Sadistic Empathy, or Why We Wait

I missed yesterday’s session because I was able to race at Mass Ave in Indianapolis.  The team had a good showing in the events that we participated in.  Nick Torrance won the Category 5 event (State Champion!) and Mark Powell was 3rd.  Lanie Deppe was top ten in the Women’s 4 and Gary Palmer and I had a field showing (with some flashes at the front!) in the Masters group.  Other local riders had good results as well in our 27 mph Master’s category, Chris Kroll, Bob Brooks and Tom Cox were either in the breaks or pulling us to them.  The pro 1/2 event was at 7:30 that night but Scholars Inn didn’t have any riders pre-registered for this state championship race.

So today’s standard out and back training ride on Old 37, Anderson, Low Gap and Mahalasville was a ‘recovery’ ride for me.  Not so for my mates!  Mark Powell, Colin Allen, Jeff Thompson, Tom Chorny, Kevin Hays, Jeff Buschbaum, Fritz Breithaupt and I  made up today’s peloton.  I  met the group in my neighborhood, just northeast of Cascades, which strategically allows me to avoid the first climb of the day up Hillview! Jeff was in his TT setup and turned for an adjacent course before firehouse hill.  The rest of us soldiered on.  We started the day 2 x 2  and a little chatty but shifted to a proper paceline on Anderson.  By Beanblossom, we had picked up at least a couple of miles per hour.  Pacelines, well executed are truly a work of art.  Geese, looking down, would admire our effort!  Gear selection, speed, power, suppleness, timing all are important contributors to its success.  With the exception of an emphasis on pure power as in sprinting, a paceline is a communal effort for the greater good, if only for a brief, shining moment.

Today’s pace line was to be undone by two events, a chance meeting with 2 dogs intent on culling our herd and then the hill on Low Gap.  We survived the cur onslaught intact, regrouped for the run-up to the climb.  But I knew that I would be found out in the foothills.  Fritz had already lost contact once or twice (three weeks off the bike for professional reasons can have that effect).  I let the quickly escaping group know that I would ride with Fritz and was immediately jettisoned on the first pitch of the climb. Messers Thompson, Allen, Chorny, Hays and Powell disappeared into the distance with me  and Fritz chasing.  But not really!  We knew that we would see the group again on the return.

We reconnected on the secondary road near the turnaround and caught (rather, were caught by) the 5 protagonists still in a clockwise paceline.  Our speeds were between 24-26 mph down Mahalasville and Low Gap.  I was floating just behind the group, careful not to interfere with the proceedings and just admiring the disciplined work being done by this small group ahead of me.  No words, no conversation.  Just a steady paceline that was a real pleasure to watch.  Soon, however, reality (the hill on Low Gap) made its presence known and we found ourselves in a mirrored situation with the group coming slightly undone in the climb. Hays, Powell and Chorny lead the ascent with Allen and Thompson just barely gapped and me and Fritz in arrears.  At the Anderson turn, just over the cemetery climb Allen and Thompson came back to pace us back to the finish.  But these two clearly had too much horsepower and we found ourselves again in difficulty, despite their presumed empathy!  Fritz and I continued our discussions after this ‘interruption’ (!) and watched our well meaning, if not sadistic pacers sprint for the Anderson line!

We all regrouped at the firehouse.  Some refilled water bottles.  There was little talk about who won the sprint or why we fell off the back or why the group split.  None of that really mattered.  What mattered was that it a was another beautiful day in the saddle with a small group of dedicated cyclists who somehow made the very best of today’s mix.