No, not those kind of transitions… But forgive me for using this picture of the ‘Mark Cavendish Shadow’, Tyler Farrar. It was not purely to make a cheap and frankly rubbish joke about the title of this post. It’s more about conveying how I’ve been feeling about my fitness and cycling recently and how I’ve moved on from last year.
I spent most of last year on the bike wishing I was stronger, faster, fitter and didn’t always make it up the climbs on the club run in dead last. I would watch the riders ahead of me spinning their legs and soft pedalling to let me catch up but at the same time not rubbing it in my face that they were having to wait for me. Or they’d drop back and offer me a wheel to follow or some shelter from the wind. The type of things good friends do. It helped that I was good friends with my riding buddies, it meant I didn’t feel self conscious. Once upon a time I would’ve shyed away from long rides with strong riders for fear of feeling like the ‘weak link’ but I soon realised that riding with stronger, fitter athletes was the way to improving.
The last week and today in particular, everything fell in to place and changed for the better. The miles I put in over the winter and the 40 mile commute I am now riding rather than driving has turned me into a pedalling machine! We are a friendly, non competitive chain-gang who only really have one ‘sprint’ as we descend what we refer to as the ‘Poggio’ as we head into Sandwich, Kent. Yeah I fired a few salvo’s off the front during the ride and made a daring solo break a mile before the Poggio, only to be dragged back by the two strongest riders, but they both almost collapsed at the cafe after the effort of catching me. Finally I have the fitness to back up my desires which feels great.
This post wasn’t written to blow my own trumpet, I have Twitter for that! The most enjoyable part of today’s ride was having the strength and awareness to drop back on the longest and hardest of climbs to help one of the other riders up. He is in much the same place as I was this time last year so I just dropped back, smiled at him, he smiled back and we rode on with the rest of the gang slowly pulling away up the road. It didn’t matter to either of us though. My riding ‘shadow’ knew I was sacrificing myself to help him and I knew I could pull us back to the group. A win win situation. It felt amazing to have the ability to give something back to the group after they’d waited at the top of climbs so often for me and offered me so many wheels to cling to.
Yeah you can cycle on your own, but it’s so much more enjoyable to do it with friends. We all need a little help once in a while and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask real friends for that help. Just remember that being the domestique rather than the team leader can sometimes be more rewarding and inspirational.