When I got within 30 yards I gave it one final hard effort and latched on to the last rider. Just as I sat up a bit and tried to catch my breath, he blew sky high and let a gap open.
Oh no! I had to sprint around him and get onto the guy who was now last in line. No sooner had I made it than he blew, too, and another gap opened.
This happened with 4 consecutive riders. When I finally got back to the dwindled group to stay, the finish was less than a mile away and I was so exhausted I could barely pedal, much less sprint. Needless to say, I didn’t get on the podium that day.
Sooner or later you’re going to have to play catch-up.
No matter what put you in arrears, let’s see how to get back to the friendly draft of the group using as little energy as possible. We’ll start this topic this week and finish it in Part 2 next week.
Of course, prevention is the best policy. You won’t need to chase if you don’t get left behind. Here are 3 common situations where even strong riders can get dropped:
Adding or removing clothes. If you need to stop to alter your wardrobe, you’re doomed to chasing. So learn to take off a vest, jacket or arm warmers while riding. Practice in an empty parking lot until you can ride no-hands, shed clothes and tuck them in your jersey pocket smoothly.
And practice putting everything back on again. When riding with others, always wait till you’re at the back before you do any of this. Then you won’t endanger anyone if you swerve.
Hanging around too long at rest stops. Don’t linger at aid stations. Keep one eye on the group to see how fast they are re-assembling. Fill your bottles first and then stash food in your pockets so you can eat on the bike, not at the stop, if the train departs.
Choose the porta-potty with the shortest line. Don’t chat and get distracted. There’ll be plenty of time to trade war stories when the ride is over.
Inattention. On the bike, pay attention so that you don’t let gaps open and burn energy closing them. You could get dropped not because you’re too weak to hang, but because of a lack of concentration.
This is especially true in strong crosswinds where a gap of only 10 or 15 feet can be unbridgeable.
In Part 2 next week, we’ll discuss closing gaps of less and more than 50 yards, along with other bridging tips.