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Monthly Archives: September 2015

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Tuesday Night Club Ride: Best Night of the Season Edition

The kids didn’t have swimming practice last night and we had a babysitter lined up so Mrs. Bgddy was riding with us.

We got to the meeting spot plenty early and had everything unpacked and were well into gearing up as our friends arrived.

We started out on the warm up easy.  The weather was absolutely exquisite for cycling – easily the best day we had all season long and we all shared a chuckle that the best day came at the end of summer.  The temp, in the upper 70’s, couldn’t have been better.  A light breeze out of the south that, honest to God, I don’t know how you could measure it was so mild.  “Easy” lasted for less than a mile.  My wife was up front and in her aero bars so she can’t read her computer.  She has to rely on feel so she’s exceptionally strong with nothing to cloud her mind.  We were up to 22 and just enjoying a great warm up ride.  No stress, just easy pedaling.

See, the warm up says a lot about how the night is going to go.  We’re averaging 17 and it’s probably going to be a fast and windy but manageable ride.  We’re averaging 21 which pretty much means Katie, bar the door.

That educated guess was correct.  We rolled out at six on the nose, big Joe and I up front.  Normally were doing the first mile at about 19.  We were at 22, knowing darn good and well, it was going to get hot in a hurry.  We turned after the first mile and a half and big Joe and I slid off the front and into a gap that had formed only eight cyclists back or so…  Oh boy, it was going to be one of those, too.

Nothing spectacular happened though. Yeah, the guys up front took it to 24, but with no wind, you could have gotten a draft riding a Mack truck.  There were some surges to deal with but other than that, it was just a fast, fun ride.

Mrs. Bgddy hung on like a champ, even when they drove the speed up to the upper 20’s.  It was my wife’s night.  She was on.  Ten miles in and Phill said he couldn’t believe she was still with us at that speed (27-28 mph).

Then we got into trouble.  Mike said she’d fallen off so he asked if I wanted to wait for her.  I said yes and we sat up…  Just to have her rocket by us as of we were standing still.  Mike asked if I wanted to sit up or catch up.  I said, “No way my wife’s beating me tonight, let’s go”, and I dropped the hammer… and we shot right by her as she sat up to wait for us.  That did her in too, so we sat up again to ride in with my wife.

I checked my computer quickly, waiting for her to catch up.  23.8 average.  We did 13 miles in less than 32 minutes.  With traffic.  Once my wife caught on we started at 19 and worked it up from there.  I took the climb up the long hill but kept it subdued so I wouldn’t burn my wife up.  Cresting the hill we had our first stragglers to reel in.  Big Joe and Toby.

Mike took a nice pull, then I took another,  then my wife and she got us close,  maybe 200 meters.  When she tapped out I had to be careful to take the speed up gradually so she could get back on and catch her breath for a second…  Ten seconds went by, twenty…  I figured she was good and I started working the speed up.  21, 22, 23.  I settled in at 23-1/2 and prepared for a long turn chasing them down.  To my surprise we didn’t have to wait long, I closed the gap quickly and all of a sudden we had a five-person train.

We sped on, between 21 and 23, except for the climbs and descents but we handled the climbs surprisingly well and hammered the descents.  Then came the one real climb of the ride…  I dropped everybody but Mike and we slowed up toward the top to wait for everyone to form up, when what do I see but the entire rest of our crew waiting for us!  A smile stretched across my face…

We took about a half-mile to get our order straight but once we did, it was full speed ahead.

We plowed on with nary a hiccup and kept the speed comfortably between 22 & 24 the whole way home.  Everyone took part in getting us to that last mile.

What has become my favorite mile…

We were a little disorganized, big Joe tried to come up to the front and he had my buddy Mike behind him.  For a second I maneuvered in behind Mike but I could see Joe sputtering…  Doc Mike and Diane, on their tandem were having none of that and quickly accelerated so I checked my six, pointed and went back to their wheel.  With a half-mile left to the sprint it was too soon for Mike to try a solo run so I was perfectly positioned.

