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Top Ten Ways to get Dropped ...

Group ride pacelineThis week I got dropped yet again on our Tuesday evening Farmers Market group ride.  Every cyclist who has ridden with a group knows the feeling of getting dropped.  The agony of seeing the group pull away while you pour every last ounce of energy into a vain attempt to catch back on.

If experience is the best teacher I am an expert in getting dropped.  Here are my “Top Ten Ways to Get Dropped”.

  1. The Hill Drop.  When the road goes up there is no more hiding in the draft.  The “level playing field” is gone.  The best climbers will move forward while the rest of us struggle off the back.  The Hill Drop is the most familiar way to get dropped.  It is also the least frustrating; either you got it or you don’t.  It’s pure physics:power-to-weight ratio. Riders know their abilities and accept the inevitable.

  2. The Group Drop.  You may be riding comfortably behind the rider in front of you while somewhere up the line a gap is growing.  You may not even be aware that you have been dropped.  If you have the strength you might be able to move up the line and bridge the gap, but more often than not you’re trapped with your fellow drop-ees.

  3. The Pull Too Hard Drop.  The group is working well together and you’re moving up the line awaiting your turn to pull at the front.  The pace is fast but you feel good. The lead rider pulls off and you’re now pulling the train.  It’s exhilarating. You lift the pace a little. You want to do your part and contribute to the success of the pace-line.  As your heart pounds and your legs tire you pull off to let the next rider through.  You feel proud of the effort you put in.  You drift down the line while taking a well earned drink. Some of the riders passing through acknowledge your “good pull”.  The last rider passes and you slide in behind anticipating the benefit of the draft.  But… you’re heart is still racing and you can’t catch your breath.  The group seems to have accelerated. You haven’t recovered from your effort at the front and you can’t keep up. The gap forms.  There is nothing you can do but watch the group ride away. 

  4. The Intersection Traffic Drop.  The group comes to an intersection.  The road is clear at first and some of the riders get across.  But traffic comes which prevents all of the riders from getting through.  Once the traffic clears you cross the road only to realize that the first group has not waited.  In some cases they may have actually gone harder to take advantage of the gap. This is unfair and violates cycling courtesy.   

  5. Traffic Light Drop.  This is very similar to #4 The Intersection Drop.  Instead of traffic causing the split it is a traffic light.  Again, cycling courtesy calls for the riders who made it through the traffic light to wait for those caught behind.

  6. The Down Hill Drop.  Long, steep and winding descents will separate the fearless from the fearful.  Riders with the skill and confidence to go downhill very fast find it exhilarating.  For others it is a white-knuckle scare-fest.  For these riders it is better to ride safely and get dropped than to go beyond their comfort and ability.  There is no shame in riding safely.

  7.  The Speed Drop. The speed drop happens when the pace is just too fast and you can’t keep up. This could also be called “The Out of Shape Drop”, “The Having a Bad Day Drop”, or “The Other Guys are Faster Drop”.  You’re going as hard as you possibly Marco Pantani: the lookcan but you just can’t hold the wheel of the rider in front of you. There are no contributing factors like hills or traffic or other riders.  It’s just you.  It is extremely frustrating but also very motivating. It provides inspiration for interval training, losing weight, and hours doing off season indoor training. It ignites the competitive spirit.

  8. The Mechanical Drop.  A flat tire, a fallen chain, or any other mechanical problems will drop you out of the group.  A dramatic moment in the Tour de France several years ago was a Mechanical Drop when Alberto Contador dropped Andy Schleck when his chain came off.  A debate ensued in the cycling community about the proper etiquette for a mechanical failure.

  9. The Nature Break Drop.  There are times when holding it is more uncomfortable than getting dropped. If you can’t convince the group to wait, let them go.  Life is too short to spend it bouncing around on a bicycle saddle with a full bladder.  Find some secluded bushes or trees and get some sweet relief. 

  10. The Crash Drop.  The most painful way to get dropped is crashing.  A touch of wheels, a distraction, gravel, or a momentary loss of concentration can result in hitting the pavement.  Cycling courtesy and human kindness will cause the group to stop and help.  However, even if a rider is able to continue, they often lack the will to keep up with the group.  There is also a good chance their bike is damaged from the fall (see #8).  The Crash Drop also includes getting caught behind a crash even if you remain upright. While you wait, the riders in front of the crash ride away, possibly oblivious to the crash behind them.

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