“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.