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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ridin' like a fool

Tonight was the first night back to the regular Tuesday rides at Donaldson Center. I headed out for the fun after having an early dinner with my family. The area where everyone parks had a respectable number of cars... not as many as I remember from last year, but a good number for the first night back.

I jumped right in with the A group. We were going to do four laps of the circuit. The Time guys were there. I got an up close look at Andy Baker's Time machine. Funny, I'm running the same group set he is, but somehow he goes faster :-)

This was a reminder to me that while I may have the fitness to ride with the big boys (at least the slower big boys), I have a lot to learn about bike control and cycling intelligence. Hey, I guess that is one reason why I do this, but sometimes learning can be embarrassing. Still there is only one way to learn and that is to do it.

I knew I wouldn't be crossing the line first so I decided I would use the ride to gauge my fitness and, well, have some fun -- even if I did blow up doing it. If that was my goal, I succeeded! Here is how it unfolded.

The first lap was fast. At least it seemed fast to a guy who has been riding Cat. 5 races. Honest, tonight's ride was harder than any of the Spring Training Series Cat. 5 races. The lap was fast but relatively uneventful. The group stayed pretty much together.

Going into the second lap, which ended up being six seconds slower than the first one, I pushed more toward the front. I never pulled, but I did get hung out in the wind a bit, but for the most part I was dicing around in the pack. For a moment I actually got scared.

I was in the middle of a pack and we were going in excess of 30 mph and I thought to myself, "What would happen if I crashed right now?" The answer was something I didn't want to think about, so I pushed it out of my mind.

During the first lap and the beginning of the second I kind of hung out behind Rodney and John. I figured I could learn from them and also let them pull me along :-) Toward the middle of the second lap, I was riding in the top 10 or so of my group (some of the Pro 1/2 guys had already gone up the road).

At the end of lap two I was starting to wane. I pulled over to the left to let the group pass me up. When John came by, he yelled, "Pedal, Pait, pedal!" I'll be honest, I needed that kick in the seat right then. I was at a point where I normally would have just given in. I just couldn't bear the thought of going into the shop and hearing John say, "There you go again, going up front and blowing up ON THE SECOND LAP!"

I started spinning and set my goal to keep up with John. Of course, first I had to catch him. I finally did so a little while after the first right turn after the start finish line. Not sure if he was waiting to see if I was going to catch up, but I did notice him looking back a bit.

For the rest of that third lap, I was a good boy. As a matter of fact, by the end of the lap I was feeling REALLY good. Uh oh, that means more foolishness ahead.

First though, I have to publicly admit I was a numbskull. Actually, I was numbskull twice during the rest of the ride. This first instance happened when I was finishing the third lap.

I was going along at a good speed, but trying not to over do it. We were overtaking riders and just as I was overtaking a rider to my right, a guy came blowing by me very close on my left. He didn't touch me, but he was close enough to startle me and I instinctively went away from him. Of course, the caused me to bump the rider to my right. I came off him quickly and apologized. That was the Cat. 5 coming out.

Embarrassed, I quickly left him so I wouldn't have to feel worse every time I saw him. Then as we got to the point where I caught John earlier, Strad went off the front. I knew it was stupid, but I went with him. I really intended to do some pacing with him. When he moved over, I went forward.

I looked back and Strad wasn't there. There were two Hincapie-Barkley riders where I thought he would be. One was Steve Baker and I'm not sure who the other one was. Where was Strad? I slowed and moved over a bit and the riders went past. Soon we were caught by the group. I settled in.

Then as we passed Kitty Hawk, Strad went off again. I grinned to myself and went after him. No way would we make it, but I wondered how long we could hold them off. Strad never moved over and I didn't have the strength to go around him. The guy pulled me all the way past the rail road tracks.

Now I was really done for. I moved over to the yellow line. Strad was able to get back in with the main group. This was when I did my second numbskull move of the night. I don't know what I was thinking, but I saw a gap and thought I could jump back in. However, at the speed I was going, it would have been impossible. For a split second my brain said go. I moved right.

Thankfully, my brain actually started working and I realized that I couldn't make it. Of course, the guys coming up didn't know what was in my brain, so they let me know what they thought of my riding skills. I thought one of them was Rodney -- I think they were in Carolina Metro kits. I apologized afterwards, but Rodney said it wasn't him. Well, whoever you are, sorry about that!

I was dropped off the back as everyone started to ascend that final incline. I finally recovered enough to pass some of the riders who were also dropping off and I finished not to far behind the main field. Really, I felt pretty good about it. Had I not done those two fliers during the final lap, I could have finished respectably. But man, those breakaways were fun!

Maybe next time I'll ride less like a fool.



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