Why? I know of no justification at all, but I took on the role for duty and to provide him the solace he was looking for. So, off we go!
Hills and dales, more hills than otherwise, met us that day. The hills initially concerned me but our leader always downplayed their significance. First, they were never any “hills” on our rides—merely inclines. These “inclines” were never described as being for more than a minor distance, and were shorter than to be expected. Nice salesmanship in many instances, but when you go first—you have to go and not pass out, fall off, or feeble and wobble around to cause concern down the line. People are counting on you!
So you find the right array of gears, sit back in your seat so your legs engage in piston-like fashion. That’s the physics of it, but what are you supposed to think? Ah, the mental aspect is key as that can doom you in an instant—and then you lose your “let’s have Thierry go first” status. We don’t want that.
So I look up at the couple ahead of me. Their physics was perfect as described above, but they also appeared to be as calm in the saddle as someone would be comfortably reading a book in an arm chair, with a coffee and scone within reach. A sweaty thought then hit me, just read a book; sit in the saddle cycle on with the passivity of one reading a book. Some concepts are harder to understand than others, some even more difficult to implement—but this baby works! The focus on the angle and the longevity of the incline (aka, hill) dissipates. Bring it on—I’m cozy, encased in fluffy but and back support in my chair—otherwise enjoying a good, or even descent book.
I begin to believe that I should, indeed be in front. I am maintaining the pace and, in my mind, with some style and minor flourish. But here comes another inconvenience, motorists. Oh, not the Maine type-oh no! See, Maine is a biking state and Maine drivers are of the most courteous type, one wonders if they are not cyborgs or some other human replicant. The Maine municipal code requires drivers to allow at least 3 feet when passing a cyclist—that’s a comfortable distance. Maine law also allows cyclists to take over the roadway in a one-way circumstance or when cars are parked along the shoulder. As the leader told us many times, when that occurs you yell out “take over the road” so riders behind you know to move over behind you to occupy the lane. That’s a lot of power to give a new “you go first” newbie—but it did not inflate my ego. I used my power to proclaim in a loud sweat-spraying voice—“Take over the road”—only when it was absolutely necessary; I assure you of that. No one called me on it. Here’s the best part, it actually works. Maine drivers back off and follow along behind you—even if its me, ME, slogging up a hill. Amazing!