Overtaking other cyclists

Yesterday, I went out for a steady 45 mile ride around Brill and Oakley. I’d just had a hard session on the rollers on Friday, so I said to myself I should take it nice and steady. Level 2 endurance, none of this interval malarkey. After all – it’s early in the season and I’m recovering from injury. Steady miles is what the doctor ordered.


Approaching Brill hill, I see a peleton of riders, quite a few wearing Team Milton Keynes jerseys. Instinctively, you want to try and catch up with a group of cyclists on the road, so I lifted the pace a little. As I was going up the lower slopes of Brill hill, a jogger running down the other way shouts out to me ‘Go on you can catch them!’ – Well, talk about red rag to a bull….

Cycling up a hill with cyclists in the distance seems to create an instinctive response to try and catch up with them; it feels anti-social not to try.  Pretty soon your level 2 soon goes out of the window. The group of riders were splintering on the fairly steep climb up to Brill, so I start overtaking the riders one by one. It wasn’t really wanting to show off, though I’m sure there was some ego lurking around. It’s just that it was a hill and it seemed rude just to lurk on the back of the group.

One confession I have to make is that when overtaking other cyclists, I nearly always feel compelled to take a deep breath and say ‘good morning’ – trying to sound as though I’m not out of breath at all. When you’re safely past, you take a big gulp of air trying to hide the fact you’re suffering much more than you’re letting on.

It sounds a bit sad, but I’m sure I’m not the only cyclist to have pretended to be doing level 2 up a 16% hill. Near the top I can’t decide whether to really go in the red and beat the leading two cyclists in the distance. It’s already much harder work than I had planned. But, fortunately a car overtakes and  places itself between me and the leaders – making the decision for me. I’m kind of grateful to be saved from myself, and I happily crest the hill in second place. I thank the riders at the top and tell myself it’s great meeting other cyclists on the road, it really gives you that extra inspiration to go hard and cycle fast (conveniently forgetting all those resolutions to stick to level two). But, where’s the fun in sticking to power and heart rate zones? There’s much more fun in catching up with other riders and trying to overtake them.

On the way back from Ambrosden, there’s a nice 7 mile stretch of flat road. For Oxfordshire, it’s a reasonably good road surface. I was plodding along at 16mph into a headwind, when a guy on a time trial bike comes swooshing past at 23mph. Despite his speed of overtaking, I see he’s riding an immaculate, clean looking Cervelo P5. (If you don’t know much about TT bikes, a P5 stands for Pay at least £5,000.) Again I’m faced with that dilemma – do I stick to my own training schedule or do I bust a gut and get on his back wheel?

Well, before you can say Level 2 training ride, I’m straining to get on his back wheel. So many different motivations:

  • I want to check there is someone really riding an immaculate Cervelo P5 on the wettest muddiest January on record.
  • It’s a headwind and I can do with some shelter.
  • And of course, the old cyclist ego thing – I’m not going to be overtaken by anyone – especially not some triathlete on a Cervelo P5.

I got on his wheel and enjoyed a nice 23 mph ride.

There’s probably some etiquette about wheel sucking a stranger’s wheel. But, if you see someone on a P5 travelling at 23mph in January, I think it’s fair game. I wasn’t too close because he hadn’t fitted his immaculate Cevelo P5 with mudguards. Fortunately or unfortunately, the wheel sucking didn’t last for too long. I turned left into a flooded road near Islip. He went straight on. This muddy puddle was pretty grim, but, at least I wasn’t riding a £5,000 time trial bike….


Recently, I was injured and was cycling very slowly into town. It was a good discipline to be (nearly) the slowest cyclist on the roads. I’m sure it’s very good for my ego to be overtaken by old men and ladies on sit up and beg bikes. At least for a few rides, I could let people fly by without trying to justify the need to save energy by wheel sucking into town.

But, no matter who you, are there’s always someone better than you. Two experiences of being overtaken always stick with me.

  • British time trial championship 2010. I was doing 33 mph on the flat, feeling pretty pleased with myself, when Chris Froome flew past like a train; he must have been doing 37/38mph.
  • National 100 championship. I’d blown up at around the 80 mile mark, and Michael Hutchinson caught me for about 15 minutes, flying past like a train.


7 thoughts on “Overtaking other cyclists”

  1. You’re definitely not the only one! The inner gorilla is strong in cyclists! The holding your breath thing is typical and also actually increases your need for air once you are past them, It then becomes a battle to make sure they can’t see your shoulders heaving!

  2. I don`t no if I look like an old gadge from behind,but it seems every young pup wants to show me how fit he is by storming past me singing or whistling his head off.
    Do I try and chase him/her,you bet I do.

  3. I think we all do it!

    The one that gets me though is when you’re on the flat riding at tempo pace and you overtake someone going slower. You carry on at your pace, focussed on maintaining a good rythmn when you hear that person back on your wheel! Said person having made contact, ups the pace to threshold and you find yourself upping your speed whilst disguising the need for oxygen.

  4. I can resist at the start of a cycle, I tell myself every ride has it’s purpose and today was not meant to be hard. But there seems to be something about cycling so that as I begin to enjoy the ride I get more and more likely to race total strangers, whilst pretending not to, usually uphill though I refuse to be overtaken out of principal. And yes there’s always a cheerful good morning as if I was just nipping out for a paper rather than half killing myself!

  5. I can’t resist when I see someone up front! As you say red rag to a bull!

    Felt like a beast catching and passing 5 cyclists up Whinlatter pass today! One guy was properly grinding his way up, shoulders all over the place and as I past saying ‘hello mate’ whilst trying not to sound like I’m blowing out of my arse I felt so proud. Haha


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