Well, conditions weren’t perfect last night, but they were close when I pulled my Venge from the back of my Equinox and prepped for the warm-up. We’d had quite an unsettling couple of days as weather went but all of that had blown out, leaving mild, crisp (but not in the cold sense of “crisp”, in the clean sense), sunny skies with a decent breeze just cresting into the double digits (in mph). It was quite gorgeous, really. We had a wind from the dead-north which is favorable for the most part, except the long slog north at the last half of the main event…
Dave and I were the only two for the warm-up so we rolled out at an easy pace. I’d taken Monday off for bad weather and my legs protested a little bit as I shook them out. East and west were going to be easy enough but north was going to be ugly. We pulled into the parking lot with an 18.8-mph average for the warm-up and my legs had taken well to the shake-out.
When we arrived back at the parking lot, we had two new guys already and Matt had called earlier to let me know another would be there. Mark was prepping his bike and Clinton knew Allen who was also out for the first time in more than a year-and-a-half (!). I introduced myself to Mark and struck up a conversation to figure out where he belonged in the crew. 18-mph average pace solo, Specialized Roubaix… looked like the 105 edition with disc brakes and it looked to be a 2019 or better… judging by that I figured he could keep up with us if we took it easy. Clinton was definitely a B rider but with no pace-line experience. Larry was a B/soon to be A rider with an old Roubaix with Zipp wheels from maybe 2004 or 2005. Larry looked like a cyclist… he just needed some experience. I picked mark to hang out with because he looked like the freshest of the group. He was going to need some work to bring up to speed.
Mark and I rolled out for an easy warm-up lap around a nearby subdivision before heading back for the start…
We rolled out and I had an ugly feeling I’d made a mistake. Fred showed up and I’d fit him with Joe and Mike – Mike looked like C potential and Joe is a solid, long-time D rider. Fred was new but had a lot of want to and a brand new Salsa Warbird… but I figured Mark looked too fit to be in that group. He wouldn’t get close enough to get a draft, though. A mathematics professor, you could tell he was working the equations on the likelihood of a crash in his head and he didn’t like his odds. Still, he looked strong and had a lot of want to and was holding on to the group. I figured things would work out once we headed north into the headwind (which would slow the group down) and he took to drafting to get out of the wind.
The former happened. The latter didn’t. He was about two feet too far back to get any benefit but he didn’t have much quit in him, either.
We made it to the tailwind section together and that helped him out considerably. He was looking a lot better and Chuck was helping him as well so I went up to take a few pulls and help out. I had a nice conversation with Mark who hadn’t been out on a Tuesday in forever and took a few turns up front. Clinton and Larry were doing great, rotating through the group and taking their turns up front. The pace, to this point, was easy by our standards at about 20.5-mph, so Mark, Allen and Clinton and Larry were doing really excellently. The group was keeping it civil.
Unfortunately, about 18 miles into the ride, we hit the hills and Mark’s Achilles heel. He burned up and dropped off the back almost instantly. I’d been playing around up front with everyone else and didn’t notice he’d slipped off. As soon as I realized he was gone, I waved off and went back to scoop him up. Chuck was already back there with him. We tried to get Mark back to the group, and actually succeeded after a bit because everyone held up at the regroup point. Mark gave hanging with the group everything he had, but he was too blown up to hang. I told Chuck to head up with the group and sat up to ride the last eight with Mark. I promised him at the beginning I had his back, so I lived up to it.
We spent the rest of the trip back working on drafting and trying to help Mark to be comfortable riding with others. Before I knew it, we were heading down the main stretch to the parking lot.
Now, a note to the Genesee Wanderers… I’d like to help Mark get in with the C Group (I think the Ds are a little slow for him), so all you C Groupers out there, we can get new blood to show up but if you folks don’t ride so the new people can ride with others of their caliber, they won’t bother coming back. Please help us retain the new folks by showing up to ride.