Monday, July 29, 2013

Lead out, Echelon, Slipstream, Drafting

A yes moment.

When cycling home I got caught in a headwind. It was particularly rough. While struggling to move forward I flashed back to six years ago.


[april 2007]
Location, The Netherlands, Veluwe

I was a student of 20 years old studying Earth Sciences. It was my first year. Approximately 17 students were in our year. Everyone got paired to do research in fieldwork in the Veluwe. Small strips of land were distributed between the groups to research for a week. We all slept in a lodge farm. As is the Dutch way we cycled to our research strips. The weather was lovely if a little windy. At some point my partner Jelle and I  were handing out with another group. We had to get from point A to point B and of course, having bicycles and all we cycled.

Being with 3 boys however, I didn't realise they cycle crazy hard and fast. Suddenly they all cycled behind each other, Jelle called it a "train". From the back of the cycle "train" I breathlessly called to Jelle what the purpose of this was, while I struggled to keep up with the insane speed of the boys. "In the Tour the France they do this, they all cycle in a row so only the front person has the headwind and the other cyclists can save energy." With Simon up front we cycled for a good 3 or 4 minutes. Suddenly he swerved left and dropped behind me to which Friso was the front person. he too cycled 3 or 4 minutes to which he swerved left and dropped behind Simon. I was getting nervous, and was already exhausted from the cycling tempo. Now Jelle was the head of the train. And then Jelle swerved to the left and I was up front. Wind immediately barrelled at me, but I wanted to prove myself. I'd show the boys that even though I'm a tiny girl I can do all they can! I put my head down and pedalled like crazy, determined to maintain the speed the boys set. Only then did I realise that the train was so efficient! Being the head cyclist opposed to one behind it was much more tiresome and I was feeling it. After what felt an eternity I finally believed enough time had elapsed and I swerved left to fall back behind Jelle. Completely exhausted but triumphant.


[June, 2013]
Location, The Netherlands, The Hague

Back to cycling home from work, struggling against the headwind, hardly moving forward at all. Inspired by my flashback I looked at the guy in a bit in front of me. Going not particularly fast but quite a good pace I decided to catch up with him. Once I caught up, I slowed down a little and stayed right behind his bike. Immediately I could notice the effect. Every now I got impatient and felt it went a little too slow. I moved to the side to prepare to pass him. But of course I underestimated the wind again. I got spoiled tailing my one man train! Wind blew hard in my face and I steered back behind him. I saw him look half back, feeling or knowing someone was a little too close for comfort. Yes, I felt like a stalker, a creeper, but it was so worth it! Staying happily if somewhat awkward behind him for a good 15 minutes he finally took a turn away from our communal path!

I sadly accepted this fact and mused if more people did what I just did. Just follow a total stranger to avoid the headwind. While pondering this I put in a little extra energy to maintain the speed I had the whole road, to compensate for the wind. The luxury of the windblock was gone, but those 15 minutes had been glorious. Even though I was now back to struggling and getting slightly out of breath I was pleased.

Then I tossed my head back to get some hair out of my eyes. I noticed a person cycling behind me. But a little too close for comfort. I swung my head around to get a better look and there she was, a girl about my age following close behind me to avoid the wind! I couldn't believe it. This was hilarious. Hilarious and perfect. Flashing back to the moment I was the front cyclist back in 2007 I grinned, put my head down and turned it up a notch. I would take my duty as head of the train seriously! Glancing at the passing windows out of the corner of my eyes I saw she still followed me closely and I felt immensely proud to be worthy of being followed. This was a good day. The guy in front of me had led me an easy passage halfway to home, and now it was my turn. In my mind I was riding the Tour de France and I was bringing the girl closer to the finish so she could make her winning end sprint.

After about 5 minutes she had taking a turn I didn't take and she was gone. The train had fallen apart. I felt a little sad and mourned the loss, but the yes moment stayed. Best cycling moment  since 2007.

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