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Cycling in the Service of Others


One thing I’ve come to enjoy about staying fit on a bicycle is working up front for others.  My days stuck up front for a lead out are almost as fun as sprinting for the finish on Tuesday night.

Some times you’re the lead out, sometimes the sprinter.  If you’re exceptionally lucky, you can be both…

My wife and I rode with Mike and Chuck this morning, and Mike is coming quickly back to form from his triple bypass just a few short months ago.  Chuck rode up to our house, a six mile trip, and we all met up at the end of my road and rolled out together.  In sharp contrast to yesterday morning the temperature was almost double as we rolled out.  32 yesterday, 62 this morning, though the roads were damp yet again.  That’s life in Michigan.

I took the first turn up front and settled in as we headed into a decent 15 mph WSW headwind.  I kept it between 17.5 and 18 mph so as not to blow my wife and Mike up too early.  Sure enough, after a mile here comes my wife on the right to take the first Township sign.  I didn’t even see her coming up on my left.

I got on her wheel when I caught her and made her pull for another mile.  My wife was done and headed to the back after that mile.  I took the next and Chuck backed me up with a solid four mile turn.  Then Mike and my wife took a mile each and it was back to me and Chuck for several more.

Around mile 14 my wife and I made a charge for the Byron sign and I took it, but barely…  Mike called it right when he caught back up – my wife didn’t give anything up, she made me work for that one, hard.

In Byron proper Chuck split off and headed for home.  I knew the bulk of the remaining 20 miles were going to fall on my shoulders and that suited me just fine.  

I took my place up front and stayed there, heading north with a cross tailwind that was a lot more cross than tail.  Still, holding 19 to 20 mph was fairly easy.  I kept it pretty close to the middle of the lane too to give my wife and Mike as much protection as I could.  I don’t have a clue how many miles I spent up there but it was more than five miles.

From there Mike and my wife took a mile each and I was back up front.  

Then came the merciful tailwind and I spent all but a couple of the last twelve up front trying to work Mike without blowing him (or my wife) up.  It was a fine line and my wife hollered at me a few times to dial it back a little bit, which I did.  

As we pulled up to our road, we sat up and Mike asked if I’d been trying to work him.  I responded simply.  Of course.

This is what real cyclists do for each other.  Mike pulled me around courses for years until I got my cycling legs built up under me.  I’m just glad I’ve got the opportunity to pay him back.  And how about my wife, my best friend?  It’s not even a question.  I’d ride my @$$ into the ground for her.  That’s just what we do.

If you haven’t had this opportunity yet, try busting your butt for a friend.  I guarantee you it’ll do your heart good.  Twice.  Heck, your legs might be pretty appreciative too.

Taking a sprint after (or during as the case may be) a good ride feels like a million bucks, but working your butt off for a friend or two so they can have a better, faster ride… well that’s priceless.

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