by Kerry Duggan

Surviving an Attack
(A Beginner's Guide)

Sunday morning about 30 miles into the GCC ride.

You're rolling along, two abreast, blissfully freewheeling the small ring and chatting.

Suddenly the pack turns single file, accelerates, and you find yourself locked into a death sprint just to regain the very back.

What the _____?

Why'd the guy's suddenly roar around you in the big ring?

Boring Conversation? Bad breath? B.O.?

Nope you've just been attacked. Some jaboney simply snapped, raged off the front and pointed his lance Don Quixote-like at some illusionary goal. This dubious "win" line could be anything from a city limit sign to a dead armadillo. Maybe he just wanted to split the pack.

Eventually you claw your way back to the group. You were lucky this time. The pack slowed down and there wasn't much of a headwind to fight alone.

Easing back into the slipstream, your legs stop fizzing. You peer up front and ask three questions:
Who did it?
Why'd they do it?
How will they pay?

Now, every cyclist born has felt the urge to attack on occasion, but if you've ridden with GCC consistently, repeat offenders are well known. I shall now provide you with a list of the most chronic, their favorite attack zones, and the most recent offense. (Not in any particular order.)
B.N. Long, flat, straight roads and county signs. Paynes Prairie.
D.Z. Long, steep hills at ride's end. I-75 and 39th Ave.
J.S. Stop signs, corners and whenever the paces drops below 20 MPH. Hague road race course.
J.H. Steep, rolling hills, crosswinds, and Lil' Champs. Millhopper ride
D.B. Flat, straight, headwind sections (every 10 minutes). Hague course.
R.W. County and city signs, rolling hills, headwinds, Lil' Champs, automobile wrecks, mid ride, end ride, and dead armadillos. Waldo ride.
K.S. Never attacks but rides way hard on the flats then accelerates on hills. Dungarvin.
H.D. Attacks every 10 seconds regardless of terrain but never gets away. Just now.


As mentioned earlier, everybody gets a wild urge to attack from time to time. GCC riders are no exception. They may have had a bad day, downed three cups of coffee, or just want to dominate the "Freds" so they attack. Afterwards, the group usually slows down, regroups, and continues at a civilized pace.

But the most vicious, sustained efforts come from frustrated or part-time racer types hell bent to exorcise some inner demon with little regard for those around them. Now, in a race situation, competing for cash or glory, cyclists are expected to destroy the competition to wear him down, crush his spirit, then spit him out the back like a peach pit.

This, of course, is totally inappropriate behavior for a GCC ramble, but all too common. So in order to prepare new club members, here's a list of common "Yellow Alert" danger signals potential attack zones to watch our for:

1. City or county limit signs. The most common zones. Study maps. Memorize them. Advice: most major river crossings (bridges) herald a county borderline.

2. Long, steep hills. There is nothing like a long, steep hill to brutally expose your strength-to-weight ratio. Except for Miguel Indurain, any cyclist over 170 pounds does not have gravity for a friend (Cycling Journal Editor's note: Amen, but boy can we descend). Advice: Start sitting in 1-2 miles out, then choose the wheel of someone strong but 170 pounds plus. If an attack occurs, he'll climb nice and steady. Also, start the climb near the front to force those behind you to ride at your chosen speed. Ignore the rude remarks they're just jealous of your choice spot. The worst hills are Mebane hill (241 at Alachua), Pre-Columbian hill (241 and 1491), Rush hour hill (I-75 and 39th Ave.), and any hill south of Micanopy.

3. Food stops. Incredible but true. Some type A personality gets impatient at the Lil' Champ in Waldo waiting for rider number 23 to finish his 46 ounce "Big Bad Woof" fountain drink and bolts. Two or three others hop up and chase. Suddenly the Lil' Champ doors burst open and a whole gaggle of panicked cyclists storm out, clattering like a riot at a tap dance school and zoom off in pursuit.

Advice: Don't be left behind with a silly look on your face, a belly full of Coke and the prospect of a hard solo chase. At the first hint of a food stop, sprint off the front, cycle through the door and ride right up to the drink dispenser. Snatch up some Grandma's cookies then knock over the display stand on the way out. This should buy you 5-6 minutes. When the others arrive start riding around in circles yelling at people to hurry up. Then bolt.

4. When women hit the front. C'mon guys! I've seen it happen it's not very nice or sporting of you and they tell on you anyway. Advice to women: take down names.

Make them pay

1. As a likely attack zone looms, watch repeat offenders carefully, then jump on their wheel as they come by. Tuck in behind until they tire, then attack with fresh legs. This works especially well if they tow you to the base of a large hill before you leave. Do this repeatedly until the consequences of you stuck to their rear wheel is stamped into their genetic memory for generations to come.

2. Organize a chase group but maintain a comfortable pace. Don't reel him in immediately. Let him dangle off the front a few minutes until he gets good and tired. As the group is about to catch him, form a single line and accelerate hard. Have the last cyclist crack the whip by falling off a little, the sprinting back on just as the "fly boy" desperately tries to get back on. Be sure and smile as you wave "bye bye."

3. But by far the easiest and most satisfying way to discipline a chronic attacker is to let him get way off the front. A good 1/2 mile or so. Let him fill his head with Claudio Chiappucci fantasies, then turn down a side road suddenly and jack up the pace. Allow yourself a good chuckle and watch that speck behind you making a panicked U-turn.

Some people never learn.

Answer Key

Bill Nettleton
Dana Zimmel
Jim Sanders
John Harlan
Dave Bennett
Richard Walker
Kippy Street
Huan Dinh
Gainesville Cycling Club Web Site