One-Minute Writer: Annoying
I had just made another pass in a string of many when I sensed something was wrong. The Dutch cyclist I had gone by was now sucking my wheel, cheating by slipping into my draft zone. I could hear him behind me, over the rush of wind, and even feel him on my back, eyes planted firmly on my ass as he continued to take advantage of an illegal position.
Fighting into ferocious winds on the polders of the Dutch countryside, I put my head down in attempts to stay as aero as possible and pushed as I tried to forget about the cheater behind me. But it was hard. Here I was, racing in a triathlon World Championship of top age groupers, playing by the rules, and this guy was out to use me to his advantage. The wind was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Over the rushing sounds of a wall of wind, I was still able hear the guy behind me, annoying, ticking in my ear to the point where I finally had enough.
At first chance, I peered back with a scowl to show my displeasure. The pain registered on his face told me he was holding on. The over-distanced 5K swim before it in swirling, choppy waters plus the 60 miles already covered on the bike had taken its toll. This guy was hurting. But he was cheating. And he was annoying, totally disrupting my race.
Just then another rider, this one a German, hopped on his wheel, with me leading the charge, doing all the work into this dire wind. Both were cheating, as the International Triathlon Union mandates a draft-free ride for all participants.
Five miles later the road finally turned away from the wind. I used the opportunity to make a push, to shake the two cheaters, but having expended so much energy fighting into the wind in the earlier miles, I had no extra push remaining. When I looked back, I saw both riders sitting up out of their aero positions looking at each other and exchanging words.
That was it. Here I am, in a race of a lifetime, worrying about these guys behind me, letting them ruin my race… I had to do something. At that moment, annoyance exploded into action.
With me leading the way, with a Dutch cheater on my wheel and a German cheater on his, I reached down for my sport drink and took a swig. But instead of swallowing, I turned around and sprayed the sweet fluid up in the air, completing covering my competitors.
Even through this, these guys stayed glued to my wheel. So I sprayed them with sticky sport drink again. And again my plea was ignored.
A mile later a race official came by on a motorbike. As the official riding on the back looked at me to check that all was well, I told him about the two guys, how they were drafting. The motorbike slowed to the Dutch. As I looked back, I saw the official say something and wag a finger at him. Then he dropped back further and did the same to the German.
Not long after the motorbike pulled away, the Dutchman was back on my wheel. Thankfully the German took the message and was done cheating.
So annoyed I was at this point that I turned around and gave him a universal symbol with my middle finger. The Dutchman was unshaken. He didn’t even look at me as I had turned.
Just then a cyclist with a red Canadian maple leaf on his uniform pulled around the Dutchman to by my side. “This asshole has been drafting you for the last half hour.” I shook my head, I knew. At that moment, the Canadian slowed down to the Dutchman, now beside him, and thrust a middle finger at him, as if he would punch him.
It was the last time the Dutchman drafted my wheel.
My annoyance turned to elation nearly two hours later when I was done with the bike and now on the run course. As I was completing the first loop of the 30K run course, I spotted a familiar face on the other side of the pathway, runners going in either direction. It was the Dutchman. He wore the same expression of pain on his face. Dejected with dreams over, he was walking.
This “Annoying” moment was caught in an official race photo. This picture was taken right after the Canadian had pulled in front of me but before he told me of the cheaters drafting my wheel. It wasn’t long after this picture when I was finally able to shake the Dutchman and the German, with great thanks to my friend from Canada.