Attacking in a bicycle race— riding off the front of a pack of cyclists, heading into the wind— is either a fool’s errand or the sign of a champion, or both.
Tony Geller said he’ll always remember his riding buddy, Bill McLain, as “the guy who attacks all the time, any time.”
Out in front by himself or herself, a rider has to work harder against the wind.
Protected in a pack, a rider expends less effort. But a race can’t be won from the middle of the pack. So in the mid-1990s, when he raced the old “Tuesday Night Crits”— short weekly contests among local racers, McLain would bolt from the pack as soon as he could to see who was strong enough to go with him.
His attitude, Geller recalled, was that if you were a strong rider, it was your obligation to attack, to push the race. And if you were a weak rider, you had nothing to lose.
“He would be off the front in the first lap or two,” said Geller.
But when McLain died May 6 of complications from melanoma at age 48, the tributes that piled up on the nmcycling.org Web site weren’t about his skills on the bike. They were about the contributions he made, large and small, to his community.
Even if you’re not a cyclist, it’s really worth reading the tributes to Bill over at the NMCycling forum. They’re beautiful.