My wife came through again. As I was loading my car I saw a screw sticking out of the tread. Now, I happen to know the pan head was just a shade more than a half-inch long so I had hopes it hadn’t penetrated the shell of the tire. I went into the garage and grabbed my trusty cat’s claw and went outside to see if I could pull it. As I gently started to pry it loose, a hiss escaped. I tapped it back in and prepared for having to skip my ride to get my tire fixed before that screw came out on its own… Long story short, my wife let me take her vehicle to the club ride and took mine in to get it fixed on her way to pick our eldest daughter up from band camp. The ride was on.
We’d changed the location of the ride because our normal route had been chip sealed over the last week. Newly chip sealed roads are impassable in a double pace-line. It’s WAY too dangerous.
I pulled into the parking lot at 5:30. I did not like what I saw… serious fire power from the A Group and me. I knew my friends were on their way, though. I just hoped it was enough to make a decent B Group – the route we picked has some real hills on it. The parking lot, before long, was teaming with cyclists – many more than I’d assumed would show up. We ended up with a great B Group and a stacked bunch of A’s. We rolled out together but the A’s were by us and up the road after a mile.
And that’s when our ride got fun… and hard.
We had a bit of a tailwind so the pace wound up to 26-mph in a hurry and it stayed there – even up hills we were incredibly fast. Because of the hills we handle this route a little different than our normal Tuesday night – we have several regrouping points throughout the 31 mile route and we needed all of them.
We entered a secluded lake subdivision that features a long, winding loop around the lake. Plenty of up, a lot of down, and brand new pavement the whole length of the road. It was incredibly fast, but provided one of those situations that makes you glad to be a cyclist on a fantastic bike. It’s hard to describe, the emotional charge, where you’re down in the drops because it’s so fast you don’t dare peak your head out of the draft and cranking it around a winding road where you have to lean deep into the corners and look through the corner, a couple hundred feet ahead for the next change in direction… it’s just badass – and we had that in spades.
We exited the subdivision and charged out onto the main drag again with a tailwind. And then, after a few miles, we turned around and had to pay the piper. To say I was winded was an understatement, but we had a couple of horses up front who took some enormous turns, giving me the opportunity to recharge a bit. I needed it, because I knew what was coming.
We charged up the road and made a right, heading down a partially gnarly street with potholes littering otherwise decent asphalt. You had to keep your wits about you and we at the front did our level best to point out the holes to those behind us. Thinking back, I don’t remember hearing anyone hit one, so all went well. At this point, Chuck turned off for a shortcut and I announced I was going with him, but several in the group piped up, pressuring me to stay on for the main climb. Peer pressure is a bitch. Before I got too deep into the shortcut turn, I checked my six and whipped ’round to catch the draft at the back of the group.
A left turn and Denton Hill loomed in the distance. At four tenths of a mile and an 8-10% grade, I stayed with the tandem and we climbed that sucker in 2:28, averaging 237 watts up the hill. It sucked, and I was down to my last gear to spin up the steeper section but crested it we did and tore off down the back of the hill into town at 40-mph.
We hammered all the way to the parking lot, pulling in with a 20.8-mph average. I was more pleased with that than our normal 22+ average back home. Our normal route only has 480′ of elevation gain. The route yesterday more than doubled that at 1,122. We were all smoked after that ride, but it was smiles, hand shakes, and fist bumps all around as we loaded our gear into our vehicles to head for home.
I was struck, for the remainder of the night and into this morning, with how blessed I am to be able to ride like that with a group of competent friends, and to have the life I do. This is the main benefit I get from cycling. I hate to use the word, but it fits, a little bit; there’s nothing better than feeling lucky to be you, and that’s what cycling does for me.