I carefully waited for the right time to spring but heard some chatter behind me, something about “box him in”…  It’s tough, at 25 mph, to hear clearly over the rushing wind and all of the whirring drivetrains but I knew if I didn’t go soon, I’d miss my chance.

I launched way too soon.  I knew that I was going to have to hurt on this one but I didn’t care.  I pounded hard on the pedals, ass high, down in the drops and I sprinted for all I was worth.  100 meters from the City Limits sign I was running out of gas.  My legs burned, my lungs burned…  My whole body was like, “dude, you suck.”  I took a second to hazard a look back.  There were more than a few wheels back there and they were matching me.  I had to dig down, deep in the cockles of my “want to”…  “Go!” I thought.  40 meters left and I gave it one more burst…  Across the line…  Dave and a new guy were so close but I’d held them off.

I quickly shifted from twelve all the way up to 25 and pedaled easy while I tried to catch my breath…  29 miles and change in 1:18…  22.1 mies per hour.  A new best, not only for me, but for my wife as well.  She stayed with us the whole way, at better than a 22 mph average, on a night where even I hit a personal best.  Cycling is strong with this one…

Afterwards we all met in the parking lot to pack up our stuff, we had hi-five’s and handshakes all around (I definitely had some props for the Doc and Diane) and my wife, over the course of the next hour or so, recounted the ride from her perspective.  Her enthusiasm abounds and it’s a wonderful thing to see…  From someone who used to get a little testy at mine, to someone who’s just one of the gang having a great time.  None of that past stuff matters anymore.  Sometimes you just have to go through what you do to get where you want to be.  It might get better than this at some point down the road even if I don’t know how it could, I simply can’t see that with my current perception…  Of course, if it doesn’t, I’ll be okay with that too – this is good enough.

Dinner at the diner was extra tasty last night.

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Understanding Selfishness: It’s not All Bad.

Manipulation is a key survival skill for any practicing drunk.  This one included, long ago, thankfully.  When I quit being that guy, I had some things to fix, and manipulation of the truth was one of the first things on the chopping block.  Of course, even though we sober up, let’s just say some old habits die hard.

Stay with me a second, this is going to get good, I promise.

Let’s check Webster first, on the manipulation deal:  b :to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.

I crossed out artful because I run an honest program.  Artful, though what we do/did can be manipulated to suggest, our form of manipulation is nothing more than despicable and underhanded.  To claim it is “artful” just seems, I don’t know, disgusting.  I also crossed out “especially” because, well why bother lying, cheating and manipulating things if we’re not going to benefit?  C’mon, man.

So I have a friend, newer in recovery, who struggles a little bit with understanding selfishness.  Again, let’s go to Webster:

1: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself :seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

2: arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others

Okay, so this person is suggesting that going through the necessary steps to recover from her alcoholism, because it is a time consuming endeavor, is “selfish”.  She also suggests that, because she is exceptionally stressed out and often, going for a one hour bike ride, while her significant other is toiling away at home, to relieve her stress, is also selfish.

On their own merits, a case could be made that she’s got a point.  What you don’t know is that she misses her Xanax, prescribed by a “friendly” doctor.  Going for a bike ride is just as good as the narcotic and it won’t perpetuate an addict’s disease.  How do I know this?  Take a wild frickin’ guess.  We’re all a little depressed once we give up our drug of escape and taking the time to recover means no more escaping from life by drinking/drugging oneself to oblivion on a nightly basis.

Ah, the artfulness of alcoholic bullshit.  Allow me to explain.

The non-horseshit, without the spin of course, answer is that a sober, recovered, productive member of society is so much better to have around the house than a drunk or addict.  To attempt to argue otherwise is simply laughable (and yes, I did laugh. out loud).

Then we have the hour-a-day bike ride…  It should make perfect sense that a happy, contented, non-stressed-the-fuck-out significant other, four hours a day, would be better than an addicted, medicated grump, five hours a day.  At least it should.

