I left my home, the fiscal cliff, and 2012 behind and was able to rally for a 2:00 ride today, the first day of the new year, January 1, 2013. It was overcast and felt colder than the 28 degrees indicated on various thermometers in town. I sent a tweet out and a few text messages, to see if there were others who would enjoy some motivation to start the year where we ended it, on the bike, on 446. Emily Palmer, recovering from a cold responded. Don Galligher (DRT) was hopeful to join us and a few others were apparently already on the road.
I arrived at the Scholars Inn Bakehouse around 1:45, had the Intensity blend coffee and waited in a chair at the counter. Emily showed up shortly and we left right at 2. We headed out of town, caught a few green lights and made the 4+ miles in quick time to 446 without incident. Emily was on her winter bike and was only able to ride for an hour – coach’s orders- so we rode together to the south end of Knightridge on 446 at an easy pace. It was a good plan for her, and I was envious, as winter was already beginning to seep in and replace our conversation with long silences as we adjusted to the cold. We talked a bit about the upcoming season, her recent improvements in power and speed, her focus, the ‘A’ women she’s been training with (Caughlin, Moeller, Hatten), Little 500 plans and collegiate schedules. I remember admiring her determination and discipline. She’s been out with us a lot on the weekends and it’s showing favorably. We kept our pace in check and she turned back just as Thomas Walsh was approaching from the other direction. I turned to look back as they connected and I saw them side by side in the distance behind me as I headed out alone in the mist looking for a group that I thought may be up ahead.
I descended into the refrigerator that is the causeway and was met with even colder temperatures, but I was still glad to be outside. I was trying to resist the urge to chase an unknown group, not wanting to burn too many matches if I had to ride back alone as well, into the slight, but present wind. I saw a sign suggesting to motorists that there may be cyclists ahead on a lonely stretch of road and was glad for that. However, I was passed by several cars that seemed indifferent to my efforts, passing so close, despite no oncoming cars, that I could feel the push and pull of the wind that they created as they sped by.
I carried on, dropping into the valleys and false flats after Chapel Hill road. As I was nearing the first flashers, I saw a small group coming towards me. I instantly forgot about the cold and prepared for the turn. I saw two DRT jackets and one other rider in a black jacket. They were single file and moving at a good clip. I turned as they were even with me but realized that it would take a significant effort to catch on as they sped away! It was Chris Wood (DRT), Isaiah Newkirk (Harley Davidson) and Tomasz Golas (DRT). They moderated the pace as I collected myself after a short but fast chase and then picked up the tempo again. I took off my gloves for just a few seconds to snap this picture from the back of this small but impressive train. Newkirk, (a former Marian standout and former Tortuga rider), is wrapping up his midwest visit as he prepares to leave for Arizona soon as an elite Category 1 rider for the Harley Davidson squad! He clearly had the fitness and has always had the attitude and drive for success. We’ll be sad to see him go but we’ll know that he’ll bring his own brand of cycling and success and a piece of Bloomington to some major races this year such as the Tour of Gila, Joe Martin and others. We will see him during some favorite regional events as well in the midwest for sure. The four of us worked hard to prevent the cold from claiming us for most of the ride back. We eased up on the climbs and rode back to town easily after Knightridge, splitting up as we arrived at eachother’s various points of departure.
When I arrived back to the Bakehouse, I stopped in to fill a waterbottle with a little more coffee. It was quiet in there now, as it was after 4:00. I found an empty table and slumped into a chair, tired, cold, wet. In a few minutes a lone figure approached. It was Hannah Calvert (read a bit about Hanna’s prowess here http://www.scholarsinncycling.org/blog/?p=166), a former team rider, now racing in Texas! She was here for a visit and took the time to come over to say, “Hi.” We shared a hug and traded some kind words that friends do when they meet after long periods. She’s doing well in Texas, going to school and racing there. You could see that she was as fit as ever, the strong look of determination and confidence with just the right measure of self deprecation. She went back to be with her friends, and as I suited back up to get back on the bike, darkness now beginning to fall, I couldn’t help but think of how lucky I am to be just a small part of these lives of cyclists that are the future of the sport. We don’t know what impact we make on our community and on cycling just by showing up, just by being there, just by participating. The lessons that we both teach and learn out here are not something mystical or existential, they are right here, right underneath us, on these well worn roads that we call home.