On Sunday I drove down to Clayton to meet up with my new teammates from the 708 Racing p/b Dressel’s Public House cat 3 squad. The wife gave me leave to play bikes with these guys for a get-to-know-you group ride. Such rides are critical before the racing season starts. Although with any team you hope the ethos is “tous pour un, un pour tous”, can you really expect guys to mentally and physically push the limits for strangers? Eight of us set out in mild temps under clear skies to initiate such bonds.
Joining us on the ride was Justin, another new face for me, who is the area Specialized rep. (though not racing w/ 708). We talked bikes and cranks a little bit while his Tarmac SL3 produced not a little bit of bike lust. At a coffee stop I got to talk shoes with him as I was wearing my old Specialized road shoes – I’ve kept my S-Works inside for fear of ruining them in early season slop. He assured me that they clean up very easily which was music to my ears. Another concern I’ve had with my new shoes was addressed by teammate Chris who works at our sponsoring shop Mesa Cycles. I haven’t been able to get comfortable with the cleat placement despite some tinkering (to be fair, this has less to do with the shoes and more to do with the nature of Shimano pedals). Chris filled me in on the BG fit services at Mesa. The promise of more comfort and power is always attractive!
After the last several months of trainer rides I must have looked like a clown on the road. Hooting and hollering and swerving all over the place – I was ecstatic to be outside and with friends. Oh, and they actually have hills down there in STL, so I was constantly engaged with climbing and descending. It was great. The goal for the ride technically was to cruise at endurance pace for 4+ hours. It takes a very disciplined group to ride a steady pace in rolling terrain for that kind of duration. Allow me to be the first to admit that I was undisciplined. I surged on every damn hill. Hi, I’m a jerk. I couldn’t help myself; it just felt so good (in a cycling stress sort of way). The upshot of all these competitive dudes on a ride was that we could see the strength of the team. Power meters don’t lie (if they’re calibrated) and this is one strong group. Personally and corporately, it was encouraging to see that winter training is starting to produce some fitness. Several times I heard what every preening cat 3 ego longs to hear: “Guys, back it off a bit.”
The ride wasn’t all smiles and giggles. After the winter’s harsh treatment, the roads had some nasty potholes, seams, and cracks. Justin smacked one such seam at full speed producing a horrendous “clank” - momentarily turning stomachs at the thought of several $K in ruined carbon fiber. Surprisingly he didn’t even get a pinch flat! Another foul moment came about when a small minded dork in a pickup threw an empty bottle at our paceline, striking Mike in the head. Nick, Mike, and I chased after the truck but they made it through the next light while we didn’t. I’m not sure what we would have done, but it would have been good to get the license plate of the offender. Speaking of license plates, I think it was “SHOGIE” who decided that honking at us repeatedly would enhance her driving experience. I felt I had to oblige her, so I rode alongside waving and blowing kisses. I hope she felt the love during those moments - though she appeared to need something more, perhaps a glass of Metamucil? The few d-bags aside, the thousands of other drivers we encountered were polite and shared the road.
All told we had a good ride and got to know each other better. In those moments of shared suffering we initiated a trust that will be called upon in the months ahead. With racing soon upon us gaps will need closing, brakes shut-down or initiated, and lead-outs performed. These men will band together to find the line first. Tous pour un, un pour tous!