Last night’s club ride showed all of the signs of being one of those sucky, slog-of-a-ride sufferfests. Cold, only 45 degrees (F), cloudy with no threat of rain, and a gnarly wind, dead nuts out of the north and a sparse turnout to boot.
My buddy Mike, even though he said he’d be there when I called, was a no-show. There were four heavy hitters, my friend Phil and a doctor and his wife on a tandem. Against that brutal wind.
My other Mike friend, the age group Sprint Triathlon (and Duathlon) National Champ, headed out for a quick-six warmup… I had on leg warmers, shorts, light tights, wool socks, arm warmers, short-sleeved jersey, long-sleeved jersey, a vest and a headsweats cap…and was perfectly dressed for the ride – exceedingly comfortable, not too hot and not too cold. I couldn’t believe it, I’d spun the Wheel of Fashion and hit the jackpot.
We started the ride at a fair 19 mph pace with the crosswind but that was short-lived. Once we turned north, the pace was ramped up to 21.5-22 and it stayed there for an eternity. There weren’t enough guys to choose from so I wound up behind a horse… Dave. Dammit. The man pulled like I was whipping him for God’s sake, a mile and a half to two miles every turn. I stuck to his wheel like my life depended on it – in fact, and this is one of the great things about riding in a ridiculously fast group, I was able to stay in the drops the whole time… Gotta love riding with competent cyclists.
We finally hit the sharp left to head southwest for a bit of help from that wind, maybe ten miles in. I worked up to the front for my pull at 25 mph, made it maybe three quarters of a mile, fell back and worked my way back up again… The next time up I tried for a full mile and did fine, falling out with enough juice too latch back on. Unfortunately, I had missed the fact that Phil and the tandem dropped. My count was off and I hesitated to check over my shoulder and a gap formed. When I looked back, I could have made it back. It would have taken some work but I could have done it. Instead I opted to wait for the tandem and my friend.
That was the single, best cycling decision I made all year.
It took them a bit to catch me, in fact I got to take a nature break and spend a mile or two spinning easy but I knew I’d have my work cut out for me once we formed out. The entire rest of the ride was a blur of awesomeness. I took long, fast turns up front, often eliciting a verbal pat on the back after I gave the arm flick… We were in my wheelhouse, 21-22 mph (19 into the wind), that speed where you’re working but it’s fun work, not suffering. We finished in the dark, lights a blazing and smiles and fist-bumps all around.
In the parking lot, after the ride, was the first time since I’d gotten on my bike that I realized just how cold it was. One of the best rides of the year on a night that should have sucked. Funny how that works, eh?
I didn’t show up last evening because I was hoping to have a good time. To the contrary, I showed up expecting to struggle, just so I could get my miles in. I expected to be cold and miserable but I still showed up.