Riding Like the Pros. Or Not.

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There’s a professional road cycling team that lives and trains in my home town. We’ll see them out on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the steep mountain climbs that rise from the valley floor surrounding the city. They’re skinny, clad in blue and fast as hell. Having a pro cycling team in your town seems cool—and it is—it means your town has legitimate rides, worthy of the best in the business. Also, it means you’ll never get a significant KOM on Strava. It means on any given ride, no matter how good you’re feeling, you’re going to get passed by someone who’s probably just out for a casual recovery ride. It means there’s always gonna be someone faster that you living down the street. Always.

I was on a lunch ride the other day and spotted one of the pros, looking like a blueberry in his blue kit, pedaling up a long, gradual hill. He was maybe 20 yards ahead of me and meandering at a casual clip. Naturally, I decided to race him, standing and hammering into a higher gear and blowing past him about three quarters of the way up the hill, delivering a light and pithy “on your left” as I pedaled to victory. It was the single most satisfying achievement in my cycling “career.” Now, you could argue that this pro didn’t know he was in a race with a weekend warrior desperately trying to fight off middle age. And you could argue that the pro was actually slowing down as I passed him because of the red light in front of us, a red light that I blew through in my blinded quest for victory. These are valid points to make, but I’d argue that since the dawn of Strava, we’re all racing. All the time. And maybe more to the point, in Trump’s America, winning is winning, right? No matter what the circumstances? I mean, to quote DJ Khaled, “all I do is win, win, win no matter what.” At least, that one time, against an opponent who didn’t know he was in a race, and was slowing down to obey traffic laws, all I did was win, win, win no matter what. Pretty much every other time, those lyrics don’t apply to me.

Of course, on my ride today, I was put back in my place. I was in the midst of a brutal climb, suffering and sweating onto my handlebars and generally wondering why I don’t just play golf when another pro from the same team came breezing past me. She wasn’t working too hard. Wasn’t really sweating at all. I think she had a bagel in one hand, but I couldn’t be sure because she blew by me so fast. She may as well have tapped me on the ass and said, “good job, little buddy.”

Order was restored. The speedy blueberries are back on top and I’m way, way down towards the bottom.

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