Just a day after I said I did not like doing long road rides in the winter, seven of us did an 80 mile ride today. And it was good. For three main reasons.
To start, we rode the whole thing under blue skies and with little to no wind. Though chilly at the start, we enjoyed temps in the 60’s by the end. In short, perfect weather.
We did one of my favorite routes, too. We go north from town up to Mooringsport and then over to State Line Road before heading back through Longwood and Blanchard. The whole thing is very low traffic, most of the roads are good to excellent surfaces, the terrain varies enough to make things interesting, and the areas are somewhat scenic. It’s much better than the much more popular southern routes.
None of that would matter, though, if I’d rode like crap. Far from it, I am somewhat proud of my performance.
Of our group, one guy was clearly weaker than me, five were about the same, and one is probably one of the three or four strongest riders in Shreveport. That guy, when up front, set the pace in the mid-twenties. The rest of us, except for the weakest guy, would get up front and back it down to the low twenties. Here’s reason number one I’m bragging: All the other guys got up front and pulled for maybe a minute at a time, I kept at it for several times as long. I had two reasons for my extra work. Primarily, I figured the more time I was up front going slow, the more time the stud was in the back. Also, my ego played a role. I might not be able to pull at 25, but I can at least man up and pull at 22 for three miles or so.
About a third of the way through the ride, the slowest guy fell off the back. I decided to wait for him so he would not have to ride the rest of the way by himself. We rode side by side and b.s.’ed for a while. Then I got back in front and pulled him all the way to our planned store stop where we met the rest of the group. That was about 15-20 miles riding essentially solo. When we all left the store together, I resisted the urge to rest at the back of the line and continued to take my turns up front. Again, this made me happy.
Now the finale. With about six miles until town, the stud picked up the pace. The group tenuously hung together until a series of rolling hills when we split. Up front was the stud and one other guy. Fifty feet back was the one female rider. (Also a stud). Another ten or twenty was me. Then somewhere behind me was everyone else. I wanted to fade back to the slower guys. At this point, there would have been no shame. But I lowered my head and hammered until I caught the lead two. I hung with them until we finally made it back into town and slowed down, at which point I did go back for everyone else.
When I ride with my wife I always tell her cycling skills are all relative. She thinks I’m a cycling stud. But here I am writing a post basically saying I am thrilled to have simply held another guy’s wheel today. And if he’d really wanted to, he could have dropped me at any time. He didn’t, though, so for today I feel good.