How to Handle Getting Passed

I was out riding today and I passed a cyclist going up a short hill. Trying to be friendly, I said "good morning" as I went by. The other rider didn't respond. A few minutes later as I soft-pedaled down the other side of the climb, the same rider came roaring past and in a very snotty tone said "good morning."

It is really too bad that we cyclists can't get along. We constantly worry about how we are treated by cars. How can we even begin to solve that problem if among ourselves, we cyclists can't behave in a civilized manner?

Let's face facts: If you ride a bike and you have never been passed by another rider then you aren't riding in a locale or at a time when other riders are out there. I like to say that if you aren't getting passed you aren't trying hard enough to ride on the more popular roads at the more popular times.

Even Alberto Contador doesn't win every race he enters. He gets passed just like the rest of us. Look at Andy Schleck. He finished second to Contador in this year's Tour de France, but was mature enough to give Contador credit for being the stronger rider.

I understand why some people take offense at being passed. I just wish those people would show the same maturity as a rider like Andy Schleck and admit that there are faster people out there on the road. If they did that then they wouldn't have to go all aggro and behave like a 10-year old when somebody goes by them.

A few years ago, Dr. Max Testa, team doctor for the 7-Eleven, Motorola and now the BMC Racing teams was giving a talk to a group of triathletes in Northern California. Dr. Testa is one of the leading authorities on human performance. He looked out at the group and told them candidly that with the advent of power meters there is no longer the question if someone is an elite athlete. The numbers don't lie and you either have it or you don't. It is not a question of quitting your day job and focusing on becoming an elite athlete. You either have the tools or you don't and no amount of training is going to make you a Tour de France cyclist.

Just as in any sport, there are many levels. Levi Leipheimer is a good example of that fact. He was not much of a factor at the recent Tour de France. However, he returned to the United States and beat all the best mountain bikers in America to win the Leadville Trail 100 off-road race. Levi rides his mountain bike even less than I do. The reason he won is that he is just that much better an athlete than the best mountain bikers in America.

If that wasn't bad enough. Levi showed up at the Tour of Utah last week and won that race by a huge margin over the best American road racing professionals. What makes that accomplishment even more impressive is that he had no team in a sport where teamwork is critical to success. Levi won because he is on a different level than the U.S.-based professional riders.

You don't hear the U.S.-based pros in either mountain biking or road racing acting like 10-year olds when Levi beat them. These guys realize that Levi is on another whole level. They want to race against Levi to see if they are also on that level, but if they are not, they accept that he is the better rider.

I am hoping that cyclists out there will follow the example of the best professional mountain and road bikers in America and accept that there are riders who are better than them. If they can accept that then maybe they will stop acting like a 10-year old when somebody passes them.

Bruce Hildenbrand is a freelance journalist covering cycling and a host of other outdoor-related sports. Find the latest news, rumors and more on his Active Expert blog. He splits his time between Mountain View, California, Boulder, Colorado, and Europe.

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