I’ve been thinking a lot about what my cycling goals are for this year. I’d like to finish Almanzo, the Gravel Metric, and Chequamegon (strongly), and ride well and have fun all year. What’s funny is that I feel as though I’ve turned a bit of a corner with my biking goals. I have logged enough miles to have a good base of ability. I don’t really feel a compelling need to be the fastest, on a group ride or otherwise. For some reason, the competitive spirit is tapering off a bit. When I think about it, what I really want to be is a good domestique. I want to ride well with others. To be predictable. To do good, honest, praiseworthy pulls. To give a good draft. To bring others up into the pack. To not get dropped, but also to not push hard at the wrong times and drop others. To ride with a team, not just for myself.
I really like the concept of gentleman’s races (though I wish there were a gender neutral name for them, as I am becoming increasingly aware of the gender bias in cycling). Ride as a team, finish or fail as a team. Trust your teammates, support your teammates, work together.
I have to admit, when I first learned of the position of domestique in pro cycling, I didn’t understand it. Why would you ride without the intention of winning? Or perhaps to state it another way–why would you ride with the accepted intention of helping someone else to win even at the risk of sacrificing your own success? I suspect that the pros in the peleton have different motivations than I, but I’d like to be a little more Jens Voight-like in supporting my fellow riders than in seeking personal success. Is there a cop-out in this? Is there safety in claiming to have satisfaction from helping others and thus avoiding confrontation with not winning individually? Will my competitive spirit overcome this early season calm, and push me to different mid-season efforts? Meh. Time will tell. But I’m at peace with it right now, so let’s live in the moment a bit.