Steve Forster wrote this some time back for his buddies. We related to it and thought it should be shared…

Photo: Dino Lloyd
Photo: Dino Lloyd

Time to report on what it is like to be a mountain biker on a 5am training ride, sticking to a specific programme, minding one’s own business amongst a pack of testosterone-laden roadies.

It’s Pietermaritzburg. There is a bunch of ‘B’ Group and some ‘A’ Group roadies out in an organised peloton. It’s Tuesday morning and it looks like an easy recovery ride for them. There is some banter going on at the back of the group. They are probably pushing 220 watts, a tempo pace not too hard and not too slow. They are riding the latest mules, colour-coded to perfection, perfect symmetry, beautiful beasts in motion. They are riding as one, contented and totally consumed with the ebb and flow of the early morning peloton.
From out of the shadows emerges a guy riding a heavy 13-year-old Giant Iguana mountain bike, still with a bit of dirt from the weekend’s off-road ride, with a light on his helmet and gears that don’t change quietly. He has forgotten to lube his chain and his brakes squeal. His shoes are still dusty from a ride around a game park in Weenen, but he is totally focused on doing a training session alone with his bike and Power Tap. He is approaching faster than the group is riding because his training programme dictates 2×20-minute intervals in L4 (260–280 watts). With 10×10-second max sprints within these intervals. He is on his second interval…

Now he hasn’t yet managed to work out the best way to ride past a group of roadies without destroying the ego of an organised peloton. He has tried a number of testosterone-reducing methods from smiling with a hearty “morning guys”, to a nod, to completely ignoring the group…but the result is always the same. The mere sight of a mountain bike induces a chemical change at cellular level, resulting in increased oxygen intake, fast-twitch muscle fibres coming into play, eyes rolling back into the head, a small amount of foam emerging around the edges of the lips and a sudden release of testosterone into the Kreb Cycle, resulting in an increase in both speed and power. Training programmes that have been carefully structured for The Argus are thrown out of the window and there are 15 pairs of slicks on the back of a lone, slightly worn Kenda Karma Tubeless tyre.

There is no more chatting behind this mountain biker but he is aware that the small gap that he created on this peloton no longer exists; there are lights flickering on either side of the road in front of his bike. Now the mountain biker has a dilemma, he has 15 roadies waiting for him to tire because obviously he can’t keep the pace – he has tried not to be windgat – he is just riding his bike at 270 Watts. But now, according to his programme, he must get out of his saddle for 10 seconds at maximum effort and then go right back to 270 Watts. He is out of his saddle and drops the bunch…

We go back to the mindset of the front of the peloton…$%^&$#*  %$%^& on his mountain bike, what a #$%@*! And he thinks he can hold that pace… Levels of testosterone increase once again. They can see that the guy on the heavy old bike has slowed down again. Time to attack. Riders drop off the back of the peloton like flies as mountain biker goes for another 10-second all-out interval, just as the peloton is closing in. It is now a furious peloton. This guy in front is obviously racing, what a tchop.

Mountain biker has just done his ninth 10-second sprint and is battling to get it back to 270 Watts, breathing heavily. He senses bikes on his wheel and a couple of roadies ride past him as if they have never seen him before. The rest of the peloton is spread out all the way down the hill towards Cascades. He does his final sprint past the roadies who are now absolutely at their limit and pulls away up the hill to complete the 20 minutes some way before the turn around point that we all know. The roadies can’t believe their luck, the guy on the Iguana has hit the wall and they close the gap fast. But just as they are about to make their move to glory, he turns left and destroys their chance of victory…@#$#%%#$ mountain biker!

Tomorrow I will be riding in camouflage shorts, an old 1981 “I was in Vietnam” t-shirt, no gloves, McGladdery army socks, a full Camelbak, a bell, a Fanta grape bottle and I aim to ride past the same “B” group of roadies eating a cheese and ham sandwich… But with my ultra-light racing Giant Anthem 0 with slicks on…


TREAD Magazine

Originally published in TREAD Issue 22, 2013 – All rights reserved


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