fast group at traffic lights, and they pushed the pace along the beachfront. Diving into sand-dusted roundabouts trying to hold the wheel, knowing ig a gap opened I’d never get it back.

    I was on the wheel of a big guy and was going ok. I knew I wasn’t the only one struggling when I saw a girl we ride with dropped – she is *strong* (rode the Cape Epic) and I’ve never seen her lose a wheel before. She was dropped when the guy in front of her was gapped, and once that gap was there no one was closing it.

    Its always the guy in front who loses the wheel, isn’t it? Just like you always find what you’re looking for in the last place you look.

  23. @piwakawaka

    Getting rolled, this is just mental, more cameras on more bikes!

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F7aH1bn6yUI

    That Shimano TV stuff is so rad. Its very cool when the Pros record that shit. Not so much when mortals do it; when we do it we just record ourselves sucking.

    @Brits

    You guys are all so cute with your Dirty Wiggo Love.

  24. @frank they seemed to miss the bit where the guy in second – someone who is a long way from being a pure climber – pulled back half of Wiggins’ GC lead

  25. @frank 

    “This is the problem with the peloton these days; no panache. Just racing from 5km out and calling it a day.”

    Yes yes true, but the other end of the spectrum: the endless, useless attacks (which never stick and are just able to hang off the front a bit) can be just as annoying. (Written by the guy who’s role it is to chase those down).

  26. @frank

    @piwakawaka

    Getting rolled, this is just mental, more cameras on more bikes!

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F7aH1bn6yUI

    That Shimano TV stuff is so rad. Its very cool when the Pros record that shit. Not so much when mortals do it; when we do it we just record ourselves sucking.

    @Brits

    You guys are all so cute with your Dirty Wiggo Love.

    Love to see all sorts of telemetry in the future, with the rise in electronic everything it won’t be long before GPS tracking, power outputs, speed etc will give the commentators more to talk about!

  27. @Ccos

    @frank

    “This is the problem with the peloton these days; no panache. Just racing from 5km out and calling it a day.”

    Yes yes true, but the other end of the spectrum: the endless, useless attacks (which never stick and are just able to hang off the front a bit) can be just as annoying. (Written by the guy who’s role it is to chase those down).

    Race radio has a lot to answer for. There’d be nothing like the confusion of the peleton when all the leadouts and domestiques look around for the leaders after a big accident. You could get some attacks to stick when no one in the bunch knows what the fuck is going on. And the riders have to use their own brains, rather than a DS telling them what to do with the benefit of tv coverage from the car and sources of info all the way along the course..

  28. @Beers  I’m speaking from a purely amateur perspective where often no one knows what the fuck is going on anyway. But yes, the inability to read a race or a fellow racer can extend up to the big boys and girls.

    Race radios do make racers mentally lazy, that’s for damn sure.

  29. Great article Frank.  This is my 3rd season trying to ride in Belgium.  The 1st year was a steep learning curve (1st time riding with any group, let alone pavé, foreign language, etc) and while my avg climbed from 24kmh to 28-29 so too did the frequency with which I was dropped.  I started to feel that it was inevitable on each ride, a part of my reputation as the foreigner in the group.  I was the guy who showed up with the crazy guy (my best man and cycling sensei), the crazy guy who attacks at every effort and splits the group and causes curses in dutch all around me, and I was the poor American who got shelled out the back after 60kms and either took the broom wagon, or later learned to accept defeat and simply enjoy the solo ride back home.

    The second year I showed up for one and only one ride.  I quickly learned that the B group had joined the C’s due to a lack of numbers, and this mean a ride which should be an average of 27-28kmh was now 30-31kmh.  Now to some I’m sure that doesn’t mean much to some people.  How much of a difference can 2kmh make right?  But the amount of cursing I heard that day, the split group, the eye popping sprint off of every red light to ‘pull the average up’………and yes the inevitable pop after too many flats at 40kmh, too many hills climbed out of the saddle, too many technical sections creating that gap because your handling just isn’t up to par as the rest of the group.  After that one ride I vowed not to return until I couldn’t get dropped again.

