Friday Group Ride #112

I’m sure it is a sacrilege to take up any time, this close to Paris-Roubaix, discussing anything other than who will win over the cobbles of Northern France, but sacrilege is kinda my thing, so today we’re going to talk about a conundrum I recently faced while riding my mountain bike with some friends.

The morning was pretty perfect for a trail ride, cool and crisp. I showed up a few minutes early and scared some deer in a meadow near the trail head. All seemed right with the world.

Then the guys showed up, and I realized I must have left my legs at home. I was immediately and for no obvious reason in the red. I’d ridden a fast gravel ride with them a few nights before, and my legs were dead. Sure, I’d failed to spin it out the following day, but I figured I’d had enough time to recover.

I did my best to follow a wheel, but pretty quickly I was off the back (OTB) and just trying to limit the damage, i.e. not lose them in the woods and/or throw up.

I kept it together reasonably well, and pretty quickly the time to head to work came upon us. The guys wanted to do one last loop up a steep climb before heading out. In my head I was thinking, “You’ll never make it up that climb,” and then, “It’s not a tragedy if you bail on the climb,” and then, “It’s so lame if you bail on the climb,” those three thoughts running in series, over and over as we wound our way back toward the foot of the hill.

I should add, at this point, that the climb itself is not that hard. I’ve ridden it a thousand times. Sometimes I’ve even ridden it just to see how fast I could do it. It’s probably 2-3 minutes of hard work, and the reward on the other side is a twisty, fast descent that most would term, “fun.”

It would also be overly dramatic to call this some sort of ontological crisis, but I found myself wondering immediately what you guys would think. What should I have done? Swallowed hard at the bile creeping up the back of my throat and willed myself up the incline? Or made an excuse and ridden off on my merry, shattered way? Never mind what I actually did. What would YOU have done?

Oh, and since it is actually the Friday before Roubaix, you can go ahead and pick a winner, too. We’ll have an FGR two-fer!

Follow me on Twitter @thebicyclerobot.

Photo courtesy of Matt O’Keefe.

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  1. andrew

    I threw out my pride a long time ago, seemed to get in the way quite often. I’d have told them to have fun and made my shattered way home.

  2. Nick Hand

    I would have gone through all the same thoughts as you, and then I would have done the climb. The feeling of accomplishment on the other side would outweigh the pain on the way up.

  3. Jakula

    Well, as we’re already at the bottom of the climb, and you do say it’s a fun descent after only a few minutes of work, I’d have to say I’d take the hill. I think the run descent would give a good hue to the rest of the day.
    Oh, and I think Thor will show up with a win in Roubaix.

  4. troutdreams

    Reach around into my back pocket. Grab the cell phone or even a power bar will do if your gloves are big enough to provide cover.
    Place said object to ear, stare off into the trees and recite the following lines with a look of genuine concern:
    “Hello”. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding…no….I’ll be right in.”

  5. Craig

    It depends. If I’m out riding for fun or recovery, I would have gone home when no longer fun. If I’m out training, I would have done the hill knowing the short suffering would make me stronger. Roubaix this weekend…would like to see Boonen with a back-to-back Classics win.

  6. andrew

    I would have done it, or at least tried to. I’ve never regretted suffering over a climb, or failing to get to the top. But I have definitely regretted not attempting it.

    I say Thor.

  7. grolby

    I’ve done both, bailed and sucked it up, and if I’ve regretted chickening out, I’ve really regretted cramping and/or bonking 20 miles from home. But sometimes it works out. I think I’ll be making the wrong decision on this for the rest of my life, you just can’t figure it out.

    As for Paris-Roubaix, it’s very, very difficult to see past Tom Boonen. I will make a back-up pick of Pozzato, and a dark horse pick (well, kinda) of Sylvain Chavanel. But I think Boonen is looking very likely to do a very unique double – one where he ties the record number of wins for Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in a single week.

  8. SusanJane

    I’m for the phone/powerbar option!

    Tom really isn’t riding that strong. I’m not saying he won’t win but I do think it will be hotly contested.

  9. David Schroeder

    There’s no wrong answer to that one. Some days you got it, some days you don’t. In the same scenario as yours, if time permitted I’d have given it a go. If I really couldn’t make it up I’d have bailed. But I’d probably given everything I had to try and make it.

    I think it’s Boonen’s year. He’ll take Roubaix.

  10. Tom

    Hoping Thor has been playing dead and can come in with a strong performance. That said, “Boonen.”

    I’ve bailed and not bailed. I’ve been glad and regretted. Every time is different. Usually, though, too much testosterone means I go for it.

  11. Nick

    Depends what your goals are I think. If you race, pretty much every coach I’ve worked with would say if you feel like crap, pack it in; pushing yourself while in that state slows you down in the long run. If you just ride for the glorious fun of futzing around with your friends, then do what’s going to make you happiest.

  12. steve

    what doesn’t kill us….gotta do the hill. Especially in Hell of the North Week.

    Taylor Phinney surprise win.

  13. steve

    Oh Jeez Robot, don’t take yourself so seriously! Just do the climb! (Didn’t you say the descent was “fun”?)
    Really, if you’re not training for Nationals or districts you should be able to recover in a couple of days even if you bonk. Besides, “to suffer is to learn”, right?
    As to Roubaix, it’s a damned shame that we don’t have the likes of Musseuw or Cancellara to drive this bunch home. Maybe it’s time for Sagan or some of the other young bucks to get over their self-doubt and risk it all to win it or lose it.
    Still would be great to see an old timer like George or Stuey bring it home though.

  14. Dan O

    No wrong answer on this one. Bail and head home early, or climb and suffer off the back. Everybody has bad and good days on the bike, and anyone who’s ridden awhile knows that.

    Still, you mentioned “fun” twisty decent? That’s worth a few minutes of solo suffering, anytime…

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