How to Thrive in the Peloton Without Killing Yourself

Daylight savings is around the corner, meaning it’s time to shave the legs, break out new tires, and psych the hell up.

“Reynaldo,” fellow cyclists have repeatedly asked, “how the heck do you hang so well when you can’t sprint worth shit and we ride twice as much as you?”

I’m only going to explain this once so get some paper and a pencil. I do it several ways, from more to less obvious.

  1. I have human growth hormone sent to the crib in the Good Wife’s name. I have not had to throw her under the bus yet, but I’m prepared for that inevitability.
  2. I employ a small, undetectable motor in the frame of my bike.
  3. I draft as if I came attached to your back wheel.
  4. When I get to the front, I immediately pull off to the left, turn back while raising my right arm, and ask “Where are we going again?” Or “Did someone say someone flatted?” Or “Are we all together?” Variety is critical.
  5. I attack during nature breaks.
  6. I attack right after sprints.
  7. I attack at the slightest hint of a mechanical.
  8. I attack at yellow lights and then pretend not to hear when the others yell “HOLD UP!”
  9. It’s probably the roids, but whenever things start getting stretched out, I demand that the person in front of me “Bridge up dammit!”
  10. I wait until I hear a train before I dare lose touch.

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We’re All Lance Armstrong

We’re greatly influenced by—sometimes positively, sometimes negatively—those we associate closest with in our work lives and our private lives.

I found Tyler Hamilton’s 60 Minutes interview fascinating from more of a social science perspective than a moral one. Hamilton’s and Armstrong’s performance enhancing drug use is an interesting social-psych case study. At some point, probably decades ago, performance enhancing drug use reached a tipping point where a majority of cyclists said, “Screw it, I’m in.”

From that point forward, anyone with Hamilton’s and Armstrong’s physical tools and off the charts competitive drive probably had very little problem rationalizing it with the same mindset that regularly trips up thousands of young people every year, “Everyone’s doing it.”

It’s the same phenomenon we sometimes see on the freeway when it’s turned into a parking lot as a result of a bad accident. One person eventually decides the risk-reward is worth it, so they pull out from the far right lane onto the shoulder and take off into the horizon. Then, a second person. Then, a third. I can either sit and reflect on my moral superiority or get home at the same time as them, but not both.

Given the work culture of his chosen profession, I almost find Armstrong a sympathetic figure. To have “just said no” he would have either had to have found something else to do with his life or settle in as a second-tier domestique stuffing water bottles down his back.

Almost a sympathetic figure because through his repeated, robotic denials, he wants everyone to believe he’s special. He’s the only one who stayed in his lane, but somehow still arrived home before everyone else. That’s how good he was.

It’s as this point, Armstrong turns into a fascinating psychological case study. In one respect, we’re all Lance Armstrong in the sense that everyone one of us maintains public personas, revealing less than the truth about ourselves to the larger world. Of course the difference with Lance is the degree of duplicity.

He must wake up at night worried about what the federal grand jury’s findings might do to his athletic legacy, his future marketing potential and income, and donations to his foundation.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t ever expect him to come clean, just doesn’t seem he’s nearly introspective enough. And that’s too bad, because I’d gain some respect for him if he did. Of course, my acceptance and approval are meaningless compared to the rewards of self acceptance.