Tour de Livingston: The Perfect Ride with the Fastest, Best Club (Possibly in the State)… and the Benefits Therein.
This post started out with a different Title and with a lot more negativity that I’ll get into in a later post but after some careful consideration, I thought it only right to do yesterday’s ride the justice it deserved rather than focus any energy on the wheel suckers that we encountered (one of whom I almost spit on – missed him by only an inch or two because I’d just dropped off the front for a rest – I was the very last bike, or so I thought… I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I was letting a loogie fly)…
Livingston County is one of the most beautiful cycling counties in Michigan (next to Genesee of course). Livingston is the second richest County in the State so the roads are fair and the motorists are reasonable. In fact, in 65.7 miles, we didn’t have to think (0r shout) “jerk” one time, in relation to a motorist. The weather, other than it being a little on the cool side, was absolutely perfect. Not a cloud in the sky and barely a breeze at the start of the day. We rolled out at 8 am with two of our club’s fastest at the lead. I was second or third depending on where Greg was and Dave and his wife on their tandem was the other bike. Either Dave and his wife or Greg led every one of the first sixteen miles and we were rolling out fast – all rollers, followed by some very tight turns in through Howell. I was having a very good time… What I didn’t know was that one of the times that Greg had gone to the back, he noticed that my wife had fallen off of the pack, so after pulling for two or three miles at 23+ mph, he dropped back to help her get back to the group… Then he came up for another turn at the front. Meanwhile, Dave and his wife were driving to group and fortunately, they were mercifully slow going uphill. Gotta love the tandems, God Bless ’em.
16 or 17 miles in, either Greg or my friend Winston, came up and said that my wife had fallen off so I shouted up to my buddy Mike that I was going to wait for her. I pulled off into a parking lot after a left turn and waited. Shortly thereafter, maybe a minute later, my wife and friend Phill came rolling up the road… I got started, took the lead and held it for several miles. I had to adjust a little bit because we had some pretty hefty hills to climb and I have a tendency to drop my friends on the way up if I’m not careful. It took a few tries but I finally got the timing, cadence and effort pretty close. I know Phill worries early so he doesn’t like to pull a lot till the end and he’s been working a lot so his miles are down as well, so I took huge turns up front – three to five miles at a time, before going back for a couple-mile rest in the draft.
About 30 miles in, I needed a restroom break and I couldn’t wait any longer… I couldn’t believe we hadn’t seen a rest stop yet. I found a good secluded patch of trees and asked my wife and Phill to soft-pedal for me till I could get back… On my return, there was my buddy, Mike too. He’d been dropped shortly after we were but managed to stay just ahead of us. When I got back, my wife told me about how she and Phill, when Mike asked where I was, told him that they’d dropped me a mile or so back. He was obviously incredulous and asked what had happened to me. When I rolled up, we all had a pretty good laugh. The four of us rolled together to the rest stop a full seven more miles up the road and Mike and I took over almost all pulling duties. The lead group, of Categorized racers mind you, was just pulling out when we rolled up. We waved them on and they waved back that they got it…
From that point, we picked up quite a few stragglers who formed a fairly large group behind us. They literally did no work, other than serving a purpose: To block wind for my wife. Mike, Phill and I did all of the driving for the next 20-ish miles (but mostly Mike and I). I tried to head back for a rest three times, but every single time we’d hit a stop sign within a quarter-mile or so and the rest of the group would slowly spin up, fighting to stay back… I know what hiding looks like so after my third time trying to grab some draft and almost spitting on someone who’d come up behind me (I was the last bike, he must have just caught us after a stop sign), I decided I knew where my place was and didn’t bother falling back more than a couple of bikes after that.
We finished the 65.7 mile course in 3h:34m, an average of 18.3 mph and, for me, it was an easy, fun, enjoyable ride. I finished with a smile on my face, no doubt about it. For my wife, it was a little tougher. She was moved to tears a couple of times and had to struggle through some mental anguish but she rose to the challenge and made it. It was her longest ride, ever.
Talking afterward, my wife confirmed a long-standing suspicion of mine (but I’ve always squelched thoughts about it as too arrogant ): She said it’s surprising to see how much faster our club is than many of the other clubs that ride organized rides – and for the most part, with maybe the exception of the Wolverines (Ann Arbor’s cycling club), we’re easily the first or second fastest club – individuals may be faster, but as a group, almost everyone ends up trying to hang with us when we show up in force. It happened yesterday and even with just Mike, Phill and I – three of the B guys (well, maybe B+), we had a whole host of other cyclists who couldn’t help hold the pace that we kept, easily… The benefit of riding with a really strong club, and especially one that cares for and helps the slower members so well, is that even our easy, fun ride pace is far better than average – so much so that three guys could pull a group of 20+ decent cyclists around for 30 miles.
The truth of the matter is that we “B” cyclists, as much as we may hate being flogged on Tuesday night, are much better cyclists for it. We’re stronger, faster and exceptionally responsible in a group, and it’s all because our local racers are some very decent people who aren’t afraid of a little extra effort to help us to be better. The truth is, we’re lucky to have such a strong, good group.
I apologize for not having any photos of this one, it was an incredibly beautiful ride. I just spent too much time up front.
Don’t bother clicking on this post… I hit the wrong button. Gimme a minute. Please.