I was on the back of the group fighting to hang on. I was still on the wheel of the person in front of me, but it was getting tougher and tougher to stay there. The road began to rise up in front of me and I started to fall off, but I fought to keep the gap small. My legs were burning from the effort and I was only thirty miles into a sixty mile ride. I knew I would probably not be able to keep this up for another thirty miles, but I would try as hard as I could. At mile thirty five the next hill came and the gap finally opened. I couldn’t close it this time, it was too hard. The group started to pull away leaving me wishing I was strong enough to hang on and knowing that it would be a lonely ride home.
Getting dropped on a ride is never enjoyable, but anyone who rides with groups or races has probably been in this situation at one point or another in their cycling career. Cycling is one of the few sports where you can actually get left behind and left “out of the game” if you are not strong enough. In sports like soccer or baseball you are all on a playing field and if you aren’t having the greatest day you could get pulled from the game, but usually the rest of the team doesn’t run away and leave you standing on the field alone and somewhat lost. Getting dropped happens in races and group rides and it is always a humbling experience.
If you do get dropped on a ride, here are some things to remember. Don’t take it personally, it seems somewhat cruel, but it is just a part of the sport. If a ride is planned to be a certain pace and you can’t keep up then you get left behind. Everyone gets dropped at some point in their cycling career, so just take comfort in knowing that we have all been there.
Putting a positive spin on it, being dropped on a hard group ride can be an essential part of your training. Don’t get discouraged if you get dropped, use that experience to fuel your training fire. Getting dropped means that you are working harder than usual to keep up with a group of riders that are faster and stronger than you. If you keep coming back to that ride and keep fighting to hang on, it will make you a stronger rider. Maybe on week one you get dropped ten miles in, but then on week two you can hang in for fifteen miles and then at some point, as the weeks go by, you find yourself still with the group by the end of the ride. I went through this with certain group rides and I still go through it with others. Once you conquer one ride, if you want to continue progressing, you jump into a slightly faster or longer one. The equivalent in racing is starting out as a category 4 or 5 racer. You may get dropped in your first couple of races, but as you continue racing you are able to hang in there. Eventually you are riding easily within the pack and maybe you are even winning some races. Once you get to that point you don’t just stick with being cat 4, you upgrade to the next category to be challenged by even stronger riders.
The hard truth about getting dropped is that on any ride or in any race it is a possibility. As a cyclist you have to accept that fact and be OK with getting dropped (just make sure you know the area or know the route if you think this is a possibility). Pushing yourself to go on a hard ride where you have the potential to be left behind is a good challenge if you are looking to get faster. Take the leap, fight to hang on with that group for as long as possible, don’t let yourself become disheartened because soon you may be the one doing the dropping.
Also as a personal side note, I met my future husband because I was getting dropped on a ride, so sometimes getting dropped can have completely unplanned and positive outcomes. 🙂