This has been the strangest week I’ve ever spent on two wheels (by week I mean seven consecutive days, not “Monday to Sunday”). If last week’s debacles weren’t enough (and believe me, they were), last night turned out to be a little messy as well. First, we started out with a decent 10+ mph wind from the south. A south wind isn’t all that bad, it’s definitely better than anything with “east” in it, but it makes for a rough home stretch because we’re stretched out in echelon across the road – it’s just messy. Second, the weather was odd. Two miles south of our location it was raining to beat the band. Where we were, the sun was shining – right up until we made our first left turn of the evening, and that’s where this little sordid tale picks up… Oh, those left turns…
We made that left through an inordinate, but manageable, amount of gravel. We were heading east after a nice push north that had us pedaling easy at 26-27 mph and it was almost time to pay the piper. A mile west, another north and we turned sharp left into Hurtsville.
We were heading southwest with a straight south headwind. Fortunately we had a fairly small group last night so keeping it between the yellow and white lines wasn’t all that difficult. In fact, and I still can’t figure this out, our speed wasn’t affected all that much by the wind, we just kept our heads down and the pulls short, and motored into it at 22 to 23 mph.
Then we came up on the A Group gathered on the side of the road. There were a couple of “that can’t be good” comments drifting back. We slowed to a crawl but were told all was well. Todd, one of the all around good guys on Tuesday (and a freaking horse if ever there was one), was bleeding a bit from the right knee and his shoulder was dusted up pretty well. Other than that, everyone seemed fine (I later learned he rubbed a wheel and went down, but managed to find a soft patch to do it in).
We rolled on, having caught the A Group for the first time. Ever.
I’d been eyeing some clouds to the west and south that were looking fairly ugly and I considered, for about three miles, taking my toy and going home. I was, however, on the Trek, so what’s the point of having a rain bike if you’re not going to use it in the rain? I decided to stick it out.
The next several miles were smooth, fast, and enjoyable. Quite fantastic actually, and the rain never did hit.
We have two decent hills to run up before a short downhill followed by a left turn and our regroup. The first hill was fairly quick, north of 21 mph, but the second, with two tandems up front, was a little easier. We rolled down the back of the hill coasting because our regroup was right around the corner and I was in the lead four bikes up the hill… and that’s where things got ugly.
First, the intersection is stupid. There’s a stop sign on the northbound and westbound sides of the intersections, but no stop on our southbound lane (it’s a three road juncture). There was a car waiting to make a right turn with a gaggle of cyclists all turning left with no stop sign in front of them… I hate those situations, but I concentrated on watching the wheels and lights of the car to make sure it wasn’t going to move. I could hear some vague conversation behind me, but couldn’t make it out over the breeze and concentrating on not getting mushed by the car. I started to make my left turn – and that’s precisely when the lead guy from the A Group caught up to us and tried to pass me on the left. My front wheel hit his pedal and I almost when down but managed to throw my elbow into his hip to check myself and right my bike with a hip check, just enough that we both went away pretty clean.
A mess, but the crash was averted. A later postmortem had one of our guys trying to remind the A Guys several times that we were turning left but as fast as the A Guys go, many are in a state of cycling haze. I like to call it cycling brain, where you can only focus on a couple of simple details related to not crashing – after that, it’s hard to hold a conversation without jumbling up words, and some of the finer motor skills suffer a bit. It’s just a byproduct of going fast. You see this in pro cyclists all of the time after they cross the finish line. They’re so smoked they have to have someone hold them up so they don’t fall over. Same thing for us, just to a lesser degree, because we don’t have someone to hold us up when we stop.
The truth is, when it was all done and the bikes were in the cars, there was nothing that happened last night that we couldn’t fix with a handshake, a fist bump, and a pat on the back. The rubber stayed down and I have to get a mild warble fixed in my front wheel (and a new magnet – my speedometer magnet got knocked off… two spokes got hit, that’s all, and I managed to get one of the spokes with the magnet on it).
Once I figured out that my wheel probably wasn’t going to fall apart, the rest of the ride was uneventful. I didn’t participate in the sprints because I didn’t want to bust a spoke nipple under the effort, but we rolled along just fine and ended with a 21-1/2 mph average.
After the ride, things were exactly as they should be after an incident like that. No blaming, no yelling and no finger pointing, just apologies, taking account for our own actions, and the aforementioned handshakes and pats on the back.
The truth is, we are always taught (keep in mind, my friends, I’m in the USA) to pass on the left. We never pass on the right, even when an ignorant cyclist is taking up the center of the road… except in that one instance at that exact time. That was the one time to pass a cyclist on the right, because we B guys were making the left. In the end, it was one of those, “Hey, no harm, no foul” situations. Todd even offered to pay for the spokes and truing of my wheel (don’t hold your breath for that bill, Todd – it won’t be coming any year soon).
Hopefully, that’s it for the season and we can get back to those hi-five and fist bump rides again. This stuff lately is nuts!