The club ride posted for this morning would take us west of town into the Texas Hill Country. The hills aren’t killers — they’re mostly rollers — and the road doesn’t have too much traffic. I figured that on Father’s Day, traffic would be even less than usual.
I told the ride leader that I would turn back at Ranch Road 12, which makes for a nice 30-mile round trip. The rest of the group would go another eight miles before turning around.
“Good,” he said. “You can wait for me there.”
He always jokes about being a slow ride leader — even hangs a tiny red lantern from his saddle.
About 13 of us started. Father’s Day held down the turnout, too. Most were A riders, although I was happy to see “Big Steve” turn into the parking lot. (We call him “Big Steve” to differentiate him from “Little Steve” — a former state champion in the time trial and road race in the 60-64 year-old class.) “Big Steve” is younger, taller, and a hefty 240 pounds.
As usual, a pleasant rollout. Less than a mile into the ride, a tiny fawn — not much bigger than a dog — darted across the road in front of the lead riders. We got a good dose of warmup hills going through a nearby neighborhood.
Out of the city, speed picked up as we got closer to Fitzhugh Road, which would be our main route of the day. I noticed that the gap between the group and me was starting to widen. But I caught and passed Big Steve, who seemed to be having trouble with the rolling hills.
Usually, when we turn onto Fitzhugh Road, the peloton regroups to wait for laggards. I made the turn, and no group. I looked back, and no Steve. Hm. He must have abandoned the ride. The wind was fierce, and I started up Fitizhugh by myself.
The run up to Ranch Road 12 is about six miles. I was alone for the entire six. Crosswinds threatened to knock me off the bike. The ride was more of a slog than I like.
I got to Ranch Road 12, and the group wasn’t waiting there, either. They’d moved on. I turned around and moved the bike off the road into the shade of some trees. The temperature was well into the 90s by now. Time for a break.
And who do I see coming up the road but Big Steve!
“Man, I’ve been off the bike for two weeks,” he said. “It really catches up to you fast.”
We chatted a bit while munching on energy bars and drinking water. Then it was time to head home. Steve took the lead, and it was fun for me to draft the big guy. He pedaled like crazy, while I coasted. But it wasn’t long before the hills got him. I passed, and pulled him most of the rest of the way home.
Under a flapping umbrella at Starbucks, we talked about the ride. Both of us agreed the Sunday club rides had lost their allure for us.
“The group is getting smaller,” Steve said. “We used to have lots more come out.”
“A process of self-selection seems to be going on here,” I said. “The fast riders turn out, and when slower riders show up, they’re scared off because they get dropped just like we were today.”
I mulled it over a bit, then made my decision. I won’t be doing any more Sunday club rides.
Unless…a couple of years ago, we had a small, but reliable, cadre of B-level riders who would come out on Sundays, if they knew there would be a ride for them with people of their ability.
Maybe it’s time to revive the Bs.