What really bothers me is that they play pretend.
If you want to race, frickin' race. It takes 30 bucks and a bicycle plus showing up to become a roadracer. That, and a set of nuts. (Or in some cases, a set of ovaries, I guess.) You want to race? Go do it. There is no excuse not to. It's safer than trying to 'race' people on bike trails and in traffic, where your opponents are't trying to race and are busying dodging road hazards. It won't piss off other users of the road & trail, on whom everybody else's continued cycling career depends. Most importantly, doing a real race, no matter how humble, raises you from the ranks of the wanna-bes, into the ranks of those who are.
Teddy Roosevelt summed this up in a speech about other things - but it's clear from his offhand comment, he didn't like wanna-bes either:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.This occurred to me while riding back to D.C. from the Muffin Ride yesterday, my club's recovery/fun Friday ride. This chubby fellow in a too-short jersey, which rode up up over his love handles and showed off his shorts, which were sliding down, cut in front of us as we were moving down the trail spur to the Key Bridge. He didn't look where he was going and just pulled out, necessitating a quick dodge by us. We passed him then spun to the bottom of the hill. At the bottom of Lee Highway, at the pedestrian/bike trail crossing, Porkins (that's the name of the X-wing fighter pilot that bit it at the end of Star Wars, right?) sort of elbowed his way between us as we were standing there talking. He proceeds to ride in between us as we were going down the Mount Vernon Trail. I tried to ride next to James and Porkins inserts himself between us, making a standing effort to keep up with our easy spin. As we got to the bottom of the mini-Poggio bridge, I was trying to pull up next to James and Porkins sees me, half wheels me from the front and pulls over. He just about took me out with that brilliant blocking move.
Y'know, because we were all racing, and that's what Team Cinzano would do, right?
I thought about notifying Porkins that I'm the club treasurer, and if he wants to join the group rides, he needs needs to pay the membership dues, or at least put in an application. I kept my mouth shut though, in a rare exercise of tact.
Anyhow, he finally pulled out past James, and with the finest of Pathlete form, head and shoulders bobbing, death grip on the bars, rocking the bike from side to side, made a collossal effort and pulled past him. Because he was way faster, right, and going to drop us decisively. He was pretty clearly in full race mode.
So James and I continued our easy spin up down the Mt. Vernon and over the 14th St. Bridge, while Porkins dangled about 20 feet off the front. It was kind of lame and we were soft pedaling to a ridiculous degree but I didn't feel like passing the guy, no matter how slow he was going, because it would only trigger another ridiculous and mildly dangerous display on his part. James said that the guy had pulled a similar moronic stunt in the recent past, though I didn't ask if it was the exposed ass crack, the love handles, or the guy's rude way of inserting himself between people that are obviously riding together, that was the tipoff.
I think it's pretty obvious why that kind of behavior drives me to distraction. The minor stuff I bitch about - hairy legs, bad fitting jersey, whatever - pales next to the dangerous riding, the rudeness (which carries with it a possibility of danger, common road courtesy isn't just a nice frill) and the multi-spectrum stupidity. That the typical Pathlete then turns into a slow moving road block once you let him pass, is just icing on the cake.
Here's the funny thing. If Porkins wanted to commute in the safe, sane manner that the vast majority of us do, I'd probably say a friendly hello if he passed me on the trail. If Porkins decided he wanted to be a real racer and started showing up on group rides, or at races, I'd welcome him. Odds are he wont, that he will instead continue to play his little ego-stroking games in places that are totally unsuitable for it, rather than risking the harsh grades that actually come with stepping into the arena. It's pathetic, and I don't like being made a prop in his little (moderately dangerous-to-live-out) fantasy about actually being in the arena.
If I see him again, I'm marking him for a game of Pathlete Intervals.
[Update: And let me make one thing clear. The other reason I hate Pathletes, is I've been that wannabe fool. I don't much like myself when I'm being a foolish wannabe with ego issues, and I don't like it in others. I'm happy to throw stones while I'm living in my glass house, as long as it helps get me out of my own glass house and into a better neighborhood].