There’s a storm brewin’ in our cycling club…
We rolled out last night to the best conditions of the year. Sunny, 75°, and a 3-mph north wind. We took a mile and a half to completely form up at 19-mph and we were off.
We rode as a team last night. A 20-strong team, with two tandems and a partridge in a pear tree.
It was a thing of eloquently fast cycling beauty, what unfolded last night.
Coming into the intermediate sprint I had a terrible set-up. I was fourth bike back and certain I’d be leading out the sprint train with a few hundred yards/meters to go. Scott was in front of me, with a tandem in front of him and a solo cyclist leading. I was hoping to hop on the tandem’s wheel but Scott broke early and very strong. I went with him, though I was sure I would be setting someone else to take the sprint. Scott took it to 30 and held it. As soon as he started to falter, I popped and went. Mike came screaming around me but I was willing to bet he over cooked it.
Sure enough, I stayed with my 31-mph and rolled right by Mike for the solo across the line. I was pretty stoked.
The A Group caught us with about four miles to go and the vast majority of the B Group was able to latch on and hang on for dear life. We crossed the line together having averaged better than 25 for the last five miles or so. As the sprint went, I didn’t participate in the final sprint. I don’t like sitting in with the A Group just to get into the mix right before the City Limits. That’s just a personal thing.
My GPS showed a 22.3 average, but Chuck’s showed 22.5 and Chucker’s showed 22.6… so did Scott’s. 22.6! There was a time not too long ago, that was the A Group average for the evening. We were all fist bumps and high-fives in the parking lot.
I can’t remember feeling more triumphant on Tuesday night. It was a perfect ride on a perfect night. We might get two of those all year long.
So this is where the clouds start to gather in this little tale.
We had a club meeting after the ride. Some in the club, it appears, want to start pushing for rules on the ride. Sign-in sheets, I was chastised personally for not making the B Group, a twenty to thirty strong group of grown men and women, wait for a full sixty seconds at the hard regroup location (even though I clearly stated we’d stop for 30 seconds to a minute to let any stragglers catch on who got dropped on the last hill and added that we we’d cut the stop short if we saw no stragglers)… and I was chastised by a person who couldn’t possibly keep up with our group on her best day.
I absolutely lost it.
I know where this is going. I’ve read about it all up and down the east coast. Sign in sheets, ride leaders, sweepers, max speeds… in short, it’s babysitting on a bike.
I can still remember my first Tuesday night. I showed up something like 45 minutes early so I was sure to be ready to roll. I had a guy I’d never met before come up to me and complain that he didn’t like the ride because it didn’t wait for anybody slower – that he wished the group would wait up for him. He was a 16-1/2 mile average cyclist. The A group finished over 22-mph that night. I got dropped that night after eight miles and every week after for four straight years before we made the B Group. Getting dropped was simply part of the ride. We would hang on as long as possible and hopefully find a few people to ride with the last ten miles. There were a few evenings I rode back alone.
It was this “wild west” approach to the club ride that I loved so much and kept me coming back. There were no set rules and certainly nobody to dictate how the group would ride. Today’s A Group is, opposed to the no-drop ride, an “Everybody gets dropped” ride. The B Group is only slightly more like a club ride. We have one regroup, about 20 miles in, for those who get left behind on the hardest hill. We also treat intersections with more of a neutral approach. Other than that, we hope a rider can keep up, and that’s all the support that’s required from the group.
What I love about the group is that we do what’s right, waiting for those who get dropped due to traffic, helping others back to the group as we can, not because of a rule, but because this is who we are. We don’t want our Tuesday night to be a race but we’re also not about to get into the babysitting business, either.
I won’t sit still for anyone in our B Group being relegated to the roll of bureaucratic babysitter. On a bike.
All I can say is, “Hang on, Baby Jesus… it’s gonna get bumpy”.
PS. This is why all of our weekend rides are invite only. I won’t post our rides on the club calendar.