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Cycling: Want to Ride Faster? It’s Simple: Make it Hurt. Right Now.


April 2014

I’m a little behind on my Tuesday club ride. I’m good as long as I stay up front… Unfortunately, I can only stay in the top three positions for ten or twelve miles before I’m cooked. The back end of the group has been so fractured lately that when I fall back there’s nowhere to hide to catch my breath so the temptation is to just stay up front and avoid the mess in the back. I go until my legs get too heavy and I’m off the back.  It happened again last night.

Now I could make excuses, I even have a good one or two, but in the end excuses won’t get me to a fitness level where I’m not crashing and having to go the rest of the ride alone.  It’s a small part tactics and a large part pain management.

All through the winter and from the start of our admittedly lousy season I’ve been content to do somewhat of a minimum.  I haven’t made my hard effort days hard enough and I’m suffering the consequences.

Last night, after getting dropped again (mostly by choice, I was tired of working so hard), I was into a terrible cross-head wind.  I caught up to a couple of guys who dropped after I did and the three of us took 1/2 mile pulls for a few before I dropped them (accidentally).  I had taken a decent pull into the wind and uphill and I just went a little too hard.  When I flared out my right arm to signal I was dropping back and for the next guy to take the reins, there was nobody there.  I looked back and the two of them were maybe 60 yards back.  I could have waited for them – hell, I wanted to wait for them, who in their right mind charges on into a 20 mph headwind when help is only 60 yards back?!  Unfortunately there is one inescapable truth here:  I’m a little slow because I’m not working hard enough.  The last thing I need is help, what I need is to get on it and build my fitness back.

I built up a pretty good lead and got stuck at a stop sign for a minute.  They were still a ways back so I went through and kept at it.  It was another three miles, where I turn to head back, that I saw a train of seven guys behind me turn for the long route (I start that next week).  With only eight miles left I could have taken it easy the rest of the way back – I still had a crosswind but there was just enough west to it to help out a little bit.  I thought for a minute about how nice it would be to relax a bit and cruise back easy…  But opted to keep the hammer down instead.  Cruising back won’t help – I’ve done enough of that this season and look where it’s gotten me, I thought.  So I hammered all the way back with the exception of a few 1/4 mile breaks when I just had to catch my breath.

The one thing I’ve learned about cycling with any speed:  I can pay me now or pay me later, but one way or another I’ve gotta pay up because if I’m not getting faster, I’m getting slower.  To an extent slow has been okay so far but it’s time to make it hurt because I’m not going through another month of getting dropped like this.

And there’s no time like the present to put that crap in the rearview.


  1. kruzmeister says:

    Although I don’t ride in a group I can completely identify with the pay now or pay later equation. I used to really despise the hard rides, but thanks to my trainer work of late I am learning to love the hurt and even looking forward to it. I know it will make me a better rider and make my race day probably no less painful, but more bearable because I’ve built up a certain level of resistence.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Your expectations are almost right on Simone… It doesn’t hurt the same. You will be better for it on race day. Good luck and thanks for commenting.

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