Riders on the Storm

Conditions weren’t ideal when I left for the ride today and the weather reports were calling for freezing rain coming into the area about 2:30 from the south west.  That was the general wind direction today as well.  Just a breeze really and the flags we saw were lazily waving. Before leaving for the ride I attended to a few rituals getting the bike and my clothing in order.  I am sure you do something similar.  First, get the bike ready, a quick cleaning, gear check, air in tires, lubrication.  Also, a visual check of the weather, wind, temperature.  Then decide on which layers to wear, type of gloves and hat. I arrived at the downtown Bakehouse a little early as I like to do.  IU was playing today against a tough opponent.  So were we: route 446.

Our Sunday training rides have morphed into a challenging format.  Saturday’s ride is much more subdued in comparison, and both have their place.  I racked my bicycle and went inside for a coffee.  One by one the riders came.  It was to be a small but dedicated group today, at least at the start.  Brandon Levitan (Delta Chi?), Fred Rose, Kevin Hays, Drew Coelho, Ashton Dehahn, Emma Caughlin, Jeff Buchsbaum, me (Scholars Inn Bakehouse), and Chris Kroll (Upland) came to the dance. 

We left right at noon and Fred and Kevin took us through town to 446.  We were looking to pick up a couple of other riders but none met us.  We measured our work for the most part all the way to the causeway.  Two by two into a breezy headwind, the stronger riders taking long pulls, while the rest of us kept our matches dry.   It was great to see a portion of the Women’s program out today.  I was chatting to someone in the small group commenting how far they had come and how important it is to show up, ride after ride until you aren’t just a rider but you are the ride.  Nonetheless, Jeff, Ashton and Emma had planned on turning at the causeway and six of us carried on over the top.  Without an accord, we kept the group together over the climb and I was the primary beneficiary of the benevolence of the grupetto.

With darkening skies and shifting winds we decided to traverse to the second flashers at the end of the line.  A bald eagle flew towards us on one section, right along the road near a deer kill.  The sight offered a moment of respite as the group slowed just slightly to enjoy the few seconds of what is still an awe inspiring sight.

Chris and Fred did the lion’s share of the work on the way out (although all contributed significantly) and as we neared the final flashers we felt the first few drops of freezing rain and the tenor of the group changed materially.  Even our language, of which there was minimal, had become more deliberate in anticipation of possible danger ahead.  I could feel the adrenaline sorting itself out in my legs and the butterflies taking flight in my stomach!  At the turn, the easy parts were over and the group set out for home single file.  We flew home amid the loud chatter of ice pellets falling on the leaves all oround us sounding a bit like a cold weather popcorn machine!  We were desperate now in our pursuit of safety as we climbed hard and steady and rolled at speed through the flat sections.  I was counting pedal strokes ahead, just to stay in the game and trying to match the tempo when it was my turn to pull.  Some of my companions would turn 200+ strokes before relinquishing the point, others more, some less.  I had the opportunity to pull up two of the small climbs.  I managed the first but had trouble over the second as the group came around after half a turn.  But no one was attacking.  Our goal now was to get home quickly and I knew that my participation was important to the group’s welfare.  This mindset bolstered my waning confidence, and despite being on the rivet, falling in and out of periods of desperation, I was able to hang on and not be a detriment to the main.  I was impressed by the early season power of the group, with Drew, Brandon and Kevin taking impressive turns.  And Fred and Chris were absolute engines pulling for extended periods.  I did have some difficulty managing the homestretch of the causeway climb, but Chris came back and set tempo for me (in the big ring!) as I managed to follow over the top, recover and draft to the group just ahead.

On the familiar roads of Knightridge, the falling ice had diminished and we got off 446 again two by two now that the danger was mitigated.  I was glad to have been part of the ride today, and thankful for the fitness of these young men to be able to respond to the call for more power when the situation demanded.  To say that we outpaced the storm may sound unrealistic, but that is precisely what we did.