Three years ago, when I was cycling a little less than I do today, the story could be manipulated to suggest I was being selfish, no? I was on the road, alone, pounding out my stress on the road while my wife was at home with the kids, for an hour a day and a few more on the weekends. Hold the phone though… this was snapped yesterday evening:
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This was from Sunday:
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Unfortunately snapped mid-sniffle.

Selfish? My wife and I spend more time together now that we’re cycling together than we ever did at any point in our marriage, with the exception of our honeymoon – and we have a vastly more enjoyable time during that time.

Recovery is no different. The harder I work, within reason, to be a better man, husband and father, the better it is for my family.

In short, this isn’t rocket science, folks…

Now, is my view of the situation a touch harsh?  Sure it is, but if you think a person can recover from a hopeless state of mind and body with unicorns and rainbows, you’ve got another thing coming a government job waiting for you.

The point of this post is this:  Life’s realities are a lot like statistics.  We can make reality look however we choose, depending upon how willing we are to be honest.  Manipulating the truth to get our way, to the detriment of those around us is selfish.  Working on our character defects to become better people for those around us is most definitely not.

Finally! A Perfect Fun Ride… With the Hammers

Actually, I wrote this post before my nap so the title may not be perfectly clear… it’s not like, all of a sudden, I’m super-fast and can keep up with Cat 3 cyclists… No, I chased that dragon long enough and decided I’m in it for the fun. Fast fun, faster than average by a lot, but not that fast. The hammers took it easy on us for once and we had a great time. With that…

45 miles of awesome, perfectly paced, enjoyable, fun cycling.

Cool to start, mid-40’s, but abundant sunshine had us shedding layers at the only stop at 25-ish miles…  We even picked up a few of the guys who hammer us on Tuesday night around mile 15 miles in, but they kept it light and fun today.  Absolute cycling perfection.   Good miles, good friends and plenty of laughs. Truly, good times.

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That wasn’t enough though…  We wanted to get my daughter in on the good times:

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52 miles on a perfect Sunday.

Another perfect Sunday on the bike. 

Light Weight, Inexpensive Bike Wheels – The High Cost of Going Cheap…

I’ve done enough research to finally understand the pattern of light weight bike wheels and cost.  I also have a bit of experience to throw into the mix. I won’t, however, be delving into the Chinese carbon fiber wheels. I’ll leave that for another day…

“That’s the price of using lightweight equipment”, or a varient of that, is a common refrain in the bicycle industry and wheels are one of the best places to start if you want to shed some poundage from your bike.

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Now, it is said that it’s easier, and it’s certainly cheaper, to lose body weight than putting a lot of money into a bike…  However, that only works if you don’t know what you’re missing.  If I drop five pounds over a month I won’t feel a difference, or much of a difference, climbing a hill up to a 12% gradient (because I’m in great shape at 170 or 175 pounds).  If I go from a 1450 gram wheel set to a 1970 gram set, I can absolutely feel it over a little roller.  Go from a 950 gram crank to 460 and I can absolutely feel the difference. The question is how much that actually matters. I have two carbon bikes, about four pounds difference between the two, and four pounds matters. A lot.

This isn’t to say I can’t go just as fast with a little more effort on the heavier bike, I most certainly can, but I can feel the extra effort.

If you ride alone, on excellent roads, you can get away with going cheap when it comes to wheels.  I’ve been rolling on a set of $360 Vuelta Corsa SLR wheels I bought from Nashbar that have been a little problematic, three broken spoke nipples (can I say nipple?!) and a significant amount of truing issues, oh and a spoke tension problem – mainly with the rear wheel, though two of the broken spoke nipples were up front.

Then came a pothole the size of a Prius on the last day of DALMAC…

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There are three more like that and that hoop is completely done.  Smoked.  Put a fork in it.

I ride in a group most of the time and our roads, while better than the Michigan average, aren’t great either. The problem is, in a group, mistakes are made and potholes aren’t correctly pointed out from time to time. Ride in a group and you’re going to hit something gnarly every now and again.

