It was supposed to be raining yesterday evening for the club ride. I’d have been at home, finally taking a day off the bike and having dinner with my wife, celebrating our 20 years as a couple… The skies were cloudy and it was hot but with a wind out of the south between six and eight miles an hour, we weren’t likely to have anything blow in on us so I was riding – and I felt better last night than I’ve felt in weeks. I felt fast. My legs felt lively. It defied logic that I felt that good but there it is.
I led for the whole seven mile warm-up, averaging near 16 mph, sitting up there with McMike feeling marvelous. Phill, Chuck and Brad were along with us and they weren’t really close enough to catch a draft, so saying I “led” the warm-up is really more about explaining the lineup. Somewhere along the way, Brad said that he was going to keep it to the short route. He’s going through chemo and he didn’t want to push it too hard, for too long. I thought about it for five seconds and offered to ride in with him. I wanted him to ride in knowing that his boys have his back and I’m off of some huge mileage and on no rest for more than more than a month… It made sense, at the time.
We rolled out just past six. Chuck and I up front and it was fast right out of the gate. We started at 19 and took it up to 21 with a crosswind. We led for just over a mile before turning right to catch a tailwind. The pace jumped to 28, now. It didn’t come down, with the exception of one stop for traffic at a busy intersection, till we turned southwest.
Into a headwind we were between 23 and 24. I took enough turns up front that I lost count at five. I felt spectacular, strong… Good. I’d say it’s been three weeks since I felt close to that spry and I’m sure the fact that I knew I only had to hold on for twelve miles improved my attitude considerably.
The rotation into the wind was pretty quick, 30 seconds to a minute, and even though the group was pretty big, we didn’t have more than 14 of us who did all of the pulling. With only two miles to the intersection where Brad and I would split with the group, I was one bike from the front again and we ran into a bit of a weird scenario. Matt found himself close to the front, second bike to be exact, and he’s usually not up that far, so when the lead bikes pulled off to drop back, Matt went too. That tends to create a bit of a traffic jam up front, not to mention that the guy who was third now has to catch up with me… I picked up my speed, considerably, to clear the mess of cyclists dropping back and I probably held that just a little too long. Chuck hollered at me to give him a chance to catch up – and he was right, I was a little too overzealous… So I soft-pedaled for a second to let him catch up. We were even-up for about ten seconds and Chuck tried to drop the hammer on me.
I noticed his cadence pick up before his speed, so I matched him. Before I knew it we were passing 28 mph into the wind and there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth behind us. One guy was yelling to back it off but Chuck was intent on putting the hurt on me. We kept accelerating. I dropped off the front and let him beat me. I was smoked anyway and it seemed like the right thing to do after I pissed him off, even if it was unintentional.
For the first time that evening, I dropped all the way to the back of the group, ninety percent of the way to hyperventilating. Once I caught my breath I asked Brad if we were still heading back early. He replied in the affirmative so we backed off a little to let the group make their right so we could check traffic and make the left to head home. We made thirteen and a quarter miles in 34 minutes – almost a 23 mph average on open roads, stopping for stop signs and the whole nine yards. Folks, that was fast.
I took the lead and let Brad draft me the whole way back, between 16 and 20 mph. I won’t lie, I was a little bummed out that I’d chosen to cut out early. I had plenty of leg left, even after all of those turns up front… It would have been an awesome 30 miles, probably a record (Phill later texted me that they’d done the 29 miles [and change] in 1:16, a minute faster than our previous best). Brad and I talked about his health, how he was doing and his plans for the following year. He hadn’t felt well since June so this season was pretty much a bust. Even though I had wished I’d kept going, after the eight miles back, I knew I’d done the right thing.
We made the trip back, almost eight miles, in decent time and ended up just shy of a 21 mph average overall. We packed up and headed over to the restaurant for dinner. I’ve had plenty of times where I needed help from my friends, Every now and again it’s nice to have some to give back.