A few months ago I went for a ride with the local road cycling group here in New Plymouth. As I rode from my house to the mustering point I reflected on the cheery weather and quiet roads. I was recently off tour so I was in good shape, I felt confident in my ability and felt quite fast. Then I remembered a wise saying; ‘no one likes a show-off’.
If I was going to make friends I’d better just take it steady and settle into the ride, they might not be that fast. Up hills, I thought, I would pretend I was working a little harder than I was and gently encourage any stragglers. Just a bit of first day politics until I got to know people.
A small group of 8, we began at a steady pace whilst we jostled into formation – that was the end of taking it easy. Suddenly we dashed across a few major roads over a roundabout and woosh, we hit a side road at about a million miles an hour and just kept going. The rest of the 50 mile ride I spent desperately tucked into the slipstream of the peloton, furiously spinning my legs in awe of the 60 year old beside me. The only few words I manage to splutter between strained breaths were “wow ‘gasp’ this is ‘gasp’ pretty ‘gasp’ fast”… These guys were serious! They were so serious that in 50 miles they forgot to have a coffee break, a beer stop and lunch! By the time I got home my (until now) secret recipe of chicken and pasta tortillas with homemade mayonnaise and cheese (seasoned to perfection), were steam cooked from sitting on my back in my jersey pocket. These guys even pedaled downhill on the picturesque sections, rather than taking in the terrific views of Mt. Taranaki.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to cycle hard too, but not on a Sunday club run and certainly not without breaks. I didn’t really get to speak to anyone, I made no friends and I was starving from about mile 30 onwards. I might have been able to snack on my tortillas, but if I’d eased off for a second to grab them and unwrap them, I’d be left in the dust. Even if I’d got that far I had no time to swallow – I would have choked to death. I still wonder; where was the fun in that ride? In hindsight I probably should have just broken away from the pack and headed towards the nearest macchiato and scone, but I stuck with it until the end and watched with faint amusement as everyone quickly dispersed in opposite directions back to their homes.
This was the first time since being in New Zealand I really missed cycling with friends back home. Maniac cycle clubs, few back roads, no pubs and certainly no beer gardens in New Zealand really takes it’s toll on a European like me.
What do you think, is that normal for a Sunday ride or not, what’s your prefered pace and routine for a bike ride?