For wheels, there are three factors that matter: Durable, Lightweight and Inexpensive. We get to pick two.

Technically there’s a fourth, fast but fast throws inexpensive out the window every time. Ceramic bearings ain’t cheap.

With those Vuelta’s I picked light and inexpensive, so I sacrificed durability – see the photos above. On the other hand, Rolf Prima’s are an exceptional lightweight and durable wheel. They run about a thousand bucks. They’re aero too. For a lower profile, climber’s wheel, I’ve heard good things about Campagnolo’s Shamal Ultra… They’re under 1400 grams and run between $800 & $1,400 depending on where you shop and the deal you can get.

This gets nutty though. Let’s say you went with the Vuelta Corsa’s, actually any set of Vuelta’s wheels (the Corsa SLR’s are sold by Nashbar exclusively but Vuelta USA does sell several other sets including the Vuelta Corsa Race which is even lighter than the SLR, for just $600) and you break a rim like I did… Under normal circumstances with the pricier wheels, you contact the company and just buy a new hoop (rim) and relace it with the old spokes and hub. They’ll even send you the proper stickers for your other wheel if they’ve changed… With the Vuelta wheels you have to buy a whole new set of wheels. Front and rear.

Long story short, I’m not going to be taken to the cleaners, no matter how perfectly those wheels matched my bike. I bought a new hoop from Velocity Wheels for $85, as close to the Vuelta profile as I could get, and paid $40 at the LBS to have the new hoop relaced with the spokes and hub from the wrecked wheel.

Unfortunately the old hoop was 380 grams and the new one is 460. On the other hand, Velocity has a great reputation for making solid wheels though, and because we’re talking about a rear wheel, a more durable wheel is worth the 80-ish grams.

Cost Vs. Weight

Staying with the name brand wheels, there are only a few ways to win the price game.  Vuelta USA or Vuelta wheels, specifically the Corsa SLR’s on Nashbar make a decent, fast, light wheel for a decent price but they’re anything but durable, in my experience.  I’m 6′ tall and I weigh 170 pounds, give or take, and I absolutely hammered my SLR’s.  Their spokes are nothing special though their hubs appear to be exceptional for the price you pay for the wheels (mine have around 10,000 miles on them and still roll excellently).  That said, if you want to know what wheels are going for, here are some general price-points by weight:
Vuelta Corsa SLR:  1,470 grams $330-$360 plus shipping+

1,800 – 2,000+ grams:  $150 – $300
1,600 – 1,800 grams:  $300 – $500
1,500 – 1,600 grams:  $500 – $750
1,400 – 1,500 grams:  $800 – $1,500
1,200 – 1,400 grams:  $2,000 – $3,800
<1,000 grams (tubular only):  $4,000+ Yes, they actually do make wheels this light.  The Reynolds RZR 46 tips the scales at just under 1,000 grams for the set.

The weights and prices aren’t set, and if you look hard enough and wait, you can find some really good deals.  The Vuelta USA Corsa Race is a good example.  For $600 you can have a sub-1,400 gram wheelset.  The question, of course, is whether or not you’re light enough to not do what I did to the wheel – and like the wheels sold on Nashbar, they won’t sell you a single hoop if you do bust a wheel – you have to buy a new, full set.  I know, I tried, when I couldn’t get Nashbar to budge…  Of course, the Nashbar version are set up for 24(front)/28(rear) spokes and the Vuelta USA rims are drilled for 20/24 so it wouldn’t have mattered if they would sell me a single rim.  Point is, in my own personal opinion, you get what you pay for – one way or another.  I did.  Also, and this is just a hypothesis, it makes sense that the cheaper wheels make up weight with a lighter rim.  The expensive wheel sets, Rolf Prima as an example, use a heavier rim but make up the weight in the hubs and spokes – both of which add cost.

