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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.
The weather prognostication for the evening sucked. The Weather Channel said we had a 60% chance of getting drenched all day long. But then, as ride time closed in, it dropped to the 20s for 6pm, then to the single digits after. The sky didn’t look all that promising, though. With barely a gentle breeze, I knew it was going to be a fast night. I wanted to take the Venge… bad, but prepped the Trek. Anyone with a rain bike knows, if you take the good bike with a decent chance of rain, you’re getting wet – 100%, every time.
I arrived just before the warm-up time to a minor smattering of sprinkles. Diane was already in the parking lot with her tandem waiting for Jeff. I prepped my bike after a few minutes and rolled out late for the warm-up, alone. It was one of those evenings you’re hoping you don’t get drenched, but a quick shower wouldn’t be all that bad, either. It was hot and sticky so participation was going to be sparse. I started out slow, my legs feeling awfully sluggish after a day off Monday for my daughter’s honors graduation ceremony. I thought I was in trouble for the main event until, maybe two miles in, my legs started loosening up and my pace quickened. I passed a couple out “time trialing” (they were training for a triathlon) at 22-mph, pedaling fairly easy and my outlook for the ride changed. I will never, ever grow tired of passing aero bar riding time trialers on my 22-year-old Trek. After the seven-mile loop I pulled into the parking lot with a 19-mph average. Quite satisfactory.
As was expected, turnout was sparse at best. The skies were a little ugly and it was hot and muggy – I hoped for a little rain to knock the edge off. There were two tandem Bs, three B single bikes and six or seven A guys. We rolled out together, Jeff & Diane on one side of the double pace-line, I was on the other. We started out easy but quickly built up our speed to 22-mph into that slight breeze. We flicked off after a half-mile and headed to the back for a rest. After the next half-mile and a right turn, it got crazy in a hurry. The A guys took over and our pace went from low-20s to upper-20s within an eighth of a mile. We were on the gas and hurtling down the road. Our average pace was already up over 23-mph and climbing – and I was feeling surprisingly good. Getting to the front three bikes, things started to get a little ugly, but you expect that until you take your turn and can flick off.
We hadn’t been hit with a single raindrop at that point, though the skies were showing ugly isolated showers only a few miles from us. We managed to dodge everything. The worst we got was a damp road for a few minutes. We kept that 24 to 27-mph pace up all the way to Shiatown and we were faced with a choice. One of the tandems had dropped a few miles back and Mike and Diane on the other had been talking about turning around at the park to head back home. As the hills were coming up, I offered to head back with them and that’s what happened… and with a slight tailwind breeze.
Once we got going, we cruised – 20-mph on the uphill sections and 24 to 27 on the flats and downhill parts. The tandem and I switched places at regular intervals as we pounded for the finish line, our average pace ticking up as we went. With two miles to go we got serious, taking the pace to a sustained 26-27 (43-kmh). I took a turn, then Mike came around, then I took another before Mike and Diane came around and took it to the barn. We crossed the line with a 22.6-mph average on my Garmin, a 22.8 on Mike’s (obviously we go with 22.8 – or 37-kmh).
And we took it easy back to the parking lot. What a fantastic evening for a ride – and thanks to Dave and me bringing our rain bikes, we were assured to stay dry… though Dave rode home and got dumped on in the last two miles.
Halfway through the ride I was thinking about how much I’m enjoying the Trek. Zero missed shifts and there I was with all of that brand new carbon fiber and I’m on my 22-year-old first generation full carbon race bike, taking my lumps up front with everyone else. It was pretty cool.
Today is another fair chance of rain in the afternoon and that calls for some maintenance. Tinker with a creaky steering assembly and a new chain, bottom bracket cleaning and a move of the saddle for my wife. A mechanic’s work is never done…