The gift of not being left behind
I knew early on I had no business riding with this group, even though they’re teammates. I could feel it in my legs in the first five miles, and my power and heart rate numbers confirmed that I was on an unsustainable path. It was a 60 mile ride organized by two of my teammates, Scott and Clay, and they had accurately billed it as “spirited,” with a target of a 20 mph average speed. My initial plan had been to do an easy ride. But the temptation of riding on some of my favorite roads with a good group of teammates was too much to resist. So I went, kidding myself that I would try to do as little work as possible, hoping to strike a balance between a nice long ride and the endurance pace I had planned on.
About 30 miles in we were cruising down Bucks Valley Road, which seems harmless enough since it’s even got “valley” in its name. But my body told me it was done. I had just taken a pull, and when I drifted to the back I kept drifting. It was a decision I had no role in, and whether I wanted to catch on to the back of the group was irrelevant. The engine room was on strike.
Clay saw that I was off the back and moved to the front to dial the effort back. I caught back on.
“Thanks, but y’all roll on. I know these roads. If I come off the back again just keep going,” I told him. But he was having none of it. “We’re teammates and we’re going to keep the group together,” he said.
I tried again. “Look, this was advertised as a 20 mph ride; y’all ought to ride that pace. I’ll be fine. I insist.” He was adamant. “We’re keeping the group together.”
Typically on a ride that isn’t billed as a “no drop” ride you’re on your own. If you can’t hang with the group, you’re responsible for getting home on your own. There’s no ill intent; on those rides the pace isn’t a function of the slowest common denominator. You ride the group’s pace or you ride your own pace — on your own. That’s the deal.
I’m usually adamant in a big group that if I come off the back I’d rather be left than have the group wait or ride slower. And I usually don’t get an argument.
But today was different. Maybe it was because it was a small group, and all but one of us ride for the same team. Maybe it’s because Clay is a Special Forces vet, although this would definitely qualify as the lowest stakes example of “leave no man behind.” We stayed together and had a great ride; I hope everyone else got what they needed out of it.
What I got was a gift of 30 more miles with teammates; I did some work on the back half of the ride but probably less than my fair share. Another gift.
It’s something I’ll remember, on and off the bike, when someone’s being left behind. It usually doesn’t cost much in time or effort to drop back and offer to take a little more than your share of the work.
The ride: Scott and Clay's spirited ride