Dear Jef,

Bicycling (South Africa) - - ASK - KATE UR­BAN is a writer, ed­i­tor, run­ner and cy­clist. JEF CHAD­WICK lives and rides in Cal­i­for­nia.

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.

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