We dropped a noob last night. On purpose. Damn Time Trial bike, again. Now I know you ninnies out there are going to complain that we should take him under our collective wings because, after all, it takes a peloton to raise a cyclist… What a load of crap… Allow me to explain.
It was cold and ridiculously windy yesterday evening. The wind was out of the north and it was down right gnarly.
Story of my cycling life. I took too many turns up front, pulled too long… Geez, we might have to get the bow-chicka-wow-wow music going. That doesn’t sound good at all.
Anyway, the second we got a helping wind, the pace went through the roof. Damn, it was so fast. I couldn’t even hazard a look at my computer. I tried to stay on the back after a decent turn up front but I was totally red-lined. I managed a few miles, but when one of the racers motioned me up, I simply huffed, “Can’t do it, I’m maxed out, brother.”
I scanned the crew that was left… My friends were mostly all gone off the back already. All but one. I sat up. Just too much.
I soft pedaled for about a half-mile to catch my breath and let my friends catch me. I tucked in to the back and we set our own pace, about 24-25 mph. I had big Joe behind me and we had the first hill coming up in a few miles so when I hit the front at 23-1/2 mph, I held it for a minute and started cranking the speed up. 24, 25… a mile into my turn. 26. I was feeling really good. 27 mph and I held it there for, geez it had to be two miles, all told it was a crazy-long pull. I had a goal though… Big Joe was next in line and he struggles a little bit on the hills so I figured if I could get him up to the start of the hills, he could control the speed of the climb. It didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped, but he made it through the first set just fine.
Unfortunately we’d also picked up that dude on the TT bike. We went from a well-oiled wind-breaking machine of an echelon to a discombooberated mess within two miles. Such is the case when you’ve got a noob who has absolutely no clue where to be in a group – then, throw that noob on a TT bike and put simply, it’s a crash waiting to happen. To make matters worse, we’d picked up a second noob who was rightly afraid of TT-guy, so Noob #2 was always out of position trying to figure out where he should be without stepping on the toes of TT-guy. Add a 15-20 mph crosswind and you can imagine how messy things got.
Leading into the third set of hills, it looked like Matt (the most accomplished cyclist among us) had enough… He stepped on the gas, hard. I caught it, Mike, Joe and Phill did too but the two noobs were left in the dust. It was the perfect use of a hill for an attack against a guy on a TT bike – we formed a gap because he was in too tough a gear to counter the charge up the hill and I’d imagine that he probably even mis-shifted before he finally did try to go. The second noob, was an unfortunate casualty.
After the attack, the five of us formed up again and we were able to work together again but it took a minute for Phill to catch up so we had to soft-pedal to let him catch up on the way down a nice little hill. TT-guy used the opportunity to catch us – he wasn’t as far off as we’d thought. Dammit.
The next three miles were an exercise in patience. TT-guy was always out of position, decided he was too tired so he wanted to ride on the aero bars in the middle of our pace line and was getting bucked around by the headwind like a Frankie First Year giving bronco riding a try on a bet. I was feeling rather strong still so I rode up next to him, at 21 mph into a 20 mph headwind, and asked him, “You don’t ride much with other people, do you?” He responded, “No, I do triathlons mostly.” All of a sudden everything makes sense. Over the course of the next two miles, and during his pull, I tried in the nicest terms I was able to muster under the conditions, how group rides work. I pointed out how the echelons work in the wind, why he struggled so much riding out of position, and most important, how his being out of position and in the wrong gear all of the time was screwing up everybody else’s ride. After his pull, I started to head back for a bit of a rest… I let TT-guy in and took up position behind him so I could continue the lesson. Every time he started to drift out of position, I let him know what he was doing. The meant eating a lot of wind as we’d turned east and had a nasty crosswind from the left – with his erratic riding, I simply wouldn’t risk having him crash me to explain how group rides work…
All of a sudden, out of nowhere he veered hard to the right and I said, “See, now if I wasn’t off of your rear wheel, chewing on wind so you can ride with us, you’d have taken out my front wheel and I’d be getting a ride home in an ambulance.” He was fifth position in a six man echelon, down in the f@ckin’ aero bars, and he got hit by a gust of wind because he was out of position.
Folks, it’s that simple and can happen that fast at the speeds we commonly ride at – and that’s exactly why people who ride TT bikes in a club get a bad wrap. They insist, at the beginning of a ride, that they know what’s going on and where they can ride in the aero bars and where they can’t but as soon as they start to tire out a little bit, as soon as the going gets a little tough, BAM, one of us is on the ground with a cracked spleen. They’re not all this bad though. I ride with another guy, Rob, who actually is quite the accomplished Time Trialist. He, is never out of position, only rides in the aero position at the front or well off the back, and regularly helps stragglers who let a gap from back to the group. So we must be cautious, as I was reminded of just this morning as a matter of fact, to refrain from the knee-jerk reaction that all TT cyclists suck in a group. That is most definitely not the case.
After the ride, that’s when I really went to work on TT-guy though. I explained some of the parts of the ride that he might have missed. As an example, I said, “Now do you remember on the way up that one hill where you got dropped?”
He interjected, “Yeah, I’m not very good on hills.”
I cut in, “I know you aren’t – we all do, and that’s specifically why we attacked on that hill. We dropped you on purpose because you’re not safe to ride with.”
He laughed and gave me a joking chuck on the shoulder and added, “Get outta here.”
I said, “No, I’m being dead serious here. We dropped you on purpose because you’re not safe to ride with. Look man, at the end of the day, when the ride is over, I have two small kids and a wife, I don’t need any of them changing my diaper because a noob crashed me on the club ride because he doesn’t know how to ride his bike.”
And therein lies the rub, folks. You’ve got a noob, on the wrong bike, riding with the wrong group (the advanced group), who can’t even hold a straight line (let alone a position in a pace line. Fortunately, I did finally break through the layers and got him to understand, there are two places that he should be in a pace line right now. Either at the front in his aerobars or at the very back of the pack on his handlebar ends. That’s it, until he buys a road bike.
Suckiest ride I’ve had all year.