The forecast looked good for today, with temperatures in the 60s. Our club president picked a route that was mostly flat, but included some rolling hills about midway through, and wasn’t quite as long as the Sunday rides usually go. Still, I had a lot of Christmas preparations to handle at home, so I decided I would start with them, but then head off on my own to Creedmoor, a little crossroads southeast of Austin.
The reason I wasn’t going to do the full club ride was that I just get tired of being left behind on my own. These rides are not no-drop rides, and if you come along, you have to know that from the get-go. That’s fine, but if I’m going to wind up by myself, it might as well be on a route I know, rather than one like today, where I had only a rough idea of the directions.
So, Saturday night I jumped onto our club’s Yahoo group, and posted that I would be heading to Creedmoor, and invited any interested B-level riders to come along.
At the Starbucks Sunday morning, I sat at one of the outdoor tables and watched the riders roll in. Every one of them was an A-level rider.
“Are you going to ride with us today, Ray?” asked Pippa. Five years ago, I could ride with Pippa. But I’m still at the level I was at five years ago, and she has become one of the more aggressive A riders.
“Well, I’ll start with you,” I replied. “But I’m still going to head to Creedmoor.”
The difference between the planned route and Creedmoor was only about 10 miles, and if things had been different — such as, not a pre-holiday weekend when my wife expected me back at the house to handle my share of cleaning chores — I might have tried sticking with them. But I had a plan, and I was determined to follow through on it.
We set off in a group down Slaughter Lane, a four-lane divided thoroughfare that I normally avoid. At 8:15 on a Sunday morning, we could take up the right lane, and a few cars used the left to pass us. Cut through the high school parking lot into a nice subdivision, then out to Brodie, a two-lane road that has a bike lane of varying width and utility. I found myself in the middle of the group, drafting one of the faster A riders. But the A ride was keeping a steady and moderate pace today. I wasn’t even breathing hard.
We got down to a ranch road where Austin starts to piddle out into semi-suburban helter-skelter neighborhoods. A long Union Pacific freight train gave us a few minutes’ rest, and when we started again, I had to really push it to maintain contact with the group. We turned onto Old San Antonio Road, and that’s where I lost it. The road is a steady but gentle incline — the kind I just hate. I’d rather do rollers, or short steep hills. Here, the A’s could crank away at their pedals and pull away from me. My thighs started to burn.
By the time we crossed I-35 into the rural area southeast of Austin, I was well off the back. I could still see them, about 200 yards ahead of me, but they had picked up the pace now, and I wasn’t making up any ground. But by now, I had resigned myself to the usual B position on these rides. When the peloton turned onto a narrow country road, I stuck with the ranch road I was on, with the decent shoulder, and in keeping with my original plan, rode the remaining five miles to Creedmoor.
Taking a few minutes’ break at the Creedmoor convenience store, I assessed my ride. I was averaging over 16 mph, which is pretty good for me. I wasn’t tired, or even stressed, by the effort. The trip home, on a completely different set of roads than the ones I had come out on, was uneventful. I finished with 35 miles under my wheels, and felt good enough to head right out after my shower to do battle with the hordes of shoppers at Costco.
We used to have an active group of a half-dozen to a dozen B-level riders in the club. It seems they’re not all that eager to come out anymore. Maybe it’s the holidays, maybe it’s the weather (60-68 degrees and overcast? Can’t be the weather), maybe it’s just that they have other things to do. But I sure would like some company on these rides.