If you’re in a bike race, you probably have a race goal. Frequently, I hear people say that their race goal is “not to come in last.”
I would urge you to ask yourself why that is your primary goal for a race. Unlike other sports (local running races, triathlons), in most cases, bike racing is not just about finishing, it’s about being the strongest, fastest, and smartest racer. However, every race is different, every rider has their strengths and weaknesses, and nobody can be on top all of the time. Someone is going to be last, and it might be you. Or it might be your friend, or it might be your teammate. That’s just the way it is.
In my almost-two-seasons of bike racing, I’ve finished last many times. I’ve also finished second and third from last many times. There is no difference. I’ve ridden a crappy race and finished second to last because someone else had a mechanical or a bad day. I’ve had to get off my bike and put my chain back on, or stop to help a teammate (or in one case, to get a new bike!), and chased as hard as I could only to finish in a very triumphant last place.
The problem for new(ish) racers, or racers that aren’t quite at the level of their teammates, is that we perpetuate this stigma attached to last place. When someone’s goal is “just not to be last” and then your teammate finishes in that last place, it can come off as insulting, as well as discouraging. At the Concord Criterium this past weekend, I was really proud to be in the company of some fine racers at the back of the race. We had a rider back on the bike after a hiatus, another in her first race back after multiple crashes, a strong rider in her very first bike race, and one just trying to finish the race on her unfortunately malfunctioning bike without getting injured. Then there was me, just trying to ride my bike fast. There was great communication, great teamwork, and (at least for me) a lot of fun.
So, someone’s going to be last. That’s life. And everyone’s goals are their goals, and they’re entitled to them, of course! But I would just encourage you to think about goals that have more to do with the quality of your racing, than not winding up in that dreaded last place. It’s not that bad being last, trust me, I’ve been there before and I’ll be there again… and hopefully it will be because I’m in the company of awesome women racers who are faster than me, and I’ve raced my heart out. If that happens, I’ll gladly take last place.
DFL > DNF > DNS
See you at Witches Cup! If anyone needs me, I’ll probably be off the back.