    This last year I’ve done the most mileage ever, rode through my first Belgian winter, climbed my first mountain, let alone it being the Stelvio, started a season the earliest ever with Omloop het Nieuwsblad, rode Brussels > Roubaix, did my first lap in a velodrome ever let alone the one in Roubaix, and even moved 30kms away from work to increase my commute.

    2 weeks ago I returned to the club ride, anxious and nervous, but greeted by quiet hello’s and recognition.  My name was still on the roll call.  I rode well, even spent some cautious time up front sharing the work before being conservative and dropping back.  I even had enough left in the end to lead out the sprint, although I timed it horrible and got dropped like a sack of potatoes on a tricky paved uphill.  I enjoyed the satisfaction of finally not getting dropped and sharing drinks with some strangers who still know me in a way that many friends do not.  I returned home to get a call from my friend.  Apparently my progress had been noticed and received a number of compliments after I left.  The satisfaction was immense.

    It’s hard to articulate my feelings about being dropped.  I detest it.  It’s a sign of weakness, inferiority, or at times just stupidity.  Other times I reassure myself it is a symptom of riding with stronger riders, that act so often encouraged as the quickest path to improvement.  I guess, if nothing else, you can not appreciate the act of finally staying with the group, unless you have already been spit out the back repeatedly.  I am also sure if I manage to stay with the group for too many rides, at some point I will be that crazy guy impatient and attacking off the front.  I’ll start to miss being dropped as the surest measure of my efforts.

    Thanks again for the article, it struck a chord.

  30. @Rob

    Great article Frank. This is my 3rd season trying to ride in Belgium. The 1st year was a steep learning curve (1st time riding with any group, let alone pavé, foreign language, etc) and while my avg climbed from 24kmh to 28-29 so too did the frequency with which I was dropped. I started to feel that it was inevitable on each ride, a part of my reputation as the foreigner in the group. I was the guy who showed up with the crazy guy (my best man and Cycling Sensei), the crazy guy who attacks at every effort and splits the group and causes curses in dutch all around me, and I was the poor American who got shelled out the back after 60kms and either took the broom wagon, or later learned to accept defeat and simply enjoy the solo ride back home.

    The second year I showed up for one and only one ride. I quickly learned that the B group had joined the C’s due to a lack of numbers, and this mean a ride which should be an average of 27-28kmh was now 30-31kmh. Now to some I’m sure that doesn’t mean much to some people. How much of a difference can 2kmh make right? But the amount of cursing I heard that day, the split group, the eye popping sprint off of every red light to ‘pull the average up’………and yes the inevitable pop after too many flats at 40kmh, too many hills climbed out of the saddle, too many technical sections creating that gap because your handling just isn’t up to par as the rest of the group. After that one ride I vowed not to return until I couldn’t get dropped again.

    This last year I’ve done the most mileage ever, rode through my first Belgian winter, climbed my first mountain, let alone it being the Stelvio, started a season the earliest ever with Omloop het Nieuwsblad, rode Brussels > Roubaix, did my first lap in a velodrome ever let alone the one in Roubaix, and even moved 30kms away from work to increase my commute.

    2 weeks ago I returned to the club ride, anxious and nervous, but greeted by quiet hello’s and recognition. My name was still on the roll call. I rode well, even spent some cautious time up front sharing the work before being conservative and dropping back. I even had enough left in the end to lead out the sprint, although I timed it horrible and got dropped like a sack of potatoes on a tricky paved uphill. I enjoyed the satisfaction of finally not getting dropped and sharing drinks with some strangers who still know me in a way that many friends do not. I returned home to get a call from my friend. Apparently my progress had been noticed and received a number of compliments after I left. The satisfaction was immense.

    It’s hard to articulate my feelings about being dropped. I detest it. It’s a sign of weakness, inferiority, or at times just stupidity. Other times I reassure myself it is a symptom of riding with stronger riders, that act so often encouraged as the quickest path to improvement. I guess, if nothing else, you can not appreciate the act of finally staying with the group, unless you have already been spit out the back repeatedly. I am also sure if I manage to stay with the group for too many rides, at some point I will be that crazy guy impatient and attacking off the front. I’ll start to miss being dropped as the surest measure of my efforts.

    Thanks again for the article, it struck a chord.

    Great story! I don’t think you’ll miss being dropped, but you’ll have empathy for those who do. Are you with a regular club or a team?

