Often in a triathlon, as people surge ahead of me on the swim, I think to myself, “Swimming is my weakest leg!”
Unfortunately, when I get out on the bike, it becomes evident that swimming is not my weakest leg, and I find myself thinking, “No, cycling is definitely my weakest leg!” It’s really depressing. To the point that after I had my road bike shipped over to join me in Amsterdam, it stayed in the bike box for more than three months. The only reason it came out when it did was because a friend needed to borrow it.
After I took it out, I posted a picture of it on facebook. A girl who I’d recently met at a bbq, Hayley, immediately commented, “Monica! I have a road bike too! Let’s ride together!”
We went out a few times … and it was fun.
Now, when I trained in Melbourne I trained with an awesome group of triathletes – who were all super good on the bike. What I found was, I might stick with them for the warm up, but as soon as we started doing efforts, they left me for dead. Without anyone around to push me, I wasn’t really motivated to put in my best effort. I would tell myself I was pushing hard but … come to think of it, I probably wasn’t.
In contrast, it was lucky for me that Hayley only started cycling this year. We were about the same speed. When she would start pushing the pace, I would respond – and keep up! Suddenly I started getting more out of cycling – and enjoying it more.
Finding a Cycling Group
Finding a group to ride with has been difficult. There’s an Amsterdam Cyclist group on facebook, but no one ever seems to post anything.
Hayley and I post rides to a meetup website with an Amsterdam cycling group. The group has 33 members. About five of those are active … So that’s our crew! But they are nice guys, and we all ride well together.
The downside of the meetup group
A couple of times, we have had people turn up on their Dutch bikes for a relaxing Saturday morning ride … only to see the rest of us with fast race bikes decked out in lycra. Most of the times, they have gracefully bowed out …
One time, however, an English guy decided he would still join us. This bike he had must have weighed about five times what our bikes weighed – before you added on his saddle bags filled with who knows what!
He was determined to prove he could keep up for the whole 70km ride. Unfortunately, in order to prove this, he pushed himself to the front of the pack at every opportunity – and particularly when either Hayley or I was in the lead.
I will give him credit for the fact that he kept up for a long time. However, he was one of those real talk it up types – at one stage he spent 15 minutes telling me about his running prowess. This included telling me of his fastest marathon which he ran in 3:35. I decided that would be an appropriate time to speak up.
“I’ve two marathons,” I said.
He pounced, “Oh yeah? What’s your PB?”
Silence. “Wow … Um … That’s pretty fast,” he said.
“Yeah,” I replied laconically.
To my amusement, he obviously felt the need to reassert his manhood, and he picked up the speed, cycling ahead of me.
At last the moment came when he couldn’t keep up any longer… “Go ahead!” he called out. “Next time I’ll bring a race bike!”
You do that …
Young Men Pushing out Young Females …
Hayley was recently on a ride with one of the guys from our meetup group, Brendan. They came across a big peleton, and started to ride with them. They moved through the pack steadily, and went out wide to take the lead. Brendan moved in smoothly. The next cyclist – a young guy looked over at Hayley, did a double take, as though thinking, “What? We’re going to be led by a girl?” He moved up quickly and closed the gap, keeping Hayley out and forcing her to move back …
Unfortunately this was not an isolated incident, and we often find if we ride up beside young male cyclists they will do a double take and pick up their pace … Or if we start drafting behind a young guy, if he turns and notices we’re girls he will pick up the pace and zoom off.
Old Men Helping out Young Females
Fortunately, the old man are much more helpful! On a difficult ride this weekend we had about four old guys go past us at various points, and yell out, “Kom mee” – come with me; jump on my wheel (draft off me). I sat behind one old guy on a difficult, windy stretch, and he kept turning to make sure I was still on his wheel, and still feeling okay.
Hitting the Hills
The Netherlands is known for being particularly flat. Occasionally we will be faced with a minor rise, at which point we tend to get really excited. “Hill! Get in the biggest gear! Make the most of it!”
Whenever I ask Dutch people where I can go for hill training, they suggest the sand dunes at Bloemendaal. We headed out a few weeks ago, joining up with some new triathlete friends who were training for a half ironman. These guys are tough. The weather that day was absolutely awful, and I realised that as they were leading us to the sand dunes, they were inadvertently leading us into a storm. When I pointed this out, their response was to grin and pick up the pace – taking us to that storm faster.
I think the weather was the worst bit however. There was a bit of undulation, and the wind was strong … But it was not really much more than cycling along Melbourne’s Beach Road. In fact, I thought perhaps we’d only done a small section of the dunes (and an easy section at that) and suggested to Hayley we go back again and do the whole thing. She looked at me like I was crazy, “Unfortunately, that was the whole thing!”
A Lack of Coffee Culture …
In Australia, a huge part of cycling is the visit to a café at the end of a long ride, with a delicious coffee and breakfast. A lot of bike shops have a good coffee machine and a decent barista. Many rides start and end at a café. Now I know a lot of you who read the blog are probably not the biggest fans of the lycra-clad cyclists clomping around in their cycling shoes in your local café every Saturday and Sunday morning … But I miss it! There’s no good coffee here, and most little cafés don’t open til after 11am – which can be a little bit late!
But despite the lack of hills and decent coffee, it’s all good. I’m getting faster, making friends and having fun … and actually a bit sad that winter is approaching and I won’t be getting out on my bike so much!