It happened again.
Dawdling up a local climb – Emigration Canyon. A mild, pleasant cruise up a slight hill with a wide shoulder, conveniently located adjacent to Salt Lake City. The cocktail results in the cycling equivalent of a Screwdriver, a Whiskey Sour, a Jack & Coke – that ride everyone knows, and everyone can ride. To wit, it’s the closest Utah gets to a recreational cycling highway.
Inevitably, no matter the pace, there’s always someone going slower in Emigration. It’s perfectly fine. I’ve accepted that I generally ride faster than 99% of the population, even when I’m riding slow. Rocketing past gaggles of folks trundling the drawn-out 1,200ish feet of vertical to the summit is normal. It doesn’t bother me, and I hope it doesn’t bother them.
Except for, occasionally, The Guy, with his knees bobbling outside his slow pedalstroke like a Cossack dancer. There’s a decade-old helmet on the back of his head, and a two-sizes too-big Sierra Nevada/World Cycling jersey draped over his leathery, slightly-paunchy 45-65 year-old skeleton. His tongue is on the stem as he ekes every last ounce of power from his misaligned knees, and his unflinching rivet face is reminiscent of a powerful bowel movement. Every time I fly past The Guy, his reaction is a variation on the same theme:
“Just wait ‘till you’re my age!”
My ears bristle, and my back tinges when I hear the verbal retort of his own physical humiliation. The Guy, I have bad news: It’s not your age. When 42 year-olds (no matter how checkered their past) are winning Grand Tours, when my former coach, 20 years my senior, can ride ProTour racers off his wheel, and when Ned Overend (whose birth certificate was inked in 1955) can effortlessly drop me (and the rest of the break) in a race on an HC climb, it’s certainly not your age.
I remit to perspective: This is The Guy who’s been riding ten times a year for several eons, and is mystified by his poor performance relative to others. He’ll go home after shrieking at passersby, investigate his latest copy of Bicycling for training tips on how to improve his cadence, and likely not look at his bike for another two weeks.
But, The Guy, there’s hope. See, it’s not the age – it’s the commitment. I, and many more like me, are faster because we want to be. We put the hours in. We slave away on trainers while working full-time in the dead of winter. We leave our homes at 4 AM in a Coloradoan January with lights on our bikes and chemical handwarmers in our chamois so we can get our kids to school at 9. We suffer. We sacrifice. Belittling our suffering and sacrifice with petty excuses, excuses we didn’t want or care to hear? Magnitudes worse than just being slow up the local hill.
So, The Guy, next time one of us flies past you on the road, don’t make excuses. Smile. Return the polite “hi” I’ll toss out. Enjoy the day. Enjoy pedaling. Ride your own ride, and if it irks enough that I’m that much faster…learn to suffer. Discover the passion. Slurp it down in Super Big Gulp-sized servings. Join us, there’s still time – but don’t ever make excuses.