There are those nights a fast ride breaks out of nowhere and we manage an excellent night. Last week was one of those. It was way too windy for us to have the 22.3-mph average we did, but there it was.
Then there are nights you know it’s going to be fast before you pump up your tires. Sunny, 75 perfect degrees (24 C) with winds out of the east at just 3-mph (5-km/h). My friends, it just doesn’t get any better than that on a Tuesday night. We had a lot of those this year, as a matter of fact. A perfect night, and I showed up with my Sunday best kit and the Venge.
We also had two new competent B Group’ers join us, which was excellent.
We rolled out about 30 seconds after the A Group and it was on right out of the gate. Our first and slowest mile was at 20-mph until we got into Vernon 22 miles later – everything else was between 21 & 26-mph. We had damn-near a perfect group – and I’d say we pounded out the miles, because the pace was so excellent, but that’s not what happened, really. With the lack of wind and everyone doing their part (for the most part), for the first 15 miles there was a flow to the ride… the speed wasn’t as hard last night.
Making a left to get into our version of the hills, I expected the pace to go crazy a little bit, as it can, but it was copacetic. We had three tandems last night, and crushing the hills can hurt them. The downhills, of course, did get a little chaotic through the hills because one of the tandems likes to take advantage of them, even if it does blow up the group a little bit – let’s just say the captain of said tandem isn’t exactly a team player… and we’ll leave that fart there to waft a bit.
Once through Vernon, our slow mile of the evening (it always is – a bit of up and it’s a small downtown area, so we use it to regroup again after the City Limits sprint – which I was third in, by the way. I took a 30-mph lead out to about 500 yards from the line, no way I was going to hold that pace for as long as I would have needed to take it), things got fun. That section of the ride has some decent rollers with mild grades so it’s easy to hammer the uphills above 20-mph and double-hammer the downhills at 27-30. And that’s what we did. We were our approximation of flying, ticking off the miles between 24 and 26-mph, when the A Group came by.
I was second bike back and we picked up our pace as their line went by. A couple of 20 seconds of hard effort and we were in their draft at 29-mph but far enough back we didn’t mess with their rotation. With only two miles to go we turned in our fastest mile of the night at a solid 27.07-mph (43 km/h – I’m sorry, but that sounds vastly awesomer!). Approaching the sprint point, which the B Group was going to sit out of for the free ride, the pace picked up. 30-mph… 31… 32… and all hell broke loose.
I saw a rock fling from a tire ahead before I heard the immediate psswsshwsshwsshwshh… then the group spread apart, over both lanes of the road with Todd trying to get to the side of the road. I slowed, but not too fast to allow those behind me space to slow down, then his wheel cocked, whipping him around, his eyes were wide as saucers when he went down hard. Another cyclist just behind him managed to hold his bike up as he headed down a ditch and into someone’s front yard. He was 150′ into the yard before he managed to come to a stop from that speed. Nobody else, out of the 25-ish in the expanded group, went down.
We went over to check on Todd who was laying on the ground. He was shook up pretty bad but managed to sit up. He was starting to bleed from a couple of gashes on his elbow and he had some serious road rash on his leg, thigh and hip. That seemed to be the worst of it, though. Greg, after checking on his friend, grabbed Todd’s keys and took off to get his truck. A few of us stayed with Todd and the rest of the group departed shortly thereafter.
Todd stood up and assessed his bike, because any of us, with working appendages, knows that the cuts and scrapes will heal… the carbon fiber, not so much. No cracks, not so much as a scuff in his Argon 18 super-bike, though he’ll be picking pebbles out of places there shouldn’t be pebbles for quite a while – and not just from his skin. When that front tire flatted instantly (and a tubeless tire at that) and rolled on him, the front wheel went through the dirt on the shoulder. He picked pebbles out of the wheel/tire, out of the brakes (which locked up the back wheel). Still, all things being equal, as fast as we were going, once he cleans up and has a week or two to heal up, he was extremely fortunate how things shook out.
As I said last night, the fact that Todd was the only one who went down is a testament to how he handled himself and his bike in that situation, and also a testament to the quality of cyclists we have in our group.
I received a message on Strava from the big guy (he’s a battleship, at 6’3-ish”) that he’s doing well. He’d managed to clean up pretty well and said he’d be back out this evening for a recovery ride… on his gravel bike, no doubt. It’ll take a minute to get the Argon cleaned up and rolling again, I’d guess.
After Todd was picked up, I looked at our stats… just before the crash we’d cracked 22.5-mph for our average. We were down to 22.4. Still, fastest B Group average to date if memory serves. I think we hit 23 once before, but that was a mix of the A and B Groups. Too bad things turned out the way they did.