Thursday, April 30, 2009

Endless days in hell

Day Three in Mallorca

This morning I go off to meet my new riding group, secure in the knowledge that I’ll be my usual rockstar self. The rides all have different mileage and speeds, so I’ve picked one from the “fun” category, average speed of around 18-19 mph, about 75km, all of which seems eminently doable. More than doable in fact – I’m sure I’ll be shown as the triathlon goddess I’m known to be far and wide.

I get to the meeting spot, “platz 4”, and find both a ride leader and a bunch of people who only speak German. Which is fine, except I have no idea what the hell anyone is saying. I know just enough German and Spanish to be dangerous – meaning, I can ask directions (“wo ist den platz vier?”), but won’t really understand the response. And if someone asks me if I understand German, I can confidently say “ein wenig” (“a little”), which for some reason compels people to start speaking to me in rapid-fire German.

So I’ve given the ride leader my usual “ein wenig,” and now he’s babbling about….something or other, in German. One woman in the group explains to me that he’s telling us about the hand signals we’ll be using on the ride. The ones that I’ll be sure to use in the U.S. (“oh, these are just the hand signals we used when I was training in Mallorca this spring”) are the twirly hand in the air to signify a roundabout or rotary, and the hand-over-head to denote a speed bump. Okay then, off we go.

We start off – and boy, my butt hurts from yesterday’s ride! - at hmm, a slightly faster speed than what was promised. That must just be part of the warm-up. Then as we get out into the countryside, I notice that the guy in front of me is doing this pedal-pedal-coast thing, where he lags behind such that a gap opens up between him and the person in front of him, so he then speeds to catch up, so I have to speed to catch up. What the hell – where’s the German efficiency??

THEN things get interesting. Because these folks, in brilliant German automaton fashion, book their way UP hills, but slow down on the downhills. It takes me a while to figure this out, but then I realize – unlike the rest of us normal people who slow down or speed up as road conditions warrant, they’re just chugging along at one damn speed, hills be damned. So I’m dying on the uphills, and hitting the brakes on the downhills. Great, just great. This is about the most inane and inefficient cycling I’ve ever seen in my life.

The bitterness I’m starting to feel is interrupted only by the pace lines of German uber-athletes zipping by us – I think they’re in the “Hobby” group category – barking out things like “hup hup” or “heraus” or “anschluss” or something along those lines. In the meantime, with our own happy little group, I’m the last one up the fricking hills/mountains after they’ve all hup-hupped their way efficiently up there, and they’ve had their fill of water, eaten their ham sandwiches, and played a few hands of cards by the time I join them, at which point we zoom off again and I get more and more dehydrated.

We finally stop in the town of Petra for a coffee break, and I dejectedly gnaw on the cheese sandwich they give all the cyclists in the morning to tuck into a pocket for lunch. As they all chatter away in German, I go to a happier place in my mind, one that doesn’t involve madcap mountain cycling with legs still fried from the day before.

However, finally we’re on our way back, and I’m counting down the kms to go, when I somehow wind up not behind pedal-pedal-coast guy, but someone else. Who is not just somewhat slowing down on the downhills…..he’s basically coming to almost a complete stop, so that not only do I have to frantically brake behind him, but also START FROM A DEAD STOP to go up hills. Which soon has me muttering curses at him, very uncharitable ones, ranging from “come on you asshole!” to “what the hell are you doing” to what I finally wind up with, thinking of him as Dumpy Little German Troll Boy. We go on like this, me getting more and more irate, and unable to pass him because we’re on a busy road, until finally I just snap, as we get to a curving downhill that is immediately followed by a very long uphill. And as he does his usual idiotic braking, I say out loud several times: “what the HELL are you doing?!” – not that it does any good, since he’s oblivious. But I am quite sure I have never hated anything or anyone as much as I hate Dumpy Little German Troll Boy right at this moment.

We get back, and somehow I have NOT strangled him and left him in a ditch somewhere, probably because I’m too tired to bother. I glare at the Germans – which is to say, everyone around – and go to sign up with a different group for tomorrow. Please god, let them know how to ride like normal people, please?

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