Red Jerseys

Not everyone gets to be Captain Kirk. In fact, very few of us ever are.
Not everyone gets to be Captain Kirk. In fact, very few of us ever are.

“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.” Mike McDermott, as played by Matt Damon in Rounders. No, not a cycling movie (yes, cyclists need to watch non-cycling movies too!), but an excellent movie, and an excellent point.

When you go on a group ride, if you can’t spot the weakest sprinter, or climber, or the one with the least endurance, chances are it’s you. Wait, keep reading! That’s not an insult, it’s just reality. And there’s nothing wrong with facing reality. As the group starts to pour on the speed, or the climbing goes vertical, you realize that everyone’s doing well… except you.

That’s right. You’re the sacrificial lamb on this particular ride. Or for my Trekkie friends, you’re the a Red Jersey.

Is this a bad thing? Eh, depends on how you look at it. See, in every ride there’s always gotta be a “weakest rider.” This is not to say that that rider isn’t amazing at a lot of aspects of riding, but that this particular group happens to be able to do better, leaving the Red Jersey rider to hurt more than everyone else. Or maybe Red Jersery is just having a really bad day (if my recent training with the Race Gods is any indication, I’m having a really bad half-year).

Sometimes being a Red Jersey feels like you’re the only one dying on the away missions. The word “dropped” starts to lose all meaning. It can be very demoralizing. But – and this is important – you’ll get better (well, if you survive).

Besides improving, you’re also serving a greater purpose: when you’re Crewman #6 and you die in the first 10 minutes of the episode, you’re showing that the situation is serious. That the rest of the crew better get in gear. On a ride, if no one suffers, it’s still a good ride. But if even one person suffers, the ride becomes epic. I’m not sure why that is… maybe because we’ve all been there, taking a ride on the pain train, wondering if you wouldn’t have rather been hit with the locomotive. So when we see others hurting, it’s validation for all the times we’ve hurt.

Whatever the case may be, embrace the Red Jersey. Be the sacrificial lamb to the ride slaughter, and know that you’ll come out stronger for it… assuming you’re not eaten by a Gorn or something.