In the end, it will all work out for me.  I have removed the decals from my front wheel (though I might shill for some custom wheel decals, I haven’t decided yet) and have a solid enough front wheel, I think, because the rear wheel takes more of the weight and abuse anyway.  With the new Velocity rim, I definitely have a solid rear wheel (again, Velocity’s reputation for quality is solid).  The overall weight of my wheelset is now around 1,550 grams and I’ve got $510 into the set (shipping and labor included)…  And still considerably lighter than the wheelset that originally came on my Venge in the first place.

Incidentally, this lesson I’ve learned came at a price.  I’ve blown a significant amount of down-time on figuring this whole wheel thing out.  If I’d have just gone to my local shop in the first place, I’d have paid a little more for my wheels, but the owner is a friend and someone I ride with regularly.  There’s no way he would have led me down a road where I’d end up with an inferior wheel.  He could have saved me a lot of headache, but you know what they say about intelligent people…

Intelligent people learn from their own mistakes.  Wise people learn from the mistakes of others.

I am not wise.

Every Day is Christmas, When You’re Living Right…

My new hoop came in from Velocity Wheels so I decided to ride it up to the shop rather than drive it up there…  I get bored with driving, I do it a lot.  Of course, I ride a lot too, but I never tire of that.

Now, if you look at my Venge on the “My Bikes” page, you’ll see some sharp looking Vuelta Corsa SLR wheels on the bike…  You may be wondering why I switched to Velocity for a new hoop.  Well, I busted my rear rim on a pothole during DALMAC.  Unfortunately, Nashbar only will sell a full set of two wheels (rims [or hoops], spokes, hubs).  They won’t be bothered to part with one hoop, so rather than blow another $360 on a new set of wheels, I just bought a hoop, the closest thing Velocity had, and I’ll just have the new hoop relaced with the old spokes and hub…  I’ll save $220 and end up with a better, sturdier (if slightly heavier) wheel.

So I’m riding the five miles and change to the shop, my new hoop slung around my shoulder and down the opposite hip, one hand on the bar top, the other on the hoop to keep it in place, at better than 18 mph, and I’m smiling at nothing. 

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I tend to smile a lot when I ride a bike…

I get to the shop and find out I won’t have to shill for new spokes (probably I wont, they worked) because the two rims are so close, the wheel builder thinks it’ll be just fine.

Matt was chuckling at me and asked if I’d gotten anything done, being in the shop twice already…  Of course I had, when you wake up at four in the morning, you’ve got an eight hour day in at noon.  I’d already put a number on, and secured, an upscale steakhouse in Ann Arbor and let him in on that.  I chuckled and said, who knows, I’m doing well right now, Christmas might come early and I’ll have you order me up those Roval 40’s before Mike gets that hoop laced up.  He said, “Man, every day seems like Christmas for you”.

I laughed and said, “You know what?  You’re right.  It’s close.”

I left, hopped back on my bike and pedaled off to nowhere in particular, contemplating the neatness of Heaven on Earth, or at least my approximation of it.  Lovely wife, awesome kids, good job, lots of cycling with my buds…  I gotta admit, it’s good.

Of course, that’s just the outside…  Nobody, especially the owner of the bike shop, sees the stress, the hard work, the sweat.  One company I did work for stole $40,000 from me last year.  I took the word of a close business mentor that they were okay to work for.  He was mistaken.  I had some other good jobs that made up for it though, and things worked out…and I definitely learned my lesson.  Point is, it’s not all good times and noodle salad, but things seem to work out okay in the end.  Or they have so far anyway.

I’ve been working with a sponsor on the “Back to Basics” of the Twelve Steps and I needed it.  Technically, I’m co-chairing the program, and it’s kinda cool, being in that chair as an old-timer, so young.  Exactly what I needed.  We’re working with some very new people and to see that kind of raw fear and pain in them… It really takes me back to the bad old days.

I remember that fear, terror really, about the unforseen future. The horror of contemplating cleaning up the wreckage of my past. The fear of choosing a life without alcohol or any form of escape. Working with newly recovering people brings that all back, but in a good context.

I know how that Act closes. I made it, simply by having a little faith in a Power greater than myself, not drinking, working a few simple steps, changing the manner in which I process thoughts… And by doing the next right thing at any given moment.

