Some may say that riding the same course is tedious, but I am of a different mindset. Not that I disagree completely with my colleagues on the bike, as Bloomington offers many choices for ride selection. What I like about the same course each Sunday is that you know what’s in store and the focus is on your performance. Also, to be fair, the Flashers is a relatively safe, well known route, often with broad shoulders that has a little bit of everything; long, steady climbs, windy expanses, long flat stretches where the chase group can see the leaders for long periods of time. And, in the event of wet, cold and inclement weather, numerous bailout points (turn-arounds).
We saw all of the above on yesterday’s ride. The sun was out at the Bakehouse when 18 or so left for the day’s ride. Fred and Colin took us out of town again and the wind was generally NNW but not nearly as significant as last week. We picked up Lyle at Knightridge and tapped a steady 2 line tempo out to the cause way. I was alongside Gary Palmer, second in line as we were at the base of the climb at the causeway, the traditional first selection spot, but Colin and Aaron (Prange) were on the point and cooler heads prevailed as no attacks were launched up the climb and we rode steadily up the grade. You could hear the chatter behind diminish as the tempo naturally escalated over the top, just fast enough to keep the adrenalin-seekers at bay for a few more pedal strokes.
Although the ride was tempered so far, our average speed was in excess of 20 miles per hour. I took over for Aaron on the point with Colin just as the fireworks began! A significant surge came from a group that included, Ryan Shanahan, Fred, Adam Rodkey, JT, Tomas, Hans, Paul (DRT), Jared, Cameron. Others quickly answered the bell and latched on; Palmer, Jerden, Allen, Lyle, Aaron and a few others. I watched them file past at 30 miles per hour as I joined in at the tail end of the fray. I remember wishing that I could have recorded this moment. I’ve seen it or experienced it a thousand times, but each one is different in tone and texture, rhyme and meter. It’s one of sport’s most meaningful and exciting events-the leap from the relative comfort of the group to the unknown depths of a single-file paceline, where impossible speeds are barely managed and emotions run high. Controlled panic is at direct odds with this little monster that we’ve created as a group and it takes on a life of its own as we hurtle down the road. The very thing that is required to keep it together is often ripped apart by the speed it harnesses as the candle burns brightly at both ends.
It seemed like an eternity, but soon the body became acclimated to this new level of pain and tempo and speed and risk as we followed each other as closely as our nerves would allow. The strongmen were taking long pulls and would often get back in the line near the front. Others, just a few ahead of me would let them in. But they were struggling as was I. Frequent, small fissures in the line would open, just a few meters between riders ahead. I knew that if it opened a few more feet that we would lose touch in this tenuous game of cat and mouse. Nonetheless, I was content to be a spectator near the back of this line, going along for the ride, taking in long draughts of air in the admiration of these athletes in front of me.