You know it’s bound to be a bad day when by mile 15 of a 57-mile race you start hoping for a flat or a mechanical just so you have an excuse to drop out that’s not, “I just can’t hang with these guys.” But my wheels remained inflated and my bike mechanically sound, unfortunately, as I saw the pack ride away without me with two laps to go in the Cat 3/4 Turkey Hill Country Classic over the weekend. So as a public service — and to preempt the potential picture on You Got Dropped — I’ve developed a handy How-To guide for my fellow dropouts. (This is all in good fun, since we all get dropped at least once in our racing careers. It’s a rite of passage.)
Shake Your Head, Lots: You have to act like you don’t know how getting dropped could happen. Was it the bike? The wind? Were my cleats loose? Did I buy the wrong flavor gel? Ask yourself, “How could a finely tuned machine like myself not be hanging with the pack?” Remember, getting dropped is never your fault — so make sure everyone knows it by shaking your head like you have no idea what just happened. (Shake extra hard if there’s a photographer around.)
Step Off Your Bike in Disgust: When you do finally pull into the parking lot or pull off onto the side of the road, step off the bike like it’s the one to blame. Remember when David Millar tossed his bike over a barrier and into a field in the 2008 Tour de France when his chain broke in the final miles of stage he might have won? You want to do something like that, except without the whole throwing the bike thing. (It’s simply foolish to throw your only bike and then have to sheepishly retrieve it when you realize the error of your ways.) Act like the bike let you down. Push it a little. Sigh a lot. Do the head-shaking thing described above. You didn’t get dropped, after all — the bike just didn’t respond to your fluid pedal strokes and hammering power.
Get Your Story Straight: Your friends, family, teammates and sponsors will want to know why you ended up DFL or DNF. You need a good story, and quick. It’s not lack of fitness — it’s that you did so much pace-setting at the front that no one could possibly expect you to finish. It’s not because you couldn’t hang — it’s because this race isn’t really important to you because you’re in your transition/build/any other category from the Joe Friel book. It’s not because you’re not strong — it’s merely that you’re a crit specialist, so road races don’t play to your explosive capacities very well. (Adjust this one accordingly. Get dropped in a crit; it’s because you’re a TT specialist.) It’s never because you were outmatched — it’s because everyone was riding far superior equipment. So superior, in fact, that it’s probably considered cheating. Come to think of it, they did cheat. They attacked in the feed zone. After a crash. While you were going back to the teamcar to get water and food for your team. Cheating bastards.
Promise Revenge: With blame assigned elsewhere, promise to come back next year and show everyone what’s up. Let your challengers know that everything that wasn’t your fault anyhow will be corrected and overcome as you solo to victory. And when registration finally opens next year, conviniently book a business trip for the same weekend as the race. Revenge is cooler if you just talk it up and don’t actually have to make it happen.