  31. Getting dropped, or as I like to put it, getting shit out the back.  Funny thing happened during the Monday evening races we have here in Portlandia.  I started out with my usual group (old slow a.k.a Masters 4/5) when about halfway though I decided that the two riders who had just jumped looked like they would make it stick so I tried to bridge up to them for about half a lap.  When I realized that I didn’t have the strength to get all the way across, I eased up recovered a bit and waited for the bunch.  Well, as the next group came through, I accelerated and got back in with the peleton.  It took several laps for me to realize I was now riding with the Cat 1/2/3 group.  I kept thinking that we were going way faster than before, and where were the guys I knew?.  Anyway I managed to stay out of trouble and keep up with the back of the pack until they raised the speed even more for the final lap and sprint.  Then I was spit out the back quickly.  I did get an education on what the effort feels like to maintain 45k even in the shelter of the peleton.  I will try to remember and train more to be able to sustain that level of effort in the future.  Getting dropped sometimes provides the motivation for new goals.

  32. @Rob

    and even moved 30kms away from work to increase my commute.

    Chapeau! That’s very Rule #4.

  33. @Rob

    I enjoyed the satisfaction of finally not getting dropped and sharing drinks with some strangers who still know me in a way that many friends do not.

    That is a great example of patience and transformation… Chapeau!

  34. @Marcus

    @frank they seemed to miss the bit where the guy in second – someone who is a long way from being a pure climber – pulled back half of Wiggins’ GC lead

    Based on my cured case of dirty schlecky love, I can tell you it is quite easy to overlook such things.

  35. @Beers

    @Ccos

    @frank

    “This is the problem with the peloton these days; no panache. Just racing from 5km out and calling it a day.”

    Yes yes true, but the other end of the spectrum: the endless, useless attacks (which never stick and are just able to hang off the front a bit) can be just as annoying. (Written by the guy who’s role it is to chase those down).

    Race radio has a lot to answer for. There’d be nothing like the confusion of the peleton when all the leadouts and domestiques look around for the leaders after a big accident. You could get some attacks to stick when no one in the bunch knows what the fuck is going on. And the riders have to use their own brains, rather than a DS telling them what to do with the benefit of tv coverage from the car and sources of info all the way along the course..

    SING. IT. BROTHER.

    @Ccos

    @Beers I’m speaking from a purely amateur perspective where often no one knows what the fuck is going on anyway. But yes, the inability to read a race or a fellow racer can extend up to the big boys and girls.

    Race radios do make racers mentally lazy, that’s for damn sure

    Yeah but amateur racing is also simple: always chase the break. Not so much in pro racing.

  36. @Rob

    Great article Frank. This is my 3rd season trying to ride in Belgium. The 1st year was a steep learning curve (1st time riding with any group, let alone pavé, foreign language, etc) and while my avg climbed from 24kmh to 28-29 so too did the frequency with which I was dropped. I started to feel that it was inevitable on each ride, a part of my reputation as the foreigner in the group. I was the guy who showed up with the crazy guy (my best man and Cycling Sensei), the crazy guy who attacks at every effort and splits the group and causes curses in dutch all around me, and I was the poor American who got shelled out the back after 60kms and either took the broom wagon, or later learned to accept defeat and simply enjoy the solo ride back home.

    The second year I showed up for one and only one ride. I quickly learned that the B group had joined the C’s due to a lack of numbers, and this mean a ride which should be an average of 27-28kmh was now 30-31kmh. Now to some I’m sure that doesn’t mean much to some people. How much of a difference can 2kmh make right? But the amount of cursing I heard that day, the split group, the eye popping sprint off of every red light to ‘pull the average up’………and yes the inevitable pop after too many flats at 40kmh, too many hills climbed out of the saddle, too many technical sections creating that gap because your handling just isn’t up to par as the rest of the group. After that one ride I vowed not to return until I couldn’t get dropped again.

    This last year I’ve done the most mileage ever, rode through my first Belgian winter, climbed my first mountain, let alone it being the Stelvio, started a season the earliest ever with Omloop het Nieuwsblad, rode Brussels > Roubaix, did my first lap in a velodrome ever let alone the one in Roubaix, and even moved 30kms away from work to increase my commute.

