My friend Anthony is a pretty good bike rider. He has won many races including the National Road race, 25 and 50 mile TT championships all in one year. He has represented Ireland at many International races and is a double Ras stage winner. This alone would be enough to be called a classy bike rider but there is more.
This year I have been a little under the weather. I picked up a lung infection over the winter that would not move which also affected the way I was breathing. Antibiotics were having no effect so it took a day in hospital to get sorted. That was 6 weeks ago. Then 3 weeks ago an altercation with a car on a roundabout whilst cycling home for lunch gave me a present of one cracked and one broken rib.
Training wise the past six weeks have been a write off but last week I started back slowly and headed out with Anthony on Saturday for 2 hours. Without saying anything he was easing up slightly on any hills we came to and took it very handy on me.
Yesterday I headed back out with the group. I met Anthony at the usual time and we headed off down towards Carrick to meet the rest of the lads. Anthony is the second most successful rider in our training group. The most successful rider was in Belgium commentating on a bike race for Eurosport.
With a strong westerly wind the group headed on out towards Clogheen which would entail an assault on Knocklofty hill, which I was not looking forward to.
Approaching the hill which is about 600m long with an average gradient of 8% I was already under pressure as the speed was quiet high. Swinging around the left hander at the bottom with the whole hill rearing up in front I immediatley felt myself sliding backwards in the group. The rear door was open and calling me out when I looked up to see Anthony drifting back towards me. He was riding steady and just took one glance around . He drifted a little more and next thing there he was in front of me, blocking the headwind and setting a really steady pace , sitting in the saddle rolling a nice gear. Just one more glance back and he kept that same pace all the way to the top of the hill. Within a few hundred meters Anthony and Vinnie had me back up with the group and on we went.
When you are getting it hard, you don’t really want anyone making a big deal, turning around in a group asking if you are OK drawing everyone’s attention to how bad you are going. Some riders will actually ride harder if they know you are on an off day to get a scalp. It seems to be in the DNA of many a cyclist.
However, the really good bike riders, the classy ones, will look out for others who are under pressure and in a very subtle, non dramatic and quiet way help them along.
I could have had a lonely ride home on my own yesterday but a touch of class from a great bike rider meant that I could do the whole spin and be stronger for next week.