We’ve all been there. You’ve just taken a meaty pull into a brutal headwind. Your face is covered in a moist sticky film of sweat and snot. You swing over as the next wanker pulls through, and the group ride strings back in a single file twenty riders long before it bunches up and becomes the raggedy rear end, where the baby seals cower at the back and cling to one another for protection as they seek to forestall being clubbed to death.
You slide five or six wheels down the line and motion for the wanker next to you to let you in so you can move back up in the rotation. You don’t want to drift twenty wheels back because it will take forever to get to the front again; most of the riders after the tenth wheel will never pull through anyway. It’s just a stupid group ride or oxymoron “training race,” insignificant even in the already COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT WORLD of bike racing.
So you wave, or point, or look at the rider next to you. He sees you but doesn’t look at you. And he refuses to let you in. You drop back another wheel. Same thing. Pretty soon you’re at the raggedy rear with the baby seals.
None of the wankers who refused to let you in has ever pulled through. They’ve either gotten “near” the front before swinging over and drifting back, or they’ve gapped out and forced everyone else to pound by and close the widening space, or, best of all, they’ve called it a day and gone home.
You? You’re stuck grinding your way back up to the front, closing gaps, coming around guys into the wind or passing them leeward in the gutter just so you can get to the front and take a pull.
You’ve been in this next one, too. You’re in the last mile or two of the Tuesday morning/evening ride. Somehow you managed to get on Pork Loins’s wheel, the one dude in the group whose wheel everyone is desperate to have. He’s massive, providing the Cadillac draft of all drafts. He’s fast, able to wind it up to the finish at such a high speed that whoever comes around him, if they can come around him, always gets the vee.
You never get Pork Loins’s wheel because you’re not willing to kill for it, but today you got lucky and it’s going to be a full-bore launch to the line and for once in your life you’ve been guaranteed a win. You’re not much of a sprunter, or a clumber, or a time trailer, and today is your day.
With 500 meters to go, some dude charges over and tries to take the wheel. The only way you’re going to keep it is by bumping, maybe grinding a little, and muscling him back out. By now it’s full throttle and the popcorn’s popping and the baby seals are getting clubbed right and left and thrown to the wayside and it’s getting more argy-bargy by the minute, but you’re still locked onto Pork Loins and therefore have the guarantee of victory but this dude with the rock hard shoulder and the dragon tattoo keeps coming over and in a split second you have to decide this one thing:
“Is the thrill of winning the group ride worth the risk, which is increasing by the millisecond, of getting tangled up and hitting the asphalt and getting run over by all these other idiots and starting the day with head-to-tail road rash or, better yet, in an ambulance?”
So you let Dragon Dude take the wheel, and suddenly you’re pushed out of the draft and are face to face with that 38 mph wind which slings you backwards at the exact moment that all the other idiots surge forward for the final two hundred meter victory lunge, a pointless lunge because Dragon Dude has it by a country mile. Of course he does. He’s the one who got the wheel of Pork Loins.
That shoulda been you. But you know what? It wasn’t.