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How to survive getting dropped

BikesEtc
28 Apr 2017

Watching your group vanishing over the horizon is one of cycling’s low points. Here’s how to cope with it...

Getting dropped sucks. We’ve all been there and we all know what it feels like when the group we’re with suddenly starts pulling away and there’s not a damn thing your legs can do about it.

Rather than let the humiliation of it eat you up (a common response) having a strategy to deal with the situation will make your ride more manageable and a whole lot more enjoyable.

So with that in mind, here’s BikesEtc’s five-point survival guide...

1 Check your emotions

Accept that you’re likely to be hit by a little tantrum-y wave of emotions.

There’s nothing wrong with emotions, but by being prepared for them and recognising them when they slap you around the head means you’re less likely to make a daft, knee-jerk decision as a result.

So first up, look out for denial. If you’re getting dropped, you’re getting dropped. No amount of stamping on the pedals is going to stop that.

And don’t get angry or grumpy about it either. Instead, accept your fate with grace. It will help keep your mind clear.

2 Bide your time

On a club run, where sociability is the râison d’étre for riding, chances are you’ll be able to re-join the group at some point.

The most common place to get spat out the back of a group is on a climb where it is customary for the fitter riders to attack the gradient as long as they wait for the rest of the group at the summit.

So don’t panic, keep slogging up that hill and you’ll more than likely find the rest of the group waiting for you so you can enjoy the descent down the other side together.

And if not, maybe look for a more polite group to ride with.

3 Don't burn yourself out

Again, if you’re in a club ride and you find yourself struggling, don’t go all-out to catch up. This is supposed to be fun, remember!

Instead ride at a pace you find comfortable instead of blowing all your energy trying to close the gap, as you may not be able to finish the ride.

If you find the pace being set is way beyond you, have a chat to the ride leader at the next coffee stop or when you re-join the group.

On a club ride they’ll be keen to keep the group together, so let them know if the pace needs adjusting.

4 Win or learn

If you’re in a race, of course, it’s a different story. Get spat out of the back when there are medals or glory at stake and it more than likely means that it’s game over.

So use the rest of the race as an opportunity to work on your fitness and technique. If you can’t win, you can at least learn from the experience.

If a small group or pair of you get dropped there may still be a way back into the race, however, as long as you work together. You’ll need to keep it tight and fast though.

If it’s still no dice, resort to plan A and use the experience as an opportunity to work on your technique – particularly your pace line skills. – ie riding in one another’s slipstream.

5 Learn to avoid it

Of course, if you don’t get dropped you won’t have to worry about any of this, so what can you do to minimise the possibility of it happening?

The most obvious answer is stay off the back of the pack. How do you do that? Firstly by not spinning in big gears.

Check the leg speed of your fellow riders. You want to be pedalling at least as fast as them if not faster.

Spinning at a higher cadence allows you to react quicker to pace changes and shifting terrain, without smashing yourself up.

Mashing away on bigger gears is hard because it’s an inefficient use of energy. So keep your gears low and your cadence high.

Learn, too, to ride in other people’s slipstream effectively and you’ll cut your efforts by up to 40%. Which is the key to how a lot of experienced riders maintain their impressive pace in the first place.

So hang onto that wheel in front of you when the going gets tough because without it things will get tougher!

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