“Who is going to push the Englishman?” – Embarrassment on a Belgian cycling club ride

“Qui va pousser l’anglais?”

The call went out across the clubrun today as the group had to slow up to wait for me again as I grovelled up the road behind them.

I wrote about cyclingclubaphobia several weeks ago, that irrational fear of being embarrassed on your first cycling club ride – being left behind, the bike falling apart, falling off – all that good stuff which never really happens.

It did today. A couple of weeks ago it happened to everyone else, this week it happened to me. Last time it was Cyclottignies medium speed group that supplied all the novelties I associate with club cycling, not least managing to lose the ride leader completely halfway through.

Where did he go?

Where did he go?

This week the problem was unfortunately entirely of my own making. About 40 people were gathered at the station where we meet but there was considerable discussion about the fact that they didn’t have a leader for Group 2, the ride I was aiming for. Then Francois arrived and after some boisterous negotiation in French he was press-ganged into action. Within minutes he was off and I pulled away with about a dozen riders.

However after about five minutes reality dawned. This group was just a bit too organised, a bit too lean and oh heck I have joined the fast group by mistake and I am going to look pretty silly if I turn back now.  Two weeks ago I rode with group 2 and the pace was actually pretty civilised (around 15mph) so if maybe they were a mile or so faster per hour I could just about hang on?

Apparently Francois had been bullied into leading Group 1 so someone else could lead Group 2. I really do have to improve my French if I am going to do this regularly.

The plan worked well for almost an hour and a half. I was hanging on quite well and definitely not embarrassed, so I started to relax. Then I rode straight into the back of the man in front when we made a sudden stop because I decided to absent my brain for a moment. The imprint of my brake lever on his backside wasn’t entirely well received. They know I don’t speak much French but I do know “murder” for some strange reason.

However after that stop the guys in the front decided that it was time the pace went up some more and for the next hour I was grovelling and yo-yoing off the back. They were awfully nice about it and Francois kept telling me I should come back to Group 1 next week because I’d soon get used to it. These are the “cracks” he said, the fast men.

The chap I had hit did get his own back with the call for someone to push me home. I hung on for another 20 minutes to make it up to about three hours and then as soon as I saw a road sign that I recognised I made my apologies and left them to it while I sneaked off to make my way home in a very tired manner. I’m not surprised I was a bit knackered, it was only my third ride with the club and according to my computer I had added 3mph to my usual speed.

I will be back again but I think this time Group 2 should be Group 2. I have no intention of being pushed home and I think I need to hide up for a few weeks to overcome my embarrassment.

11 thoughts on ““Who is going to push the Englishman?” – Embarrassment on a Belgian cycling club ride

  1. I think that a 3mph improvement is remarkable. I also think it’s commendable that you intend to go back! Well done.


    • if it had been about half that I might agree. Not being able to go out for the next 4 weeks and trying again – probably foolish.

      Group 2 next time


  2. OK – so my French is so pants it comes with its own Chamois too…. But, I’m training for l’étape du tour and need some practice of riding in a group. I live in the south of Brussels and would love advice on a club to join that I’d be able to keep up with and get that all important practice of group riding before my big rid in July… Any advice warmly welcome!


    • You need clubs affiliated to FFBC for French speaking and I guess some of the Brussels clubs, plus all of their events.


      There are some English/french speaking clubs in Brussels too like the Big Brackets, http://brusselsbigbrackets.be/WordPress/

      Whatever you do for L’etape get out with one of the Sunday groups doing 100km plus and practice riding at 16-18mph, you will need it.

      I rode in 2001 based on club riding in South Wales plus one 100mile ride per month, Audax mainly, I needed the extra distance.

      Come back to me via my sales form if you like and I’ll correspond directly with you via email

      Good luck!



    • Thanks – not sure if it is well done for trying or well done for being daft enough to talk about it? 🙂


  3. Well survived, Kevin!

    My son in Australia who knows and cares about such things wrote to me just last week that the coolest cycling jersey a man can wear is that of an obscure Belgian cycling club. Polka dots and yellow are definitely out, and anyone with money can buy a GreenEdge jersey. Belgian clubs are the way to go.


    • The sight of Belgian clubs sweeping through the countryside in grand formation dressed head to toe in immaculate club kit suggests your son may be on to something.

      I reckon some clubs must have a no kit no ride rule.

      I may have to take the plunge myself soon to try and fit in!

      Best, Kevin


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