I HAVE A confession to make. The first time we rode together, I wanted you to drop me.
I was tentatively re- exploring cycling after breaking my jaw in a spectacularly stupid low-speed crash. I had never called myself a cyclist, didn’t ride in a group (or with anyone at all, for that matter), and worried constantly about landing on the pavement and accumulating more dental bills.
You were an unassuming guy a few years older than my dad, with a triple crankset and – I say this with love – a geeky helmet mirror. I’d met you outside a portaloo where I was on vacation with my husband, Dan. And you were kicking my ass.
As we started up that big hill, my legs slowly imploded. I silently begged you to leave me to suffer alone: truly, I’ve never tried so hard to get dropped. But you matched my glacial pace and seemed content to casually narrate your life story, despite the fact that I offered only a few breathless grunts of acknowledgement in return.
After two hours, I’d learned that you had a wife named Ginnie, and usually rode with someone named Amy, who had a cold that day. I’d stopped trying to get dropped – it wasn’t working; and besides, you were a good, steady wheel. You pointed out every patch of gravel, and your helmet mirror spotted crazy drivers miles away. For once, I forgot my dental bills and just rode. When I finally announced my intention to go back to my hotel for a nap, you gave me your email address, shook my hand, and said, “You’re a really strong rider, Kate. Hope to see you out here again.” I spun off, feeling a bit dazed. I’m a what? A strong what? A strong rider. I’m a rider.
Thanks for keeping in touch, following me on Strava, and giving me kudos for every ride until I made it back the following winter. Thanks for hosting me and Dan at your house, and for making room for my bike in the Prius; thanks also to Ginnie for all the waffles, and to Amy for the descending tips. Thanks for handing down your carbon pedals, giving me my titanium skewers, and helping Dan pick out my Christmas power meter.
Thanks for prepping me for my first real road race and for convincing me that I could finish.
And thanks fornot dropping me.