We rolled our Saturday morning at 11 am with five in our group, and a possibility of meeting another on the road. One A guy and four B’s, dead into the wind. It was cool, and definitely chilly into the wind. I was stoked we waited so late – it was downright cold when the sun came up, well below freezing.
We took our time letting everyone get warmed up. About eight miles in we turned south into what had shifted into a crossing headwind, but not before picking up two more A guys and a new runner-turned-cyclist (ironic!) before the turn. With eight, we had a decent group.
The pace picked up as we headed south. We all caught up after winter and helped Kevin with the intricacies of group cycling. Kevin is one of those rare runners who bought a gravel bike to recover some leg strength during a running injury and did the equivalent of, “Where have you been all my life?!”. He was hooked almost immediately (a lot like me).
As we were heading north, my favorite lesson of the day popped up by chance. Chuck, my normal weekday riding buddy, likes to pull back on his bike when he gets out of the saddle to work his way up a hill. This causes his bike to fall back six to twelve inches. If the person behind him isn’t paying attention, he’ll pull back straight into their front wheel. This is incredibly dangerous in a paceline. I’ve learned, from a hundred minor heart attacks, to stay back a little bit as hills approach, but yesterday he had me lined up perfectly and chose to grind for a half-minute out of the saddle in the headwind. I don’t know how we didn’t touch wheels, he caught me completely by surprise. Immediately after, I could hear Greg detailing to Kevin what had happened because I’m sure my little veer to avoid my friend’s wheel had ramifications behind me. I showed Kevin how to mildly accelerate as one gets out of the saddle so they don’t create a problem behind them.
A mile later and we had all of the headwind out of the way for the day and we were all set for the cruise home. A few miles later, the three who joined us were going to split to head home after asking which way we’d planned on heading back to our start. I planned on a more direct route but didn’t want to split the group up, either, so I asked if anyone objected to heading all the way north to keep the gang together. It was agreed we’d stick together. The next four miles are among my favorite to ride when we have a southern tailwind. The four miles is almost entirely downhill with just one little blip of a climb in the first mile. With a even a mild tailwind from the south, it’s easy to hold a 24-mph average all the into town. With a crosswind, the pace wasn’t near as fast, but it was unquestionably enjoyable.
Our two groups split with ten tailwind miles left to get home and I couldn’t help but think, all the way back to my driveway, and long into the evening, how lucky I am to be a part of our group… I’m so fortunate to have the cycling friends I do. I’m grateful to be an accepted member.
I also found I’m thankful that, while I have gained way too many pounds this winter, I’m not too fat to ride in the drops… and that was good news into that headwind!