    2 weeks ago I returned to the club ride, anxious and nervous, but greeted by quiet hello’s and recognition. My name was still on the roll call. I rode well, even spent some cautious time up front sharing the work before being conservative and dropping back. I even had enough left in the end to lead out the sprint, although I timed it horrible and got dropped like a sack of potatoes on a tricky paved uphill. I enjoyed the satisfaction of finally not getting dropped and sharing drinks with some strangers who still know me in a way that many friends do not. I returned home to get a call from my friend. Apparently my progress had been noticed and received a number of compliments after I left. The satisfaction was immense.

    It’s hard to articulate my feelings about being dropped. I detest it. It’s a sign of weakness, inferiority, or at times just stupidity. Other times I reassure myself it is a symptom of riding with stronger riders, that act so often encouraged as the quickest path to improvement. I guess, if nothing else, you can not appreciate the act of finally staying with the group, unless you have already been spit out the back repeatedly. I am also sure if I manage to stay with the group for too many rides, at some point I will be that crazy guy impatient and attacking off the front. I’ll start to miss being dropped as the surest measure of my efforts.

    Thanks again for the article, it struck a chord.

    So awesome! This puts down exactly why cycling is so awesome! You out in the work and a faster rider comes out the other end. Simple as that. I’m in the work stage right now!

    thanks for the story and if you really miss getting dropped, there is always a faster group.

  37. Absolutely certain that this will be one of the articles I use to show people what this site’s about, fantastic piece Frank.

    It’s funny though, I’m only now experiencing some of those feelings after nearly 4 years riding with the same guys each weekend. The main reason is that our riding is all about the hills & my starting point (~90kgs on a 182cm frame) was so far behind their abilities as 160cm, 65kg natural climbers that had been riding for quite a few years that I had no hope of even starting to hold on. Now in the high 70’s & with 4 years of solid climbing in the guns I get the feeling that I might.just.stay.with.them.today…then snap, there goes the elastic.

    Ah well, there’s always next weekend.

  38. @Mikael Liddy

    Absolutely certain that this will be one of the articles I use to show people what this site’s about, fantastic piece Frank.

    It’s funny though, I’m only now experiencing some of those feelings after nearly 4 years riding with the same guys each weekend. The main reason is that our riding is all about the hills & my starting point (~90kgs on a 182cm frame) was so far behind their abilities as 160cm, 65kg natural climbers that had been riding for quite a few years that I had no hope of even starting to hold on. Now in the high 70″²s & with 4 years of solid climbing in the guns I get the feeling that I might.just.stay.with.them.today…then snap, there goes the elastic.

    Ah well, there’s always next weekend.

    I’ve decided that climbing is less about your strength to weight ratio than it is about your strength to V ratio. Also, always start a climb fast, and finish it fast. As for the middle, ride that fast too! (To paraphrase the prophet)

  39. @frank

    @Mikael Liddy

    Absolutely certain that this will be one of the articles I use to show people what this site’s about, fantastic piece Frank.

    It’s funny though, I’m only now experiencing some of those feelings after nearly 4 years riding with the same guys each weekend. The main reason is that our riding is all about the hills & my starting point (~90kgs on a 182cm frame) was so far behind their abilities as 160cm, 65kg natural climbers that had been riding for quite a few years that I had no hope of even starting to hold on. Now in the high 70″²s & with 4 years of solid climbing in the guns I get the feeling that I might.just.stay.with.them.today…then snap, there goes the elastic.

    Ah well, there’s always next weekend.

    I’ve decided that climbing is less about your strength to weight ratio than it is about your strength to V ratio. Also, always start a climb fast, and finish it fast. As for the middle, ride that fast too! (To paraphrase The Prophet)

    Don’t go down that road, Frank. I rode with a young buck last summer, who insisted that climbing was all about will. Bullshit: it’s all about physics. And a little biology. And throw in some chemistry. Will can keep you turning the pedals beyond your sell-by date, but it won’t speed you up the cols. The best thing your will can do for you is to shut off your mind: cogito ergo sunk.

  40. @The Grande Fondue

    I was on the wheel of a big guy and was going ok. I knew I wasn’t the only one struggling when I saw a girl we ride with dropped – she is *strong* (rode the Cape Epic) and I’ve never seen her lose a wheel before. She was dropped when the guy in front of her was gapped, and once that gap was there no one was closing it.

