I thought I put together the perfect text to 37 of my closest riding friends. Perfect. Time, distance, even the pace. Easy, pre-spring, you know, 16 to 17-mph average, the hope bit.
In hindsight, it might have been better if I’d posted the intended pace before the time of departure. We adjusted the time twice which worked out as it had rained overnight. The clouds just started breaking up as the original start time ticked by. I saw Winston pull up just before 11. Then I saw a red Chevy Blazer I’d never seen before. Pickett got out. Then McMike pulled up.
You know that part in Ocean’s Twelve that look on Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan when he realizes Catherine Zeta Jones’ Isabel Lihiri stole his cell phone? I had that same look on my face. Same one.
The roads were still wet, but drying as the ticked 11 and we rolled out. With the route we picked, it was 100% headwind for the first half and 100% tailwinds home. The headwind 17-1/2 miles started out brutally. Chuck and I tried to keep the pace reasonable but every time Pickett got up front, he’d drop the hammer. McMike would drop it back a half-mile an hour, but it was still rough. I was relegated to short pulls if I was going to keep up, but I gave it everything I had and I was panting hard as I flicked off and dropped back (very much normal – it takes a week to get my lungs going again). Within three miles, the roads were drying out considerably but the pace, climbing to 21-mph into the wind, was rough. Winston, on his new gravel rig (honestly, it’s about time – his old rig had rim brakes), was struggling enough to mention it. In all my years riding with him, I’d never heard him complain once (unless he was hungover and making a joke about it), so I cruised up as Pickett passed 22-mph and asked him to dial it back for Winston, then went back to my place in the pace-line.
Winston gave me the, “thanks, brother” and I told him it was my pleasure to slow the line down and blame it on him. Chuck laughed out loud. Slowing Pickett down is an exercise in futility. McMike has two gears – “fast” and “really fast”. Pickett has one: bury the needle.
Thirteen miles in, with at least three of us riding with our tongues lolling out dangerously close to our spokes, I heard a glorious sound – Chuck was up front, I was second, then Pickett, McMike and Winston… Pssst, pssst, pssst… someone flatted. It was Chuck’s rear wheel. We pulled over to the side of the road at a driveway and he set to changing it. We had a few laughs in the process and thanked Chuck for picking up a piece of glass so we could have a break (!). Fixed and rolling, we stopped for a minute a mile later at our usual gas station and then were off, back into the wind. Getting my breathing back together was exactly what I needed. The last three headwind miles went by quickly. And then… tailwind paradise.
We weren’t full mid-season flying, but we were close enough for government work. I’d noted our average at the end of the headwind section at 18.6-mph. We were going to do a lot better than 16 or 17 (25 to 30 km/h) for our final average. When I got to the front, I’d hold the pace (22-24-mph or 35-38 km/h) for my mile and flick to the back – it was glorious.
Most clouds were gone at this point and it was just straight up sunshine, mild temps and tailwind. It was, without question, the best conditions I’d ever ridden in during the month of February. And we didn’t let up one bit until we pulled up to my street with a 20.0-mph average for the 35-1/2 mile ride. I didn’t have much left in the tank. Chuck was so wiped out, he didn’t even stop for fist bumps, he just went straight home. Winston said he couldn’t have made it another 100 yards.
And my wife was waiting at the end of our driveway as we pulled up (she and my daughters had a ladies morning out getting their hair done… how cool is that?). She said she looked me up on Life 360 to see when I’d be back and it said I was “driving” down the main road to get to our street, rather than cycling (the app usually differentiates between driving and cycling).
As one would expect, I’m going to have a smile on my face over that ride for at least four days. Maybe longer. Today is Sunday Funday on the tandem. We’ve got a 50/50 chance of rain just before noon we’re going to try to beat.