I rode in a charity ride with a group of friends yesterday. That group included a guy I’d never ridden with before. I’ve seen him swimming at the pool where my daughters have their practice, training for triathlons. He’s also a teacher at the middle school my daughters attend, so we know him casually.
I saw him at the gas station one day, filling up his truck. He had his bike in the back… a beautiful piece of machinery with Zipp wheels and all of the fixings. We obviously talked about cycling while our gas tanks topped off.
He talked about his triathlons a bit but his mood turned sad though. He said it was a lot of hours spent alone on the bike. I brightened immediately and asked what his pace was. He said between 18 and 20 mph depending on hills. He let on that he struggles on hills because his bike is so heavy. Hell, I could understand, looking at it. I also learned that his first name was Travis, not “Mister”.
I told him that was close enough to bang out some miles with us.
Well, yesterday was the day. We did the Tour des Lacs in Fenton. It was a perfect day for a ride, too. Low 60’s to start but it rose quickly to the 70’s, perfectly sunny and just a hint of a breeze.
We started out early, at 7 am and I spent the first 15 miles off the front of the group. I couldn’t get the pace right because our new friend, even though he had guns that made him look like he could lift a dump truck, was a lot slower on the inclines than I’d anticipated.
Finally I decided to just get behind the group so I could figure out the pace. Then my buddy Chuck went on a flier off the front and caught three time trial bikes that had passed us a short time before. I asked Ron if he wanted to bridge but he said he was going to hang with the group. His reasoning made sense so I tucked in behind Travis and next to Ron and we hammered the miles out.
Chuck came back after about ten miles and once we were all together we commenced to pounding the miles out. Travis pulled the whole way. He was stupid-fast on the flats and downhills so we really had to work to keep up. Then we’d come to a hill and get a rest on the way up.
I was bummed out when I looked down at my computer and noticed that we’d put in 40 miles already. Just 20 to go. This is the one thing that bums me out about a 100k ride. It’s just a little too short.
Of course, that last 20 miles was all hills. Chuck and Travis kept going while the rest of us stopped at a rest stop. I had a couple of oranges, hit the restroom and we were off again.
Ron and I set a blistering pace to catch Chuck and Travis, we knew we were going to have an advantage on the climbs so we hammered the hills, hard.
I took the first pull, I think I was up front for three miles and when I gave the arm flick, only Ron came by me… I’d dropped four guys in three miles. Ron didn’t miss a beat though. He kept the hammer down and we caught Chuck and Travis before the end of his turn.
After a few more miles the rest of the group caught up.
Then came the loop around Lake Shannon. Easily the toughest part of the ride. It gets real quite, real fast – especially at the end. Chuck and I dropped everybody at this point. I knew we had a rest stop in three miles and I was hungry. We pulled into the rest stop and I fired down a banana and topped off my water bottle.
Just enough time. The group caught us and we rolled out together. We wound our way through town, enjoying the sunshine and conversation. Chuck and I went off the front again and decided to give Travis the honor of leading us home.
In the parking lot, we had a passerby snap a photo of the group.
Travis is in the hand bike. And yes, they suck to draft behind – not that I didn’t try for at least a dozen miles. Truthfully, if I put my chin on my stem, I did get some draft.
Shortly thereafter we were all sitting down to a sammich lunch and a woman came over, sat down next to Travis and asked how the ride was. He said, “Man, riding with people is so much better than riding alone!”
I concur, wholeheartedly.