The Indignity of the Drop – Hammering With the Group Ride
The group ride. All cyclists who put on big miles will join one eventually, and nearly all of us will suffer the indignity of getting dropped at one time or another. Or in my case, many times.
I am not looking for pity. In fact, I fully welcome the acknowledgement of my limitations – it kind of eases the pressure of desiring increased athletic performance despite the inevitable increasing of my age. As I reflect upon my participation (participation being a humungous stretch) in Thursday night group rides, the giant slice of humble pie sitting upon my plate is expected and accepted without much bruising to the ego.
Nevertheless, every once in a while I’ll work up the confidence to actually show up to the open invitation to the Thursday night group ride in Fish Creek. (All are welcome. The group meets in the church parking lot right next to Nor Door Sport and Cyclery at 5:30 p.m.)
For some reason my brain tells me I can hang with the pack, only for my legs to begin disagreeing about an hour into the ride. I usually fall off the back of the pack – or in less dignified terms, I get dropped – as we ride HWY Q at a pace my computer only sees on the steepest of down-hills.
And as such my group ride turns into a solo venture as the rolling train of cyclists ahead of me becomes a smaller and smaller image in the distance.
Some of the regulars in this group ride are close to twice my age, but upon a bicycle they become other-worldly. There have been numerous occasions in which a blur of Medicare-eligible spandex has churned by me, I am convinced these men are simply cut from a different cloth.
These men must wake at dawn, chop down a tree with handmade tools, and then consume a dozen raw eggs. They grow a beard overnight, whereas my three-week old patchwork beard would be better suited upon a pimply face in 8th grade class picture.
More power to them. Sure, I wish I could hang with them and lead the peloton up Townline Road, but that’s not going to happen, and I move on (just at a little bit slower speed, mind you).
It all makes sense too. Door County must be considered a cycling destination; for everyone seeking a casual ride to the beach to those participating in the three century rides held on our peninsula. As a result, there will of course be those who can hammer for hours on end, taking full advantage of the long expanses of back roads where cars are the exception.
While my abilities fall somewhere in the middle, it’s harmless fun to think big once in a while and try to hang with the big dogs, even as I always fall back to earth quickly as the relentless orbiting of pedals becomes too much for me to bear.
On a distant Thursday night I will show up again, half thinking this time will be different, half knowing I will fail. It’s been said that it’s good to continually challenge oneself, and this physical test will always be a certain challenge for a cyclist of my form.
The Thursday night group ride beckons and all are welcome. Perhaps we will ride together as we do in our fantasies; killing it down HWY B on the way to Sturgeon Bay. Or perhaps we will fall off the back, no worse for the wear, and gladly cruise the county at our own pace.