Getting Your Legs . . . Keeping Your Legs

“Off the back!” Someone yelled, accompanied by a shrill whistle. I sit up again and slow my cadence. It has been the third time, just about every 10-12 miles or so. This ride lasted a little over 70 miles, and the whistling never stopped.

It is that time of year again. The weather is warming, and text messages begin to pour in, announcing invitations to group rides. Don’t get me wrong. I am excited, but again . . . it is that time of year again. To explain, I refer back to yesterday’s ride. I don’t mind sitting up for someone who may not climb well or had some kind of problem during the ride. I’ve been there and was grateful for the kindness of others. Here’s what bothers me: the excuses.

The main excuse during this time of year is that it is early in the year. Correct you are, sir. It is early in the cycling season, but I ride all year long. In addition to my riding, I cross train with Cross Fit to build core and leg strength in the colder months. But I don’t stop riding. I call it keeping my legs. I am not an elitist. I understand injury or problems that come up to prevent proper training. But every year, up and down the line, I hear how it is early in the season. The groups are mixed, and the guys who have put on a few pounds and blowing like a fat man in a 5k are nice and likable men who make it hard to chastise, so we sit up and slow the cadence.

I find it difficult to understand how cyclists (broad catagory), who claim to love riding, just stop riding for a period of time and then come back in mid-March and ask others to slow their cadence. I have worked hard in the off season and excited about the warm weather and where I am “early in the year.” I have concluded during these early rides that there are three kinds of riders: cyclists, seasonal pounders, and bicycle enthusiasts. Allow me to explain with crude definitions.

Cyclists: think about how to ride better, ride no matter what, no matter the season, and will sometimes point out gravel when walking in a crowd with friends.

Seasonal Pounders: slightly below the cyclist, lacking the determination and discipline to ride year round and insulating the mid-section instead of working to hone and strengthen the body in the “off season” . . . a term often used by this rider.

Bicycle Enthusiasts: enjoy having the newest bike and the newest equipment, ride when the sun is out (warm) and the wind is at bay, and talk a lot about everything but cycling (unless it has to do with the bike the rider is currently using). Don’t be shocked to see a team kit, every now and again either.

Of course, there are various combinations of these three. Keeping your legs throughout the year is demanding but rewarding. I realize that I may get a comment or two in relation to the pros getting their “form” back at the first of the season, but that is not what I’m addressing. Form is a totally different animal than . . . well, lying on the couch all winter and then hopping on a bike when it warms. Although some pros do show up at training camp in rough shape and are criticized for it, the big dogs seen on the podiums in the early season didn’t wait until the last minute to whip into shape, and I doubt that they whistled during camp and yelled, “Off the back!”



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