It was the last Sunday ride for us in 2013. I am writing about it now from the comfort of my home office, space heater under the desk set to warm, hot tea steeping beside me. A nice group arrived at the Scholars Inn Bakehouse for the noon departure of our regular Sunday team ride, including a couple of out of town guests; former teammate Aaron Pilling was in the area for the holidays, visiting from Colorado and Chris West, currently in Indianapolis joined the ride. Also on the ride, testing my memory, were Andy Messer (Upland), Jacob Miller (BKB), Fred Rose, Ryan Shanahan, Thomas Walsh, Kevin Hays, Gary Palmer, Laura Felicetti, Shane Slaven, Aaron Prange. Emily Palmer joined us for the start but turned after 30 minutes as she is recovering from a cold.
The ride started out as they all do, with a lot of chatter, talk about the weather and how we felt overdressed in the dappled sunlight. the 50 miles to the flashers and back has become a ritual for us for the last year or two, often taking on a life of its own. It’s challenging without being epic, exquisite in its utter starkness. And, it’s all right in front of you as an out and back venue. We have so many beautiful rides to select from. Yet we do this every Sunday.
It was warm-ish at the start, as I rode down from the Scholars Inn parking lot, passing the aptly named Champs Elysee’s spa time and temperature sign: 43 degrees. The ground was still wet from an earlier drizzle, but the sun was out under partly cloudy skies. The wind was picking up though, shifting from a southwest wind to west-northwest.
At the 446 turn the pace picked up measurably. You never know how quickly it’s going to go on this ride. We keep it relatively unstructured for a reason. Each rider is free to do as they please, based on their training plan, how they feel, upcoming events, or, their ego! We were two abreast until the road narrowed just past Knightridge as we rode swiftly to Lake Monroe, the 25-30 mph train being primarily driven by strongmen Shanahan, Messer, Walsh, Pilling and Rose, but all contributed to the speed of the group in turn, creating this force that would soon be wrenched from all but the strongest.
The causeway proved again to be a decisive point on this ride when the principles took control. The pace was too much for me and Ms. Felicetti (sporting new fenders) as we backed off and rode our own tempo, but averaging 20+ mph on the chase! We managed a formidable chase past Chapel Hill and into the lower valleys, just keeping the few groups ahead in sight- but just barely. On our ascent of the final moonscape climb to the first flashers we were delighted to see the cavalry arrive as a small grupetto had turned and headed for home. But to our dismay, Mr. Messer was alone off the front, head buried on his Garmin! The hunting group included Prange, Palmer, Hays, West and Pilling. We turned to join just ahead of the charging chasers and our speed shot up as we settled in the back of this chase with a now north-northwest wind and graying skies as the temperature was dropping faster than Michelob Lite dropped Lance. We were in an echelon across the shoulder forming one half of a left to right arrowhead as Pilling and Palmer, then Hays added fuel to this cold fire until we either caught Messer or his interval was done! We could only imagine the desperate situation of the brave men who had gone the distance and continued on the four miles to the final crossroads; Rose, Shanahan, Walsh, Slaven and Miller. These strongmen, seemingly impervious to the now howling winds, dropping temps and darkening skies had the admiration of us all as they continued their lonely plight to the halfway turn.
So we carried on with our own desperate play, over the minor gaps and through the frigid descents and climbs of this stark and forlorn landscape. Finding that bubble where the speed was fast, but not too fast for the whole of this small gruppo compacto, because now we had shifted our priorities from a singular aspect to the good of the group without saying a word about it. I felt a peculiar kind of strength knowing that my comrades were as concerned about the group’s welfare as they were about their own. We climbed the Causeway as a group, and made our way across the false flats of Knightridge, onto the two climbs of that favorite Wednesday World’s course. Andy and Laura turned for home as we turned west on Moore’s Pike, others left one by one as we meandered our way through the residential sections of Bloomington. Pilling, West and I made it to the Bakehouse for some hot cocoa and were soon joined by Fred Rose, back from the front lines reporting that all was well on this final Sunday World’s ride of 2013.