You ever get that sinking feeling you just walked into a bazooka fight with a Swiss Army knife? On a bicycle?
A few things, right up front: 1. Contrary to popular belief, worldwide, it is illegal for a private citizen to own a rocket launcher in the USA. I know, you hear some crazy stuff in the press, it’s mostly wrong and designed to keep you ignorant. 2. They don’t technically make bazookas anymore, that I’m aware of. I was trying to illustrate a simple point. 3. I was pretty sure that it really was that bad…
I sent out a text yesterday morning, “Ride at 5pm my place. Road bikes, paved roads”. I figured one, maybe two of my normal “B” group friends would show but as chilly as it was (39° F or 4 C but it felt like dead-nuts freezing with the whipping west wind). In fact, I was hoping nobody showed so I could strip off my cold weather crap and ride inside. Still, when you send out an invite, you suit up… So I did, and I got the Venge ready (the Trek’s on the trainer and I didn’t want to bother with the wheel).
There I am, dressed up and ready to ride and I look out the front window facing the driveway, and I see a van. Pickett?! Then I see Newman on his gravel bike (I say gravel bike, because it is technically a gravel bike but it’s a nice Scott gravel bike – maybe 17 pounds, max), and McMike… My only hope is that Newman’s on his gravel bike with a 1x Drive and McMike is on his 21 pound Schwinn Paramount. I think, “Hey, it’s April and it’s cold out, it can’t be that bad.” Oh yes it can…
I rolled my bike out. We talked about the crappy weather for a minute and we were off – three A guys and me. Now, we’re all older (I’m the baby at 47) so you’d figure there’d be a warmup mile, right? Wrong. Pickett had it up to 24 mph with a crosswind within a quarter of a mile. I went into oxygen debt at that point and never recovered… but I didn’t give up, either.
After the first mile we turned into the wind. Pickett kept it pegged at 24 but when I took my turn up front I dropped it down to 22 and I didn’t last very long at that. I arm-flicked Newman up after a half-mile or so and he kept my pace. I almost started to recover. Then McMike took his turn and mercifully took it down to 19. I was quite happy with that. Sadly, Picket was up next and he accelerated to 22 almost immediately after McMike arm-flicked him. Three miles in and my tongue was dangling down by my spokes.
I took the next mile or so and kept it at a lively pace but I eased off a bit, too. Then Newman, McMike and Pickett again… he had it into the wind, which was starting to pick up. From there things got a little hazy. I was the only one who knew the route, and it’s a tricky one (19 turns in 17-1/2 miles) and I was trying to shout out directions in between hyperventilating breaths. It was awesome. We came out of a subdivision and Picket took it up to dizzying speeds with a crosswind from the right but I was holding on pretty well at that point. I took the next mile with the tailwind and all seemed well….
A mile later and the rotation had cycled through again. Somehow Pickett ended up on the front again going into a quarter-mile uphill followed by a long two-mile stretch, all tailwind. We were up the hill at 22-23 mph, and then it got fast. I looked down at my computer, 27… 28… 29… 32-1/2… I didn’t bother looking anymore, I was just trying to hold on now. We were 12 miles in. We were fast enough that we could have been fairly pulled over by the police for speeding. Then I ran out of gas, just like that. Bam. Done. I held 23 easily enough with the tailwind but the other three started to pull away. It was okay, too – at that point it was only three turns to home and McMike knew exactly how to get there. They didn’t need me anymore. I spent that tailwind stretch breathing – finally.
I came to a stoplight at a corner and there they were, waiting for me… I don’t think they had to wait but 45 seconds, but how cool is that? I latched on the back and we rolled home… 19.5 – 22 mph with two miles of crosswind, 27 for one of tailwind, and 18 mph for the last mile. 17.7 miles in 53 minutes on a really challenging route to hold any speed. 20 mph average on the nose, and the fastest I’ve ever ridden that route.
Looking at this positively, as I usually do, I thought I’d brought a pocket knife to a bazooka fight. Turned out I was a little better than I’d thought. I’ll take it, and I sure do feel some kind of awesome this morning.