Someone in the club posted a ride for the Fourth of July, with one big difference: He wanted to start it at 7:30 a.m. instead of our usual 8:15. Since the mornings around here have been delightful lately, a lot of folks chimed in that they would be there.
His route was pretty ambitious, and he let it be known that the pace would be fast. I proposed an alternate route for the B’s, and said I would be there ready to go at 7:30.
The best laid plans…
It was 7:30 when I pulled out of my driveway. The Starbucks where we start our rides is less than 5 minutes from my house, so I wasn’t too concerned. I don’t recall a time when the club has begun its rides exactly on time.
But as I pulled into the parking lot, there was not a cyclist to be seen. Some folks at an outdoor table told me the group had left about 3 or 4 minutes earlier. “They went out on Slaughter,” the man said.
That made sense. It’s the quickest way to get to the start of the route they’d planned, and this early on a holiday morning, there wouldn’t be much traffic. I turned out onto the road and pedaled briskly.
If I could just catch a glimpse of them in the distance, I was pretty sure I would catch up to them at some point. A couple of B riders should be with the group, and we could branch off to an easier ride of our own.
In another couple of miles, I saw three cyclists ahead. Hm. They probably weren’t part of the club ride, I thought. But when the road curved left, I could see a large peloton ahead of the three. A ha! That must be them after all. I redoubled my efforts.
But I caught a red light, and lost ground to them. Still, after two more miles, I could see them in the distance once again. By now, I had gone about 10 miles, and realized I had yet to drink from my water bottle — a bad habit I get into if I’m distracted by other cares, like catching a group that was probably riding faster than me.
Now, the route approached Buda, which is usually a stop and regroup spot for us. I wasn’t sure if they planned to stop this early in the ride, but my hopes were high. Sure enough, when I turned into the Walgreens at the edge of town, there they were — a large bunch of cyclists.
Problem was, they weren’t from my club. This route is a popular one with Austin bikers, and it was clear that another group was taking this same way. I didn’t stop, but pedaled past them and struck out on the road again.
South of Buda, a good two-lane road passes a cement plant. It’s just uphill enough to be annoying, and it’s not a fast stretch for me. But today, I pedaled hard.
It didn’t do any good. I soon heard the familiar, “On your left,” and moved over slightly to be passed.
“Me too,” said another voice. “And me,” warbled a third. “We’re not done yet,” said yet another. That whole bunch I had left at the Walgreens passed me, with the most embarrassing one being a guy on a fixie. Fixies are cool. Unless they pass me.
Kyle was another six miles ahead. A convenience store stop there is almost obligatory for Austin cyclists, and I figured I’d catch my club at that point. A few riders from that Walgreens group straggled enough that I jumped into their little train, and we cruised into the convenience store stop.
Nope. This strage group was the only one around. I refilled my water bottle and had a couple of fig bars. My bike computer said I’d come 20-some miles at a 16.9 mph pace.
That both cheered me and concerned me. I don’t ride that fast. It felt good to have done that pace for 90 minutes, but I worried about having enough gas in the tank for the return trip. Only one way to find out.
The group ride left before me, so when I hit the road again, I was by myself. I rode steadily, not trying to push it on sections where I know I can go fast. The return trip was uneventful, until I cut through the local high school’s parking lot and prepared to turn onto Slaughter. “That looks like Ray,” said a female voice. It was Victoria, a fairly new member of our club, with her husband, Mark. I rode back to Starbucks with them.
“We got dropped just outside of Buda,” Victoria said, when we were back at Starbucks. “They were on a mission, and were determined to go fast and far. I was the only B on the ride, and just couldn’t keep up.” Victoria is more like a B+ rider — maybe even an A-. Anyway, she’s faster than me when she wants to be.
I looked at Mark. “Nice of you to stay back with Victoria,” I said.
“Happy wife, happy life,” he replied.
I said my goodbyes and headed home. The bike computer showed that although I had slowed some on the return leg, I was still averaging over 16 mph for 41 miles. Compared to the 14.7 or so I typically register on B rides, that was hot stuff. I put the bike away, pleased at how the day had gone.
Maybe missing the ride start wasn’t so bad, after all.