The main club ride today was scheduled to make a run into the city. It would skirt downtown and go north on some well-traveled bike routes.
I’ve done most of this route in the past, but it’s not one of my favorites. The turnaround point is about 25 miles out, and it’s all urban and suburban riding — nothing in the country. I had suggested a country ride to Creedmoor, but at the Starbucks gathering point, some of the other Bs thought tagging along with the A ride would be fun. So we set off in an impressive looking group of 28 riders.
That group strung out and some of us were losing contact with the front pack by about nine miles into the ride. We had had some online discussion about one of the streets, which has been closed on and off over the last few weeks. Some said we needed an alternate route to get around the construction. The club president said he drove that street the afternoon before, and it was open. Unfortunately, he posted that info at 7:15 in the morning, and I didn’t see it.
We got to an intersection with Lamar Blvd., a major north-south artery in town, and watched with downcast faces as the peloton shot across. The red light held up about six of us. It turned out to be a long light. By the time we got rolling again, any trace of the main group was long gone. We found our way up to Barton Springs Blvd., which would take us to the pedestrian bridge over the Colorado River.
At Barton Springs, another red light. Two of us got across the street before the light turned red, but the others got stuck at the intersection. We waited. Then, another red light on our street separated us again. The three of us in front waited. Finally, we got up to the pedestrian bridge. It’s a lower level of the freeway bridge that crosses the river, and is used by both pedestrians and cyclists. On this gorgeous Sunday morning, it was packed. I unclipped from my right pedal so I could put my foot down in an instant if needed, and pushed on only my left pedal to weave through the crowd.
Cross the bridge. Turn left, power up a hill past an uninterrupted row of cars, many of which could block us with opening doors. We kept a careful lookout, but got to the next light with no trouble. Another long stoplight, then we could turn onto a road with a decent shoulder and make some time. Any hope of catching the main group had long since disappeared, and we continued on as a fractured group of six.
But at another turn onto Shoal Creek Blvd., who should we see but New York John. He was waiting for us, because his son-in-law was one of our group.
“What the f***!” he yelled. “I’m waitin’ for my son-in-law, and the whole f****n’ B ride shows up! I t’ought youse was goin’ to Creedmoor! Ten f****n’ minutes I’m waitin’ here! Why the f*** are youse guys so f****n’ slow? Aaagh, now I been dropped! Let’s get f****n’ movin’!”
I love New York John.
He set a quick pace up Shoal Creek, even though there was no way we would catch the As. He might be 65, but he’s slightly built, and rolls his carbon fiber Specialized Roubaix with the best of them. Shoal Creek is a road through residential neighborhoods, and sure enough, stoplights pepper the route. Sure enough, some of us got caught at them.
Stoplights can be your friend. John and the others were stuck at one at Anderson Lane, and we three laggards caught up. About a mile later, we saw a peloton heading toward us. It was the A group.
We did a U-turn, heedless of traffic in the area, and latched onto them. Luckily, they pulled into a convenience store a minute later, and we got to take a much-needed rest.
It was nice to feel the pull of the peloton on the way out. I was in the middle of the pack, chatting with a couple of A riders and our club president. But we had some guests with us today, and they picked up the pace. The group fractured again. This time, the club president stayed back with us. He got caught by another stoplight, too.
By the time we reached Mount Bonnell, it was just Buddy, Jan and me. “We don’t have to climb Bonnell,” I said. “We can stay on this street, which is plenty hilly, and meet them a little ways on.”
The club president caught us a mile down the road. “We waited for you at the top,” he said. “It was literally only 50 yards to the top — you could have come with us and bombed down the nice downhill.” We turned into a gas station for a quick break — and the rest of the ride flew by us.
After crossing the pedestrian bridge over the river again, we got onto the frontage road of the Mopac Expressway. Buddy was starting to slow, bothered by cramps in his quads. I stayed back with him, but that noble gesture was driven by self-interest. By now, I was tired, too.
One last stoplight on Escarpment Blvd. I made it through — Buddy didn’t. He pulled into Starbucks a few minutes after I did. We agreed that we’d done well this day — 3500 feet of climbing over about 50 miles. Both of us were pleased with the results, but we agreed that without those pesky stoplights, we would have done a lot better.