That Act in the Play closes with me riding my bike, smile on my face, wind in my hair (through my helmet vents of course), plenty of cares in the world but knowing I’ll be okay. God has shown me He’s got my back and I have faith that if I do the next right thing, at any given moment, things will continue to get better.

In short, my thinking has changed. What used to be waiting for the other shoe to drop, envy, greed, gluttony… Has become positive action, gratitude, contentment, and giving it away to keep it.

It is Christmas every day for me, it’s just not how most people think Christmas looks nowadays. I’m good with that though.

I am grateful for what I am, for what has been taken away, and for what is left. I’m thankful for being saved from the hell I created.

All too often I see people trying to find shortcuts, to find an easier, softer way. Too often I hear people complain that it’s not fair, that it’s too hard, that someone else has it easier! Envy, that is. Greed, that is. Self-centered. The beliefs that it’s not fair or that someone else had it easier are poison. The poison to happiness. Doing what’s right and good, no matter how hard, is always the easiest, softest way.

To test this theory I need only look back on those times when I said or thought “it’s not fair” and ask myself, “In all of that time, did it ever become more fair because I thought it wasn’t? Did complaining ever fix anything? Did coveting someone else’s “ease in life” ever make mine better?” Of course not.

Were he alive, my dad would add: “Weigh that jealousy in one hand and shit in the other… Tell me which fills first.”

My life only got better when I did the easy thing and quit looking for the easy way out.

Some Days are so Perfect, One Bike Ride Just isn’t Enough.

I’m not big on two-a-days anymore, that was for the triathlon days.  Besides, a training ride today is 50-80 miles where back then it was more like 25…

That said, yesterday was one of those perfect days.  82 gloriously, perfectly sunny degrees, a gentle breeze from the south, crickets, frogs, heck even the cicadas were sounding pretty cool.  I pulled into the driveway with the window rolled down and our $75 wind chime played the most beautiful song (Yes. It was worth every penny)…

These days are in short supply now.  Before long I’ll be cooped up in the living room on a Saturday morning watching the snow fly and a movie as I pedal away on my godforsaken trainer.  One must take advantage when the opportunity strikes.

Mrs. Bgddy wanted to take the mountain bikes out today.  I wasn’t to jazzed about the idea but I relented.  At least we wouldn’t have to worry much about traffic.  The one thing gravel roads are good for…  Mountain biking.

We didn’t even worry about pace.  We talked about some fun stuff, then argued politics for a minute, then went back to fun stuff…  some things are just better left alone. 

We hit a stretch where we just rolled along, enjoying the warmth, sun and breeze… and we rolled into the driveway too soon.  I could have gone for hours last night.  The girls had swimming though, so we’d done all we could. A little more than 11 miles…

Together…

After Mrs. Bgddy left with the girls I pumped up the Venge’s tires and headed back out.  I rode up to the bike shop to say hello to the fellas and talk wheels for a minute.  Did my favorite corner and headed for home, an easy but solid 18 mph average. 

Two great rides, 24 miles total, and I’m a happy man.

Now it’s time to eat!

Some days, 50 minutes on a bike just isn’t enough.  Some days are just too perfect.  Today was one of those days, and this is why I cycle.

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Tuesday Night Club Ride: Letting Go Edition (It’s a Good Thing).

It was hot last evening, mid-80’s.  And windy.  I hate the wind on club ride nights and we’ve only had three the whole season where we could just tuck in and get a good draft.

On the other hand, I got my Venge back from the shop before the ride.  I can cruise to a 22 mph average on my 5200 but it’s work.  That same pace on the Venge is noticeably less work…  you know, after writing that, “less work” probably isn’t the proper phrase.  “Easier” isn’t it either.  Maybe more comfortable or more enjoyable?…  See, here’s the deal.  I can feel the drag on the 5200.  Between the round fork tubes, all of the cables and the fact that the bike is four or five pounds heavier, it just feels sluggish.  That’s the ticket!  I have to pedal through the sluggishness of the bike.

