The Lions In Winter

I heard a story on the news recently about a vacationer who hitched a ride on a sea turtle and it dragged her out to sea before she realized that she was in danger and let go.  I thought of this almost disastrous outcome as a dozen of us were hurtling down 446 at 30+ mph, wind at our backs and temperatures steadily dropping below freezing.

A strong group assembled at the downtown Bakehouse for the first team rides of 2013.    When I arrived, Graham Dewart was already eating breakfast.  Soon Austin Venhuizen, Fred Rose and Emily Palmer came in and sat at the table.  Then others arrived as the clock neared noon; Kevin Newkirk, Turner Duncan, Kevin Hays, Jeff Thompson and Jacob Read.  After finishing our last sips of Highway 37 coffee, we headed out into the 34 degree temperatures watching the big flag downtown almost completely unfurled.  Fred and I took the group safely out of town and we  picked up Ryan Shanahan, Rob Smallman and Adam Rodkey on Moores Pike to make the group total 13.  We turned the corner on to 446 and settled into a fidgety 2 lines until we could sort out our matches.  The wind was blowing north east so was off our rear quarter, adding just a little bit of havoc to the mix.  It wasn’t long before Shanahan launched into a power test and soloed off the front well before Knightridge, forcing the front to press harder on the pedals.  I was able to snap this picture.  I knew that it may be my last opportunity to get a glimpse of the mainland as the turtle swam out to sea. 

We were a bit frantic after this and jettisoned our inefficient double line for single file as the roads narrowed along with my vision.  We all took turns at the front and eventually brought the flyer back, feeling the pace slacken with the catch.  Just then Shanahan tapped out another attempt just before the causeway, stretching the group’s will and determination.  But several of these riders were in top form for a winter’s tale, as many were in warmer climes just prior to this outing.  But it was Smallman who went to the front and put out the watts to catch the big man ahead.    The climb up the causeway was challenging but manageable for the author and most others.  12 of us made it over the top with Emily turning for home as she is still recovering from an illness.  I was last over the top into the false flats, still connected to the group but I remember trying to get by breathing into check and quell the hyperventilating that the causeway climb tends to create.  Fortunately, the pace was high enough to decrease the likelihood of a surge, which worked in my favor, and I suppose, for a few others.

On the backside of the course, I was on Rose’s wheel and he on Venhuizen’s as the young rider put in a remarkable and lengthy pull.  Just as he was about to give way, the first attack of the day ensued.  Smallman and Read launched off the lee side, sheltered from the wind and Dewart jumped on board.  Venhuizen was on his way back and Rose took up the chase, and methodically pulled us up to the agitators.  We moderated slightly with the catch, but in my mind I was anticipating a counter that, thankfully, never came!   Nonetheless, as we approached the final climb to the first flasher, I lost touch with the express train and watched as they descended into the valley then up the other side.  Nine continued on to the next flashers, 4 miles ahead.

Rodkey and Thompson turned for home and I was glad to accept their lifeline as I watched that turtle continue to swim out to sea.  So the three of us headed for shore while the others got the most out of a cold winter’s ride along the desolate tundra of 446.