Our peloton was making its way to Rt. 140, a gentle climb that wound from the town of Wallingford to the village of East Wallingford in central Vermont. The occasion was the fifth and final stage of the Killington Stage Race, some 80-odd miles looping through the Green Mountain state, and this climb was intended to sort seed from husk. Out on the farm roads, we pedaled flat runs of asphalt that spanned the width of bike path from grass to yellow line, and was well-tended by a motorcycle marshal. We crowded four abreast, practically shoulder to shoulder, a marching band without instruments.
Somehow, one of my teammates made his way to me and suggested we needed to move to the front to protect our team leader’s position in the top five of the general classification. He threaded his way up through the middle of the peloton, but I found myself locked between the rider in front of me, a rider next to me and the edge of the asphalt to my right. Twenty minutes later, the only thing that had changed was the view to my right.
Faced with the choice of employing the tactics of sprinters and leaning on other riders to push them out of the way, or staying put, put I stayed. I believed making contact was too coarse a tactic for my circumstance. It seemed a violation of the code of the peloton with so much of the stage yet to race. I often think of that moment any time someone suggests brute force, whether physical or emotional, to secure a result. Ends rarely justify such blunt means.
We were mere minutes into the climb when gaps began to grow between riders. The pack stretched from 100 meters, to 150, to 200. Finally, there was more than room enough to move.
That’s when our once tidy peloton exploded like a Lego toy dropped off a cliff.
I think of that moment when I must choose between push and patience. I could not control the peloton, for I was small, but I knew that a force far greater than myself would humble us. Had I tried to muscle my way through the group, I’d have expended considerable energy, and to what effect?
With patience, I found my moment, and used everything I had on the climb.
It is the rare day I create my own opportunities, but if I wait and watch, openings arise, like the gaps in our group.