    That one shits me no end. When the rider in front sits up without a thought of the wheels behind. Come-on, give me a wave around before you open up a 2 meter gap, then smile and wave me on. Now I have to close that gap AND the one you were occupying, looser!!

  41. @Steampunk

    @frank

    @Mikael Liddy

    Absolutely certain that this will be one of the articles I use to show people what this site’s about, fantastic piece Frank.

    It’s funny though, I’m only now experiencing some of those feelings after nearly 4 years riding with the same guys each weekend. The main reason is that our riding is all about the hills & my starting point (~90kgs on a 182cm frame) was so far behind their abilities as 160cm, 65kg natural climbers that had been riding for quite a few years that I had no hope of even starting to hold on. Now in the high 70″²s & with 4 years of solid climbing in the guns I get the feeling that I might.just.stay.with.them.today…then snap, there goes the elastic.

    Ah well, there’s always next weekend.

    I’ve decided that climbing is less about your strength to weight ratio than it is about your strength to V ratio. Also, always start a climb fast, and finish it fast. As for the middle, ride that fast too! (To paraphrase The Prophet)

    Don’t go down that road, Frank. I rode with a young buck last summer, who insisted that climbing was all about will. Bullshit: it’s all about physics. And a little biology. And throw in some chemistry. Will can keep you turning the pedals beyond your sell-by date, but it won’t speed you up the cols. The best thing your will can do for you is to shut off your mind: cogito ergo sunk.

    Obviously you have a problem with your willpower. You might want to change up for some VVillpower.

  42. @frank

    @Mikael Liddy

    Absolutely certain that this will be one of the articles I use to show people what this site’s about, fantastic piece Frank.

    It’s funny though, I’m only now experiencing some of those feelings after nearly 4 years riding with the same guys each weekend. The main reason is that our riding is all about the hills & my starting point (~90kgs on a 182cm frame) was so far behind their abilities as 160cm, 65kg natural climbers that had been riding for quite a few years that I had no hope of even starting to hold on. Now in the high 70″²s & with 4 years of solid climbing in the guns I get the feeling that I might.just.stay.with.them.today…then snap, there goes the elastic.

    Ah well, there’s always next weekend.

    I’ve decided that climbing is less about your strength to weight ratio than it is about your strength to V ratio. Also, always start a climb fast, and finish it fast. As for the middle, ride that fast too! (To paraphrase The Prophet)

    We’ll come back to this equation when Cuddles & Nairo start tackling the big ‘uns in the next few weeks.

  43. @Lukas

    Getting dropped, or as I like to put it, getting shit out the back. Funny thing happened during the Monday evening races we have here in Portlandia. I started out with my usual group (old slow a.k.a Masters 4/5) when about halfway though I decided that the two riders who had just jumped looked like they would make it stick so I tried to bridge up to them for about half a lap. When I realized that I didn’t have the strength to get all the way across, I eased up recovered a bit and waited for the bunch. Well, as the next group came through, I accelerated and got back in with the peleton. It took several laps for me to realize I was now riding with the Cat 1/2/3 group. I kept thinking that we were going way faster than before, and where were the guys I knew?. Anyway I managed to stay out of trouble and keep up with the back of the pack until they raised the speed even more for the final lap and sprint. Then I was spit out the back quickly. I did get an education on what the effort feels like to maintain 45k even in the shelter of the peleton. I will try to remember and train more to be able to sustain that level of effort in the future. Getting dropped sometimes provides the motivation for new goals.

    Doesn’t riding with another bunch also earn you disqualification? It does around here at least.

  44. @Puffy Indeed it does.

    Since I didn’t notice right away and wait for my proper group I was DQ’d.  Once I realized, I figured the experience of hanging in with the faster riders was a good learning experience.  Painful, but educational.

  45. @wiscot

    I’m spoiled in Belgium.  I ride with a regular club out of vossem that is normally between 60-80 guys split in 3 groups.  You have your (don’t tell them) old guy group who averages 25-26 but mainly want to enjoy their ride.  I come from a triathlon background in florida, so it was great to be able to start with such a large group to learn the ins and outs at a reasonable speed.  A lot easier to learn the basic directions in vlaams, curses, techniques not to wreck the peleton when you aren’t constantly on the rivet.  You then have two other groups averaging 27-30 and 30-33kmh depending on the course and who shows up that day.

