Sunday morning, for mid November, was almost perfect. The temp was in the mid 40’s as the sun peeked over the trees. For once I actually slept in – 5:50 in the am… There might be three or four days in a year that I wake up so late so I woke up rarin’ to go.
My wife and I were supposed to meet our normal cycling friends at 8.
Coffee drank, dressed to ride, Venge polished and looking spectacular, we rolled out promptly at 8 and waited on the group at the end of our road… They crested the small hill about a half-mile from our road at 8:07. My wife and I clipped in and started out at 15 mph to warm up our legs. The group consisted of my best cycling buddy, Mike, Matt, the owner of our local shop, and Adam, an ex-racer who is exceptionally fun to turn a mile or 75 with.
Adam started in on me, just a tenth of a mile after catching us… “You know Jim, this isn’t all about fashion. You have to be visible.”
I retorted, “Hey, you might have a point about my gray and black jacket but you’ve got no standing when it comes to this jersey. This is Hi-Viz as you get.”
With a wry smile Adam snapped back, “No, red is never Hi-Viz. This color [pointing at his own HV yellow jersey] and that [pointing at my wife’s HV orange light jacket] are the only two ‘visible’ colors. See Jim, sometimes you have to choose function over fashion.”
I didn’t miss a beat, “Adam, I don’t remember seeing your flashing tail light. You know, sometimes you gotta choose function over fashion to be visible in the fall.”
He asked, as he faded back, “Hey, where’s your mirror”…
Dammit. Of course, he doesn’t use a mirror either.
We headed into the wind and saw two cyclists ahead, well three really… Carla on her single and Dave and Sherry on their tandem. The groans, including my own, were all you needed to hear. We were about to be pummeled repeatedly about the head, shoulders and quads.
Dave is fast. Dave and Sherry on their tandem are brutal but bearable. For a few of us. For others, they are a sentence to get dropped.
Phill joined us shortly thereafter but much to our surprise, Dave didn’t ramp us up… He just matched our pace and kept it there.
Then, again to my surprise, Greg, Andy and one of his other racer buddies appeared on the horizon. Nobody groaned. We accepted out fate. Let the flogging commence… Four Cat 3’s? No way we were getting out of this unscathed.
They didn’t jump to the front as is usual though. They latched on at the back to get used to the pace…
“What sweet hell is this?” I thought.
The only thing that happened was that we kept our decent (for us B guys) pace and we talked about what a perfect day it was. The racers talked about Ice Man (the single biggest dirt race in Michigan – it brings out all of the strongest riders).
almost unheard of in mid-November.
Into the wind, which was fairly formidable out of the west (technically WSW) we were just under 20. Guys and girls would take turns between a half-mile and a mile and shuffle back. Most took their lumps up front. I took plenty, only making it all the way to the back of the group one time.
The drubbing never came. Roughly 25 miles in and Greg, Andy and the third racer fella turned for home, and we finally headed east to enjoy our first tailwind of the day. Immediately, Carla, Dave and Sherry and my wife formed their own breakaway. My wife didn’t last long and started to fade back to the rest of us. I decided to see if they were going to keep us together or blow us up so I went to bridge the gap. As I came up on my wife, she asked if I was going to let them go… all I said was, “No” and I set to chasing them down.
Maybe a half-mile later and I was on them. I simply said, “You know, you’ve got a formidable gap”.
They immediately dialed it back. I almost fell off my bike (figuratively, of course).
ED: A quick note for noobs, here. There are two places I see a lot of noobs struggle in the faster groups… The first, when the pace surges to race pace, there’s nothing you can do – you either recognize it and make the jump to light speed or you’re off the back. The second is at turns and stop signs. The faster folks accelerate to speed after a slowdown or stop right now. They don’t take their time. It takes ten seconds of 80-90% effort to catch up after. Learn to become comfortable with acceleration.
The rest of the gang caught up and Dave and Sherry took the speed up to the low to mid twenties (mph), with the smaller group we were back to single-file.
A ways back, as the gaps started forming and I came back to help everybody catch back on, Adam told me that he was hanging back to enjoy the ride no matter what, so if I wanted to stay with the lead group, he’d look after my wife… After slowing Dave and his wife down twice and bridging another gap, just ten miles from home I decided to stick with them to see how much distance we could cover. It was Dave and Sherry on the tandem, Matt, Carla and I took the caboose position. With the tailwind, it got quick in a hurry. We went from 22 to 25, that fast and the speed climbed from there. We passed 27 several times, probably north of that, but I really didn’t spend a whole lot of time looking at my computer.
We turned north, with a cross tailwind and I hazarded a quick look back. The trailing group was keeping up pretty well, they were only a half-mile back or so. Unfortunately for them, we didn’t slow down even though the wind wasn’t helping as much anymore. Uncharacteristically, I was feeling quite stellar. Good enough that I was feeling quite guilty for taking up the rear for so long (but not guilty enough to do something about it). We hit the home stretch, just 3-1/2 miles to go, heading east with the tailwind, and Carla, Dave and Sherry continued north to head home.
With that, it was just Matt and I. I had plenty left in the tank and was happy to pull Matt the last three miles home so I asked him how fast he wanted to go. He asked if we shouldn’t just take it easy so the others could catch back up and I loved the sound of that, so we just let the wind blow us home at an easy 20 mph. The others never did catch up so a quarter-mile from my road, Matt and I said our good-day’s and I turned around to ride the last bit with my wife, Mike and Adam.
There was a little consternation with my wife because I left her without saying anything but that was easily made up for.
Believe it or not, there was no napping after the ride yesterday too. No Lions game on the TV… We quickly showered and went over to my hunting buddy’s new house to help him move in. No rest for the weary. Seven guys and our wives showed up to help. We unloaded two storage units into a moving truck, a covered trailer and a pickup truck and moved everything to the house in four and a half hours. Bill and his wife fed us in return. We headed home at about 5:30, watched the rest of the Patriots game, then about five minutes of Sunday Night Football and I was out like a light. 8:30, and I slept like a rock until 4 this morning.
We don’t get too many days like yesterday (maybe three that I can remember). We took full advantage of it.