So I arrive at the startling line of the Salt Lake Century with 5 minutes to the start, and the main mass of cyclists is already pouring like a sparkling, whirring waterfall onto the course.
Crudzilla..… Even though this is just a non-competitive ride, I feel fantastic, and want to ride smooth & fast with the strong folks in the very front group. I’m pretty much last right now
So as the main mass of cyclists is ambling along gently in the morning sun, chatting and in no great hurry. I pull out of the main stream, stick it in a big gear, and start ripping along, passing hundreds a minute, in pursuit of the front.
I like to ride/train with folks who are better than I am, as it pushes me to become better.
I’ve learned over the years that getting the tar beaten out of you “when it doesn’t count” is a very good thing, as it makes you a tougher for when it really matters.
Last year I had an amazing time at this event, riding in probably the 3rd big group on the road. I cracked like an egg about 60 miles in. I’m feeling far stronger this year, and I want to ride at the front & get cracked again, not in the flat pedal crowd who have no intention of riding the whole hundred miles.
I can tell from the first moment I start pushing hard, I am going to have a “no chain” kind of day.
I wonder for a few moments what people are thinking, as I rip by on the outside of the massive stream of cyclists at almost double their speed. But I am so intent on what I want, I leave a wide berth, & pay minimal heed.
After a few quick miles, I can see the lead motorcycle, and the bunched front group. I smile with relief, sit up with no hands & take this picture.
And at that exact moment, hear a hubris laden, PSSSSSSSSSTTTTTT!!!
Yeah, a flat.
I swear quite loudly, slow down, & dismount to fix it as the group disappears down the road. I open my spare tube, and realized I have packed the wrong one, I need the long valve stem tube for my tall aero rims, and I’ve brought the flat kit with only a short valve tube.
So I’m screwed… CRAP!! I am embarrassingly angry with myself. I might be done & have to call jessica to come pick me up.
So I sit, for maybe 20 minutes, messing around with my patch kit. Watching 2,000+ people pedal past me. I bet quite a few noted me on the side of the road with smug satisfaction, and I deserve every bit of it.
I finally get the tube fixed, just as several good-hearted volunteers, like Dean, and several folks from Bingham’s Cyclery show up with a floor pump & tubes. Fully prepared for an idiot like me.
So back on the road again, and angry at myself, I try repeating and repeating what I wrote yesterday.
A hard-traveling man said to me
That you don’t have to finish first
But you must know how to finish.
So even if I ride this whole damm thing alone, with my nose in the wind every step of the way. I will finish this. Dammit.
I ride with anger for about 10 miles, but it slowly wears off, and I start opening my eyes to the wonderful morning, and the fact that I am still feeling great. Also, I’ve never been in this part of a big group ride, within that “flat pedal crowd” I snobbily derided earlier.
I pass groups of women whom I overhear discussing t-ball registration as they spin along, I see sets of calves with so many wrinkles, or so much cellulite, that there is no muscle visible. But dammit, their pedals are driving around and they are enjoying the day as much as I am.
It’s so hard, and so essential, for accomplished athletes to stop and appreciate the struggles of those for whom the 34 mile route option might be ten times as challenging and scary as the hundred mile ride.
Spinning the 53-17 along in the morning sun, I began to feel so grateful, so alive, so blessed that I can feel those sensations of the body working well.
How many sick people, stuck in hospitals or hospices, or in any of the man-made hellholes this world is full of, would give anything to be out here on the road, under the mountains, free as the whirr of gears.
I wish my father was here riding with me, I could talk with him about this, he gets this kind of stuff.
(and mom deserves mention too.. she is the reason I am driven to spin that big ring for miles & miles, if mom were here, we’d probably just hammer)
I slowly pass through various strata of riders, like geological layers of rock. Equipment changes & the speed of the groups I am passing through slowly changes.
There was a notable band/level of rider where there were lots of humorous jerseys.
Why are racer types so dang serious so much of the time? Would I smile more often if I wore a Super Grover or Curious George jersey? Hmmm maybe not, but I’d wear this.
But my reverie was broken by the WHIZZZZZZ of a 4 racers in a fast paceline bulleting by me on my left.
Aha! I hop in, and within a few seconds am back in the familiar push & lined out effort of pack dynamics. Spining the 17 becomes spinning the 15.
There are many layers of meaning in riding alone, just you & the wind, and also there is meaning in riding with others, and working together to simply fly.
The guys were named Ivan, Andrew, Rick & Mike. They also had been delayed by flat trouble and I would spend the next 70 miles working with them, driving across the miles.
Our intent little paceline starts to grow, reaching 15-20 at times, but over and over, it get back to just the essential 5.
It’s been such a reluctant spring, so as today’s temperatures started touching 90 everyone was in a great mood.
I’ve ridden all over the USA, but the Antelope Island causeway is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever turned a gear. I was much happier crossing it without the dehydration bonk I had at about this spot last year.
(insert the the smell-o-meter of rotting stuff in saltwater here)
With about 30 miles to go, we take a break, and I practically dive headfirst into this bowl of fruit at a rest station..
And oddly enough, the bowl of candy seemed repulsive, they looked as tasty as christmas ornaments.
I lose myself in the color of the western skies, the roll of the land, and how you can feel every inch of it on the bicycle, and suddenly, it’s almost over, at mile 98 I start to feel that crumbly hollowness, that I am at the end of my physical rope. Mission accomplished!
Here is Rick driving the pace. That man can drive a gear! It’s funny, he is good freinds with several other speedskaters.
The ride started so alone, so angry & full of that toxic/intoxicating cocktail of a competitive nature. Once I let that go, the ride finished with some new friends.
There is a lesson in this.
And here is another lesson, Dear Bro, I am as dumb as you are, just more creative about it..
For some reason, I put loads of sunblock on my legs & neck & face. But forgot my arms.
Dumb dumb dumb.
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