The feeling of riding in a group is a unique experience. Dangerous sometimes, but always exhilarating. It's not just the opportunity to chat and get to meet other cyclists: it's something more purely physical, that does not have equal in most other sports. In cycling the pack is alive and dynamic. There's strategy and rivalry but also mutual help and support. Some of it is aerodynamics. But there is more.
Every ride is different, with its unique story. The race to win the sprint, the unfortunate crash. Saturday a kid on a beautiful carbon Time went down on the pavement. It looked like a hard landing, but he bounced back up easily, like I think I remember doing at his age. Nowadays they'd have to scoop me up and reassemble. We stopped, picked him up, gave directions to his parents to retrieve him.
Then the rush for the sprint. I would not get there until much later. As we descended the last hill I saw people whizzing by, going around me. I looked behind. No one was there. I was the last one. Then the gap increased beyond the magic distance that glues us together like a 30mph multi-wheeled and multi-headed monster machine. I felt a slap in my face, it was just the wind, which I was left to literally fend for myself. I saw the group getting farther and farther away, and a couple of red lights later, I was all alone.
As Chris Carmichael puts it, never sleep:
Field splits often happen because the riders in the front accelerate and someone who’s not paying attention doesn’t realize he has to speed up until it’s too late. He’s too slow to react because he was only watching the wheel ahead of him and failed to anticipate the acceleration.I'm that guy, and that's one of my reasons to be there Saturday mornings. I don't want to be that guy in the 66 miles of rolling hills that precede the ascent to the Tourmalet. I want to be the guy that rides in the group, saving strength for what has still to come.