Anyway, during the 8-1/2 mile warm-up,  I tried to get everyone to come to a consensus on how we were going to handle the ride.  Where we were going to drop, how much we would protect Brad…  I got nothing.  So I just rolled with it.  I was going to give it my best and call that good.

Turned out the racers of the group figured it out for us.  Ten miles into the 30 mile ride, I was up front, pulling 23 mph into a heavy 15 mph wind, and at the end of my turn.  I heard someone coming up on my left, over the yellow line.  One racer, another, and another… then two more.  On the hard, unsheltered side.

I flicked off to the left and let one of the other guys give chase, I was in no shape for bridging a gap after more than two minutes in the wind.  In all, maybe eight or ten, in total, made it.  The rest let them go.  Didn’t break my heart at all.

I bought into that horse shit, about riding with guys faster than me to get faster, and there’s something to that.  However, when they’re that much faster, that they can pull 26 mph into the wind, after I’m already in the red at 23 (which was a little faster than the pace I took over at), let’s just say it’s too fast for me to enjoy the ride and still be productive.  I hate hiding and sucking wheel…  It pisses me off, but at that pace, I have no choice.

There were more guys like me last evening than there were racers so I smirked as they went, and proceeded to drop four guys who made the gap.  Six guys with 20 miles to go, in that wind?  More power to them.

It took a minute for us to get situated, there were a couple of new guys and one of the regulars was pissed at someone else for letting a gap form and allowing him to get dropped by the main group, but once everything was sorted, we commenced to hammering our ride out.  Amazingly, Brad, in his sixth week of chemo, hung on with us all the way into the biggest hill on the ride so we waited for him at the next turn, where we were going to catch a tailwind…  Finally.

We kept it quite civil, between 24 and 26 mph and I spent a lot of time up front.  I got a great workout and was exceptionally happy to be back on the Venge.  With a mile left to the finish I was second bike behind the tandem and I could hear Mike behind me talking to someone.  I had a feeling he knew what was coming.

During a slight pause in the push, I upshifted during a three second-long coast, hoping Mike would miss it.  The farmhouse that marks the best spot to start a sprint to the City Limit finish was in view and we were closing in on it, fast.  Still, riding one gear harder was a little tough, but I knew if I could just bide my time, I might be able to hold Mike off.  He’s a heck of a competitive guy and when he’s behind me, he’s almost impossible to shake or drop if he knows what’s going on and he’s exceptionally tough to beat.  Inside a quarter-mile to the house I’d been in the drops for more than a mile (another tell for Mike is if I get into the drops late)…  200 feet from the house and we’re at 24 mph and I’m in the perfect gear…  100 feet…  50…  I went early, no warning, out of the saddle and I’m hammering for all I’m worth for that City Limit sign.  I looked down at my computer, 32-1/2 mph, and thought no way Mike would match that so I risked a glance under my shoulder…  He was right on me and grinning.  Shit.  I dug deep and pushed harder…  Only 50 feet to go…  And I held him off, barely.  I was entirely gassed.  Mike and I shared a fist-bump and a chuckle.

This is my new idea of enjoyable riding.  We work hard, have a good time and still have just enough left at the end for a good sprint finish.  We’re not hanging on for dear life for 20 miles anymore, just to get dropped and struggle all the way back, those last ten miles.  Tuesday night is still about speed and getting faster, but I’m finding it more enjoyable to have our group of friends together for the whole ride than suffer for two-thirds of the ride only to hit the last ten miles with Mike and Phill, if we’re lucky.  Call it an evolution in thinking – which fast is fast enough…  It’s not perfect, I can’t help but think I’m wasting a little bit of potential, but I’ve been at this for something like three years now and I’m only marginally closer to hanging on with the main group.  I’ve got a group of friends and we all ride well together – it’s time to leave well enough, alone.  The trick, of course, is not resting on that…  Lest I slow down so much my friends drop me too.

And for that I am grateful.