I was cycling home at a fairly decent clip, when I heard a steady wooshing sound suggesting another rider was close behind. After some minutes of this, the wooshing grew more frenzied and I knew he was about to overtake me. Split seconds later, that was exactly what happened. The rider, down in the drops and red in the face, was giving it his all. I expected him to continue in this manner down the road, rocketing past me until he was but a dot on the horizon. Instead, nearly as soon as he passed me, the man immediately slowed down - until he was cycling at the exact same speed as I was, only now some meters ahead of me. By god, he had passed me just for the sake of passing!
"You do it because it feels like someone is blocking your view," a friend explained to me sheepishly, admitting he sometimes does this too. "Only normally, you'd have the decency to get far enough ahead not to obstruct theirs." Well yeah - exactly!
It had been a long day, and my tiredness had made me feel mischievous. So I pedaled just a tiny bit harder, caught up with the rider who'd passed me, sat on his wheel, and said, in the most friendly, genuine tone I could muster: "Hey! Thanks for taking a pull. That headwind is brutal." Apparently not finding this funny, he shook his head and picked up speed, attempting to lose me. I pedaled faster and stayed on his wheel. Then when the road was clear, I accelerated past him, and didn't stop until about a mile later. I looked over my shoulder and could not see him behind. "That is how you pass someone, mister!" I thought to myself triumphantly (only "mister" was not the word I used). Then I immediately grew annoyed at myself for having gotten drawn into this childish game. Why bother?
On the other hand, what do you do exactly, when someone overtakes you just for the sake of being "first," then slows down and sits right in front of you? Do you enjoy the view of their semi-transparent cycling shorts? Or do you pass them back and risk playing infinite leap frog?
It is a bit of road use etiquette I never understood as a driver, and am no closer to mastering as a cyclist. Blessedly, it is sufficiently rare among my fellow bicyclists to be the exception rather than the norm.