“There are roadways not to be traveled, armies not to be attacked.” Sun-Tzu in The Art of Warfare, 403, BC- (Before Chris K.)
Great rides are like great battles. I have a library of them. I used to think it was useful to study warfare as a marketing manager and Sun-Tzu wrote the seminal text. But there’s also, Nelson, Grant, Patton, on and on. However, these battles that we wage on the streets of Blooomington are more like bayonet and hand to hand combat. in the trenches
I had a plan today. To stay with the strongmen over the top of the causeway. But here’s another quote from another ‘General’, fighter George Foreman. “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” I had formulated this simple, but effective strategy seated on my arse at the Bakehouse welcoming a good-sized group to the Sunday afternoon training ride. I was expecting just a few riders due to the end of the school session. So I was surprised when the following showed up. Chris Kroll (Upland), Hans Ibold (Joes), Kevin Hays, Jon Atwell, Ryan Shanahan, Ren Jay Shei, Lyle Feigenbaum, Gary Palmer, Emily Palmer, Jeff Buschbaum, me, (Scholars Inn Bakehouse), Jake, Brant, Spencer (Black Key Bulls).
We wandered out of town and took the scenic tour through Smith Rd. subdivisions, hitting 446 a little farther North than Moores pike. When we turned right on the road that was to be our battlefield for the next 2 hours there was an immediate surge at the front. We were quickly up to 30+ mph, my first punch in the face. Hyperventilating, no respite, surprised by the big gear required to just hang on. Self-doubt creeping in so soon? Stick to the plan. I desperately took out my camera from my pocket and quickly snapped a picture of the horses charging to the front lines, nostrils flaring, bent over the reins, galloping furiously.
Although we were taking turns, Kroll, Atwell and Shanahan seemed to have yen to increase the pace. At the first high speed climb a couple in the party faded off the back. We lost a few more on the frantic run in to the causeway. Ten of us approached the climb and the pace was frantic, leaving me and Jake dangling off the back (punch in the face #2). Eight powered away including Shanahan, Kroll, Atwell, Hays, Shei, Brant, Spencer, Ibold. I could see the activity up ahead whenever I had the wherewithal to lift my head from the handlebars. Jake had run out of ammunition and backed off so I soldiered on, alone.
During my chasing campaign I was able to pick up jettisoned riders, first was big man Ibold. Then the two of us picked up Spencer along the way. By the time we arrived at the flashers, we could see two more scouts climbing to the final checkpoint. Ibold turned back at the first flashers and Spencer and I chased our quarry. We caught up with Shei and Hays just as the four leaders; Kroll, Atwell, Shanahan and Brant came into view heading towards us like a civil war era freight train.
We turned and barely made the connection (punch in the face #3). Soon we were joined by Jake and we hurtled towards home. It’s a beautiful conflict, this thing that we do on the bike. I was grateful just to be able to participate in the platooon moving this fast for this long. I remember sensing the numbness in my teeth and the distinct taste of blood in my mouth, sitting within inches of Atwell’s wheel as I consciously found the same gear and tempo.
We were deep into the hurt locker when the leaders put the pressure on in the middle of a steady rise through the rocks. Kroll, Atwell, Shanahan, Hays and Shei broke free leaving me, and the three Black Key Bulls lauching defensive moves. The group was just 10 bike lengths ahead, but there was no way we could bridge despite valiant efforts from my mates.
Brant and Jake disconnected at the causway heading home, and my hat is off to them for a great effort. Spencer and I (mostly Spencer) kept our tempo up for the remainder of the event, connecting with Hays at Moores pike. The three of us turned for home, knowing that we fought the good fight. “He who knows neither the enemy nor himself will be at risk in every battle.”