Last night was my return to the Tuesday night club ride and there was plenty of sucking for everyone. Now I know what 31 mph in a group feels like. It’s frickin’ fast. It’s also a lot of fun. And it. Is. Frickin’. Hard. Hard enough that it’s simply stunning to contemplate just how tough it would be to hold that speed for an hour, even on a perfect wood track, with no wind.
We started out tamely enough, at 18.5 mph with a howling crosswind to let the full group form up, Mike and I up front. Then we turned north, right into the teeth of the wind where the horses took over and momentarily took us up to 23-1/2 mph… I was chucking, looking at my computer. No way they were going to hold that into a sustained 20+ mph wind. Sure enough, they brought it back down to a more reasonable 20 to 21 after a couple of miles. Six miles later, we turned southwest and had the wind at our back. We were at 24 right off the turn and it was cranked up to 26 within another 100 yards. A mile later and we were dead west with a gnarly crosswind, then southwest again and up to 28. We got progressively faster until we hit the first due south section. We crossed 30 mph for the first time I’ve seen on a Tuesday night and held there for several miles. It was rough, for sure but it was nothing short of awesome. I can sprint, from a rolling 18 mph, to 32 mph easily enough, but to cruise at over 30 for miles was really quite cool.
Mike, Phill and I dropped off the back unceremoniously, on the first set of hills, having had enough. We were the last three of the “B” riders to drop. Five miles later we stopped at the side of the road to wait for Phill to change a flat after he rolled over a fairly large rock in the road. Then we were on our way again. We talked about two of our friends who are going through illnesses, about how we can help them stay active through their struggles, dedicating ourselves to protect them when they choose to ride so they can still maintain some level of fitness for when they heal up (hopefully) and come back to the group whole.
We worked hard, but not too hard, until we caught Carla and her son (she rode her old mountain bike so she could get a good workout with her young son on his road bike). As we passed, I heard him ask his mom if he could try to stay with us. She gave her blessing and I dropped back 20 feet to help him up to the group. I looked back to see him bobbing a bit, trying to get a good draft, so I pointed out where to hang on my wheel and he took his spot. The three of us protected the little fella (he’s maybe twelve) and took rotations at the front. He managed to stay with us for the last four miles and crossed the line with the big kids.
The three of us gave him his “attaboy’s” and I asked him if he noticed how Mike, Phill and I took turns pulling, allowing him to use our draft to stay with us. He said he did and appreciated it. I took took the opportunity to learn him a little lesson in cycling with our group. I said, “When you’re an older buck, you’re going to find yourself in the position of being stronger than someone else who needs your help to stay with the group. We do our best to help those who need it, so remember this day and help them to be the best they can, that’s just how we roll.”
Later on, while we were packing up, Carla rolled up wiping a few tears from her eyes. She thanked the three of us for watching after her boy, and said it was the most amazing thing to watch him pull away…
We didn’t break any PR’S last night, but it was the best club ride I’ve been a part of in a long time. It was a good night. Oh, and we didn’t even get rained on!