January has come and gone, and with it, some of the worst weather I remember in the Midwest. Biblical rainfall, epic winds and, something I had never heard of before, the polar vortex. Our first February ride was welcoming with temperatures in the 40s and winds out of the South. But the roads were wet with runoff, the skies were overcast and rain was threatening off to the West. It would have been easy to stay home. I arrived early at the Scholars Inn Bakehouse after cycling in from home for our noon ride. Newcomer and future champion Jake Parker was there with his wife Sophia. They were sitting at the window counter and over scones and espresso, we chatted about our respective European adventures peppered with some philosophical ramblings (that was me) about the sport and its attraction to us all. I enjoy getting to meet the rider’s families. It’s a privilege to be invited into their lives and I am grateful for that. Also, there’s something special about the Bakehouse that attracts world class athletes and great people. Let’s call it the Bakehouse Vortex! A former rider and Little 5 standout Kathleen Chelminiak came by to say “Hello.” She’s back from Colorado and is relocating to the area! Ben the world class track and field runner was working behind the counter, Tracy Gates, a great runner in her own right was working too. Local cyclist and team friend Andreas was there as well enjoying a late breakfast. Long ago a mentor once told me, [if you want to be happy/fulfilled/successful…”surround yourself with positive people.” Well that’s what I was doing today and everyday that I get on the bike with teammates and friends.
One by one the riders who were brave enough to face the wet roads came to the start. Jeff Thompson, Aaron Prange came with local rider Matt, Colin Allen arrived with his wife Lynn, Shane Slaven, Kevin Hays and Mark Powell all arrived. Despite our busy, over-scheduled lives many of us show up for these rides every week, clip in and commit to the cause. And it’s both personal and communal, this thing that we share, this sport we have chosen. Today’s course was a counter clockwise loop generally out to Vernal Pike, Leonard Springs, Rockport Road then back on 446 through Kerr Creek, Gilead and home on 45. The beauty of this ride is that there are many places to turn for home along the way as the furthest point is never more than 10 miles or so from town. The pace was challenging without being hard, but I was struggling on a few of the bigger climbs when some of the fitter riders (all of them!) kept a strong tempo to the top. Each time that I lagged of the back a rider would drop off the back and pace me back to the group. Each time I was grateful for the support and knew that this small expression of solidarity is more important than all the miles and all of the training put together. It’s what makes us stronger as a team. Not just the camaraderie, but the dedication and discipline that we share. We are all strong in different areas, but when we are riding together that strength multiplies due to our commitment to the program and to each other. I remember sitting on the back on some of the single file sections, when the tempo was higher and the spray from the rider in front was an absolute shower. It wasn’t much of a leap to think back on long ago days in Belgium when just a thin rooster tail of cold, muddy water on desolate farm roads was the price paid for a chance to sit on a Flemish wheel.
The ride ultimately did split up, with a group heading for 446 to add a few miles on and others turning for home on Strain Ridge. I was in the latter group and glad to be there. The wind was directly behind us and some of the pavement was new so the grupetto was punching above its weight as we flew back home. We were glad to be out on the bikes and we were collectively transformed by our company of athletes in sync with each other as we begin to sort out the 2014 campaign.