I was planning on going to the Bakehouse today but probably for a coffee to watch the group depart and not to ride. I expected just a few riders due to the Easter weekend. But I had watched the Tour of Flanders this morning and was inspired to suit up despite the dreary and cool start to the day!
It was 45 and misting out when I left the house. The weather report called for warming and sun later, but I tucked a rain jacket under the seat anyway. I rolled out to the Bakehouse for 11:30 or so. Rob Smallman was already there. He had stayed in town after his strong effort at Marian yesterday afternoon. He was hanging out with a Notre Dame post doc, Cloudie, a German woman who has spent time in Liverpool, and rode lots with the Century Club there with our good friend Geraint! She raced Marian yesterday as well. Small world. But when it comes to cycling, Bloomington is often at the center of the universe. Today was to prove to be one of those days.
Soon a few cyclists had begun to show up. Emily Palmer, Drew Coelho and a EP teammate, James Calvetti, Colin and Lynn Allen, Shane Slavin, Brant Powell and Jacob Miller (BKB) and Jeff Thompson. We rolled out at 12:03 and picked up a few riders along the way. On Covenanter, near Clarizz we met, Ryan Knapp, Jon Atwell (Panther/Bakehouse) Ryan Shanahan (Scholars), RJ Stuart (Texas Roadhouse) and Andy Messer (Upland).
We headed for 446 via Moores Pike and paired off in twos until a few surges strung out the group into a single file line. The wind was out of the west and seemed to be generally slightly behind us on the way out. There was the usual vetting out at the causeway, but I was able to hang on so this story will continue! Soon, strongman Shanahan attempted a few long efforts that really hurt the group. Coelho managed to latch on and Powell bridged from the group. There was some talk from the peleton about Bakehouse having the responsibility to chase, but the light-hearted goading fell on deaf ears! Atwell moved to the front and pulled the chase group back to the three leaders with a 3 mile, 30mph effort! There were a few more surges, a sprint for the county line (Atwell) but all in all we stayed mostly together until the climbs to the first flashers. Knapp put in a ferocious effort and split the group on the run up. The leaders included Knapp, Atwell, Stuart, Shanahan. Powell, Coelho, Calavetti, and Slavin formed a second tier of chasers and me, Messer and Miller were third. Our group bridged up to the second group forming a nice chase all the way to the second flashers, 4 miles away. Some turned just before the end of the line to answer the call of nature while the protagonists were barreling towards us!
We connected at 25mph and settled in for the hard ride home. The leaders were intent on keeping the pace unbearably high. The wind had intensified and a distinct echelon had formed from the yellow line to the gutter and I was the last man in this formation! Several pulls by Smallman, Knapp, Atwell, Stuart, Powell, Coelho and Shanahan ripped the small group apart in the foothills heading out of Lawrence county. I was just able to make the selection in this intermediate stage by hanging on to the leaders like the final bird in one side of the flying ‘V’. But I knew my goose would be cooked before too long! Slavin, Miller, Calvetti, Messer (riding tempo today), and Coelho’s EP teammate called it a day.
There was a frantic push up through the rock walls near the state forest and that proved to be the end of my day. I went from 24mph with the group up that climb to 16 alone almost immediately. I checked my numbers, 2 hours, average speed 23 mph. I saw the group for a while on the long stretches of 446 and saw that the group had split. Just before the causeway, I turned back to meet the group coming up on me to enjoy some company. But Slavin and Miller and EP were riding hard! I tagged along nonetheless. Calvetti bridged from the Messer group and attacked on the causeway. I bid adieu to the youngsters and rode my own tempo up the climb, getting caught by Messer near the top, who pulled all the way back to the chase group before dropping most of us.
I rode the final parts along the Knightridge WW course alone, but connected briefly with Miller by Moores Pike. I was content in just turning the pedals now in an effort to get home. I felt good, better than I had expected and found that my fitness does seem to be improving, but I was concerned about my power and ability to suffer in these moments when it really mattered. What was once easy(er) for me to attain has become a challenge requiring all of my physical and psychological strength! But I have long ago stopped worrying about my place in the local peleton and whether or not I belong. the fact is, I am here now and I have made it a little further today than I did last week. I rode up to the intersection of 446 and 3rd and as I turned for home, the clouds had given way to a warm spring sun.