The worst feeling in cycling


It is probably the most heart-rending sight for any cyclist. That view of the back of the bunch as it pedals steadfastly away from you.

The past 10 minutes have been spent riding so hard it feels like your eyeballs are going to pop out and that’s just so you can hang onto the back of the bunch.

The invisible piece of elastic which held your front wheel to the rear wheel in front of you has stretched so many times that it finally breaks.

You are in quicksand. Every cell in your body yearns to be part of that group, that fast-moving beast, as it goes effortlessly up the road while your legs and lungs can only drag you backwards.

You pace drops away alarmingly, at the same rate as your spirits.

From riding on the rivet at 42kmh you are suddenly struggling to crack 25kmh.You are physically and mentally broken. Even if Liz Hatch and Vic Pendleton were in that group up ahead you still wouldn’t be able to force your legs to go up and down any faster to give chase.

You’re now solo.

The only person at the school disco without a dance partner. The last kid to get picked for the team. Standing at a taxi stand at 3am with no taxis in sight.

The good news — the immediate pain is over, but it’s replaced with a new agony. You are no longer trying to keep up with the pack, you retreat into surival mode.

Each corner you take brings a new embarrasment as the brightness of the marshall’s hi-vis vest is matched by the blush of your shame.


It carries with it the sound of a fourth-form party, the messy break up to a three-week tweenie romance.

And while those first brushes with the opposite sex generally ended in tear-jerking heartbreak, this feels no better.

These are the moments that try to break your fledgling cycling career. Dropped from the back of C grade little more than halfway through the race.

It’s raining and the wind is blowing. By the time you roll through to the finish at McQuarrie St, most of the riders have gone home.

The finishing line has been taken away.

That’s for the guys at the other end of the race, the ones shaped more like javelins than cabers, the ones who don’t resemble a fridge balancing badly on a bike.

But one day you won’t get dropped. One day you will look up to realise the finish line is in sight and you are still swinging around on the back of that bunch like the cans on the back of a car emblazoned with the words ‘‘Just Married’’.

The next week you might even take a couple of laps on the front, immediately wondering why you bothered, but with an odd sense of achievement.And next summer you might even contest a sprint up the same McQuarrie St you once rolled down with your battered pride dragging like a fallen parachute behind you.

If we learn more from losing than winning, you surely learn your biggest lesson when you get dropped. It’s a hard class, but it’s one that has to be taken.

Cycling 101.



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