We've all got our pre ride rituals. Mine involves stuffing my kit in a bag Tuesday morning, then changing into bike shorts at work. At 7:30 AM, I couldn't find the jersey I wanted so I grabbed an alternative. When 4:45 rolled around and I unzipped my bag, I prestidigitated the missing jersey as I rummaged for the shorts. In my haste, I had put 2 jerseys and no shorts in my bag. Panic set in. I couldn't miss the ride. I made a quick phone call to Mark at In-Comp to pre order a new pair of shorts, and set a new record for a quick purchase as I rushed through the In-Comp door, grabbed my shorts off the counter and headed straight to the changing room. Moments later, I was suitably attired and ready to ride. (Whew!)
Mark informed us of some construction on Luxemburg road, so we cruised a mile past the Luxemburg turnoff and headed east on Humboldt road. With a good sized group and a tailwind, life in the peloton was good. There was no wind in my face as we cruised along effortlessly at 23 or 24 MPH. The Ironman locomotive of Jeff and Mark kept things under control as they pulled us along. By the time we got to the Rendezvous road turnoff, I was thinking of a Spanish proverb: "How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward." Only I knew that afterwards, there would be no rest. The cross wind on Rendezvous was easily manageable with some simple echeloning. Crosswind notwithstanding, our pace didn't slacken appreciably as the ease of the pace line encouraged more riders to take their turn at the front. There was little rotating as those stalwart high horsepower guys did their thing out front. That was fine with me as I wondered how long I'd be able to handle the pace without someone to hide behind. But by the time we crossed Highway 54, my own legs were getting a bit restless, and looking for a challenge. Then, as we bottomed out on the hill immediately past 54, and started charging up the first big climb of the ride, Bob W launched from the back of the pack, and made me feel like a hyper-milers on 41 at rush hour. I gave chase, not because I had any illusions of catching Bob, but to get the climb over quickly, thus limiting my time in the pain zone. Once the lactate buildup started, it was ego drive that kept me going to the top. But as I crested, Jeff and Mark passed me, and it was all I could do to hold Mark's wheel as we bridged up to Bob and his compatriots who had mercifully slowed for us to catch up. Nevertheless, we had managed to split the peloton. We re-grouped at County K As we started down Thiry Daems, I was awfully glad these young lions and tri guys were out there punching a big hole in the air for me.
By gravel pit road, we were stringing out again. I turned my head and saw Luke a quarter mile off the back, still climbing the hill on Mary's road. A quick head count revealed that Johnny and Erik were MIA. But with the smell of the bay in our nostrils, and a long downhill beckoning us towards Bayshore Park, we pressed on. It was a good opportunity to work on my tuck and conserve energy on the downhill so that I had leg strength enough for the last half mile sprint to highway 57. At the park, four or five riders headed down the head wall to dip their toe in the bay and experience the joy of oxygen deprivation on the climb up the escarpment. I wasn't one of them.
As soon as the hill guys made it back, we headed down Bayshore Park Drive. It wasn't long before we overtook Luke. He had turned left on Gravel Pit Road, and then took T across 57. Soon after that, Carl and Sue's tandem appeared on the horizon and we reeled them in. It was nice of Jeff, Mark, and Bob to slack off on the way up Benderville hill. The group stayed together pretty well, and I finished the ride hiding behind Warren all the way down Nicolet drive. I didn't see who won the city limits sign sprint. I did notice that the sprinters didn't open too much of a gap from the rest of us -- A testament to the speed we were travelling at. We finished the night with a 21.5 mph average.