It was cold today and I am often surprised by the large turnout of riders at the Bakehouse for these weekend battles during inclement or just plain cold weather. But you know what you’re getting when you leave the house on a day like today. It’s going to be very cold. You’re going to overdress. You’re going to sweat and get cold to the core. If you’re lucky, you’ll make it home with the group and avoid hypothermia. Repeat next week.
I counted 22 riders at or near the start as we meandered out of the Bakehouse. We were headlined by Chris Kroll (Upland), Fred Rose (Bakehouse), Graham Dewart (Nuvo) and Paul Smith (Motion). John Becker flatted before the turn at Moores and headed out for a different route. There were other strong riders as well, Hays, Duncan, Coelho, Powell (BKB), E. Palmer, Allen, Prange, Calvetti. I recognized everyone else, but it’s too early in the season to have committed their names to memory. It was years before anyone even bothered to ask mine when I first moved here.
We cut an impressive line as we navigated out of town with temps in the low 30s and light winds. Fred and Aaron Prange led the group safely out of town. I took the gloves off to snap just a few pictures before the fireworks began. I took this one just as we were heading south on Washington to 1st. We passed the Knapp residence and saw a couple of bicycles outside, but no takers for the afternoon workout. He and Jon Atwell (Panther fueled by Bakehouse Granola) were planning on joining, I later learned, but were delayed at the start. Andy Messer (Upland) and RJ Stuart (Texas Roadhouse) were there as well. What a ride this would have been if they were able to join! It would have been a pre-cursor to the season ahead. I imagine that we will have a full season of Panther/Bakehouse, Upland, Nuvo, Roadhouse battle royales to witness! I know that many of the riders today were checking their carburetors for the upcoming Lindsay Wilson collegiate road race that usually signals the start of the collegiate calendar. Today’s ride was a testament to their fitness and strength. Soon we’ll see how they ride as a team.
We made the turn at 446 and Moore’s and continued two abreast, but the tension was palpable. The leaders were taking long pulls and came all the way to the back only reluctantly, knowing that when the pace inevitably quickened that they would have more ground to make up. Good riders know that it’s worth the effort to stay near the front, even if it means frequent pulls rather than risk missing a break to inattentiveness. Their minds (and legs!) work differently to a weaker rider or a rider who may be holding out in the back. These leaders control the front as if it were a right – and it is- to a large extent. They have earned the right to work harder. To make the race, not just be in it.
Kroll needed to stop for a bit at Knightridge for some adjustments, so we rolled along at a moderate but not easy pace. He eventually caught on after a 4 mile chase as we approached the causeway. It’s good training for the new Cat 1 I thought, thinking (hoping) that it would take some of the sting out of the ascent now in our sights! The initial pace up the climb was manageable, but a couple of riders were immediately jettisoned. There was a second surge and a gulf opened up with 15 making the selection. Kroll didn’t seem to have any trouble getting up to the leaders! A couple rolled back to the 5 man chase group that included me. Once over the top, we set our sights on the leaders and caught two who were separated from the top selection and we chased to the first flashers, in time to see the leaders cresting the top of the far climb heading to the end of the road. But, alas, the end of the road may have as well been the end of the earth. We weren’t going! Although a couple of brave souls continued on, the majority of our hunting party turned for home. We were caught by Kevin Hays, back from his work with the leaders, eager to get back as well. He regaled us with reports of powerful attacks and vicious counters that split the group like body blows from a prizefighter.
We rode 2×2 for a while, then singled up for the balance of the ride home. At the causeway, Calvetti and Hays attacked and made it over the top while the rest of us traded shots at the front just to keep them close. I could only imagine the speed and fitness required to be with the leaders over these sections, feeling them bearing down on us even now. But I did some math in my head, as best as I was able with minor hypothermia setting in and realized that we had about a 18 minute advantage by turning at the first flashers. A few got away from this second group and as I was climbing the last few pitches with a newer rider he asked “Do you think the leaders will catch us?” I replied, “That’s up to us now, isn’t it?”