    It’s a particularly large club, and very friendly and organized, but then again it feels like here almost every village has a group of 30-40 cyclist who do at least club rides every weekend.  If the group you are with aren’t to your taste (tried a local club who averaged 19kmh for the first 15km!!) the sure answer is just to wait 30 mins and join another group who passes you.  Great for developing your pursuit skills chasing them down at 50kmh.  The belgian motorists will even normally let you get a friendly draft to help you back to the group.

    I am curious as to the difference in riding between here and the states.  90km with 6-700m elevation at 30kmh average…..what cat level does that equates to in the US?  I firmly feel its a much higher level here, but not sure how much of that is just how MANY people ride at a higher level.  I never found such large groups of similar ability and purpose in the US.  But I am also riding post accident, so everything is harder now.

  46. Excellent @frank.     Portrayed how most of my rides are ridden.  Sometimes I even drop myself on solo rides.

    Maintaining consistent form is sometimes as difficult as maintaining a wheel at the back of a ever faster bunch ride. 

    Some days your “cock of the roost”  then next and more often than not, you’re the feather duster.

    I get shitty at myself for getting dropped.  Must work harder during the week!

  47. @Dave R

    Great article and following commentary. Interesting article on the components of metntal toughness and training it found here:

    http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2014/05/the-psychology-of-mental-toughness.html

    I hope the author, or the community here, explores the subject more. And yes, the article is on a a running site, but I make two points in my preemptory defense of posting it.

    1. Cyclists know how to suffer, but they aren’t the only ones. Frank will hopefully confirm this from his Nordic ski racing days. And Alpinists may win the GC of the Tour of Suffering, which leads to the second point of my defense.

    2. I was referred to the article by a share from alpinist Steve House. I wasn’t visiting a running site!

    We don’t have a Suffering monopoly for sure. Can’t speak for running or climbing, but skiing had a limit to how much you could suffer – at a point the compression of snow keeps a lid on the suffering. The bike is limited only by how hard we go.

    And wow, the Steve House?

  48. @Lukas

    @Puffy Indeed it does.

    Since I didn’t notice right away and wait for my proper group I was DQ’d. Once I realized, I figured the experience of hanging in with the faster riders was a good learning experience. Painful, but educational.

    Yes, take the DQ over your shitty official position and learn from better riders. Good work.

  49. @Rob

    I am curious as to the difference in riding between here and the states. 90km with 6-700m elevation at 30kmh average…..what cat level does that equates to in the US? I firmly feel its a much higher level here, but not sure how much of that is just how MANY people ride at a higher level. I never found such large groups of similar ability and purpose in the US. But I am also riding post accident, so everything is harder now.

    The conventional knowledge is it is a higher level in Belgium, but those numbers don’t sound crazy. We did 100km and 2020 meters in San Francisco last weekend at 25-28 and that was just a book signing ride not a race. I think the big difference in Belgium is the depth and my feeling is the races start fast, get easier, and then go ballistic for the finale. All this said with the authority of someone who has neither lived nor raced in Belgium.

  50. @frank

    @Mikael Liddy

    Absolutely certain that this will be one of the articles I use to show people what this site’s about, fantastic piece Frank.

    It’s funny though, I’m only now experiencing some of those feelings after nearly 4 years riding with the same guys each weekend. The main reason is that our riding is all about the hills & my starting point (~90kgs on a 182cm frame) was so far behind their abilities as 160cm, 65kg natural climbers that had been riding for quite a few years that I had no hope of even starting to hold on. Now in the high 70″²s & with 4 years of solid climbing in the guns I get the feeling that I might.just.stay.with.them.today…then snap, there goes the elastic.

    Ah well, there’s always next weekend.

    I’ve decided that climbing is less about your strength to weight ratio than it is about your strength to V ratio. Also, always start a climb fast, and finish it fast. As for the middle, ride that fast too! (To paraphrase The Prophet)

    Yup that says it all. When I beat a whole pack of guys up a climb on my entry level aluminum, it’s usually not because I’m lighter but have the motivation to put in that last push to the top. Never say die.

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