A ride with a National Champion
Last week, a good friend e-mailed the cycling club to invite club members over to his house for an easy ride of 50 to 60 miles. Nothing too strenuous, just a chance to get together to ride with friends and teammates. It sounded good to me. I hadn’t ridden with Tom; the host of the ride, for many months and it would be cool to ride together and to also see his wonderful family, whom I hadn’t seen since last winter when we were at the Cross Nationals in Kansas.
So I packed my old steel road bike and headed out to Tom’s house, meeting up with Barry on the road and we did the caravan thing out to Tom’s. It was a warm, muggy summer day with the air heavy and thick with rain about to drip at any second. It had rained off and on the day before and overnight so the ground and roads were damp, adding to the dampness. We met at Tom’s and suited up. A couple of youngsters were also in our group. One was sporting a US National Road Champion jersey. Very cool. How often do you get to ride side by side with a current National Road Champ?
We road at a fairly brisk warm-up pace for my old bones, but I was able to hang and I road with humility. After all, I was riding with a National Champ! The roads were beautiful rural roads typically found throughout Upstate New York. Lots of rollers, little traffic and just gorgeous scenery. There were nice vistas of the adjacent ridges and valleys and everywhere was dripping green. Rain sprinkled for a couple of minutes but never mounted to much of anything that anyone would even mention. The pace picked up and we were having a blast charging up the rollers and soft pedaling on the down sides to regroup.
Tom cut short his ride to go back home to spend some time riding with the rest of his clan and left Barry and I with the kids. At my age most everyone is a "kid", but these young men were really young… Curtis is in Middle school and Mackenzie had just graduated from High School. Both knew the roads very well and they confidently led us over hill and dale.
I pondered proper etiquette riding with a National Champ. I dared not sprint for Town line signs even though there wasn’t the slightest chance I could win one. When we headed into some headwind, I felt I had to protect the Champ, never let him pull into the wind. I watched his every move and called out when cars were approaching from the back. I pointed out potholes and road kill. The responsibility and the pressure were significant. We stopped at a store to refill our bottles and of course the drinks were on me and Barry. These young guys shouldn’t have to pay for stuff out on a club ride! Does the National Champ have to buy water? Certainly not. If we needed to carry extra bottles or food, we did it for the Champ.
Curtis led us up and down some seasonal roads that offer some mud and gravel… nice! No whining from these young guys about dirt or bumps or stuff that some guys may whine about on a club ride. If the road conditions took a turn for the worse, we simply upped the pace and went harder. The elevation changes were now coming more frequent. On every approach to any hill of any shape or size, the youngsters would slam their front derailleur onto the big ring and they would both hammer up the hill, totally exhausting themselves in the effort. This was how they road. I was more on the steady side (read slow) and would eventually catch up to them. It occurred to me though this was their riding style and it was fun! I also learned that their threshold for pain and suffering was significantly higher than mine (or even most mortals).
We finished the day off covering about 50 miles and worked up quite an appetite. Thanks to Tom and Chris for their generous hospitality and for the fabulous food. I hope this becomes a club tradition.