Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The art of sitting in?

Not all things change with time…

So, I’m another year older. The day of my birth has come and gone, and, compared to last year, (the meeting of a new decade), somewhat mellow. I raced my bike with my great ‘new’ team.

You see, these guys have been cyclists all of their lives, wether or not they were racing bikes. We all started in our wee years, with bony knees, dink marks from the chain (see my earlier post) on our legs, and appetites that could, and should have, put any steady income earning family into the poor house.

We’ve all decided to come back to this element of racing (we all have ridden, some) at the same time, and thought, heck, let’s get the old team together. Kind of like the Blues Brothers’ getting the band together, but with more colorful clothing and shaved legs. The racing has been hard, but always fun after the fact when we’ve held on, been up there, and most importantly, involved in the race.

That’s where I have some concern. You see, even after YEARS away from the sport, some things haven’t changed. Some for the better, some not so much. I’m talking about non-aggressive racing. Sitting in. Sucking wheel and sprinting.

This so called ‘tactic’ is, and always will be, an unfortunate element of bike racing. It’s very specific to cycling, as I can’t think of another sport where a person of less strength can simply use others for the benefit of a high placing. Sure, in running there is some draft, but you are still working pretty stinking hard. Cycling provides a good 40% less effort when sitting in the pack, snug as a snail in the dirt.

It’s not a bad way to get placed in the top of a race. Think about it, hold on in the comfort of the pack, sprint for 500 meters, take home prizes.

But let’s put this into perspective here…

What is at stake in a local race? Are careers on the line? Pro contracts waiting for the victor of a small club race? Don’t think so. Aren’t we paying for the chance to compete? So then, why not COMPETE with some effort? Sitting in simply doesn’t make better bike racers. It is a way to do little to the overall event, and makes for some pretty good grumblings along the way from your fellow competitors.

Do yourself a favor, try the front. If you’re going to die a quick death (like I did last night) time your efforts, but make an effort just the same. I’ve always felt that to attack and go down in a blaze of lactic fueled glory is far better than a pack sprint for tenth place. Or even first place, for that matter.

Friends don’t let friends suck.


  1. Pat,

    Awesome post...I really could not have said any better. I have seen this and have felt the same way. That being not understanding what fun there is in not being a "part" of a race. I understand why some people want to sit in and hold on for dear life. But then, when they wait until the last 1k, or 200 meters to show their face at the front does not seem right. That to me is not racing. That is waiting until the end. The glory and excitement in a cycling race is the race itself. The color of the ribbon at the end does not indicate much at all in training races.

    Nice work this week and happy birthday.


  2. Racing with you guys, while hanging on for dear life at always entertaining.

    I'd like to race myself from a year ago.
    Wait,, that'd be boring and over in seconds. My old self was in the "D" Pack.

  3. Nice post Pat. When I was racing in France, my team told me very harshly that they would prefer me to be attacking and off the front the entire race only to be caught just before the line, than to sit in and win the sprint without doing a lick of work. Further more, if I were to miss the breaks and ended up with a group of riders who were more concerned with not being beat by anyone in their particular group than actually trying to rejoin the race, then I should pull out and train by myself.
    More importantly though, if you speak to Chris, let him know that my dogs love the chicken soup dog food! Thanks Chris!

  4. Well said!
    I'm interested in joining your cycling club. Are you guys taking on new members? I'm moving up to the A pack and looking for a team (I'm the guy on the green 'cross bike).