Today was a typical winter ride from the home one of the best US Domestic PROS to ever play the game. Marky Mac won just about everything there was to win back in the day, and if he didn't, his brother Frank did.....probably twice. These guys joined the gray haired leauge a while ago, but none us of will ever forget what they accomplished, or the fact that if they should decide to train half as hard as they used to that they'd mop the floor with us. Heck lots of times they do without all that much training, just look at the fields and results from Witches Cup the last few years.
Oh, and by typical....I mean SAVAGE!
5 of us did a similar ride last Sunday on a windier day. 4 hours with 5 guys is a lot of exposure. It hurt. So logical thinking would mean that with 11 guys we'd have a lot more coverage and sitting on time.....right? Well ya sure, BUT (there's always a "but") the way this works is like this. 2 by 2 for 10 minutes each. Mark always goes in the first pairing from his driveway and he sets the tone and pace of the ride. I knew we were in for it today when we were rolling in the 24 -27 mph range on a section with a slight tailwind.
Riders were required to have full fenders with extensions on the back to help keep the riders behind somewhat dry. There is a fair amount of chatter like any ride, but the structure and disciplne force you to have your shit together or you risk being "that guy". We've all been that guy before. No one has ever enjoyed that purgatory. The threat of it looms all day like the grim reeper. Wanna go yet? Food, fluid replacement and cash are a must. If you're smart a cell phone isn't a bad idea either, more than 1 rider has had to call for rescue before. Still wanna go?
The cast of charachters was diverse and friendly. I'll try to name them all. Mark M. myself, Jon Lowenstien, Tobi Schultze, Mike Rowell, Bill Shattuck, Gary Aspnes, Sinjen Marrocco, Lou Salemy, David Kellog, and Andy from Bikebarn. I think thats everyone.
If you're smart you get in the back at the start and try to pair up with someone thats not gonna rip your legs off. I'm not smart. I'm on a pretty good run of form since I kept it hot for Cross Worlds in late January, so I was eager to go. It was pretty uneventful along the way, which is a good thing. No drama, no mechanicals. We were flying all over the place. I know enough to keep the calories up, especially early, so after one of my pulls, I had a nice PB&J. I can only eat so many bars.
There were signs of cracking early on, and so with an odd # the stronger guy in the pairing would "move up" 1 spot in the rotation after the pull. Everyone was in decent shape at the store stop at 2:10. LONG way to go though. The suffering began. Most guys didn't know it, but there was 2:30 left to go. Not even half way.
There was some head wind, and some hills and some hard pulls by some of the stronger men. I'm gonna go right ahead and say that Gary was the strongest on the day. He looked so easy on his bike, and lean, and I never saw him stand up once. Sporting a full winter beard and no gloves all day, he exemplified the New England Hard Man. Good on ya Gary.
4 hours into it, it was pretty quiet. There were 11 very private pain vessels pedaling in unison while we visualized all kinds of food and Mark's driveway. I was paired up with my new teammate Bill Shattuck and he lives nearby and told me we were almost done because we were getting real close. I knew Mark would detour us if needed to meet the advertised duration. I didn't have the heart to tell him that though. All of a sudden we were all jolted out of our trances when Mark slapped a metal road sign. "Everyone awake"?
Sure enough we pulled a "Supertramp" and took the long way home. The last hill is somewhat famous or infamous to lots of guys. Good friend Kyle Wolf once had to be pushed up there as he was so cracked he was gonna fall in the gutter and hurt himself ("that guy"). I've been dropped there as well. It's just awful if you're toast. Well some of the guys today were french toast. I'm truly sorry for setting the tempo up there today like that, but for me it was that tempo or the gutter.
At the top of the hill it's time to shut it down and cool down for 7 or 8 minutes back to Mark's place. Thank Christ!!! Bill and I did 3-1/2 yesterday too and I was really feeling it at that point. So thats it, everyone survived it and I know some guys had to go deep into places they didn't even know they had. You can really get in touch with your soul when you're that ahnialated.
As if the sight of our vehicles and the knowing that it was over wasn't good enough, Mark's wife, Suzanne, brought out a plate of "fresh from the oven" brownies. A better snack has never been had! Thank You Suzanne! I had stuck a recovery shake in the snowbank when we left so that washed it down just nice.
Thanks to everyone for riding and for being ready to go at 10. Especially to Mark for leading and hosting. Theres no better ride to do than one of these winter rides from his place, but I think everyone should place this sort of structure on their weekend group rides. No attacks, no town lines, no baggin out on your spot in line or your pull. The suffering will come soon enough, and so will the fitness.
I can't wait to do it again.
Thanks for reading, JB