As stated in the last post, even a blind squirrel will find the occasional nut. I happened to stay at the hotel that was the HQ for the Gran Fondo and race. For once all I had to do was roll out of bed, throw stuff in my car since I wasn’t spending the night and head to the starting line.
As I was getting ready a gentlemen approached and started to talk to me about the ride. He was there with some friends and said that they had done it last year together and they had done a lot of work to prepare for this year. The two co-workers who tagged along mentioned that they hadn’t done much and that one of them had bought a bike 2-3 weeks earlier and hadn’t ridden much. People looked at him because he wasn’t wearing bike shoes as is the standard fare for something of this magnitude. Instead he was wearing running shoes. The gentlemen then stated that he bought his bike a week before the ride last year and it was painful but he finished.
The ride was a group roll out with police escort due to the busy highway. Before we knew it we hit the road. The roll out was fast, there were some folks that probably should have been racing and a gap widened. It went down the highway a few miles and then turned left off of the main road. It was not marked and my co-workers were waaaayyyyy behind. I decided to stop and ensure they made the turn when the race director pulled up. I inquired about them. Clearly annoyed he stated that they were waaayyyyy back there. So I went back, found them and got the to the turn. Then I took off.
Unfamiliar with the route, I wanted to find a group to ride with. I passed a few individuals but going back killed my chances of finding a pack of riders. I turned on the gas and took off. I was assuming risk by going too hard too early. The pavement turned to dirt, more of a wet sand.
Ironically, it felt smoother and faster than the pavement. I found the first official marker and was I pleased to find that it was a big sign and clearly marked. I was a little more comfortable at that point but there is safety in numbers.
Then I caught up to a group of four riders who were going a little slower than I would have preferred but realized I wasn’t going to catch anyone who would be riding at the pace I preferred. Not wanting to be a wheel sucker and not being a part of the group I didn’t want to jump in their pace line so I hung back a little. Then a gentleman began to talk to me. He invited me in so I jumped in. It was the same guy that was talking to me at the start.
He told me how last year, he bought his bike days before the ride and suffered through every mile. His friends (two brothers) and he picked up the fourth, an older man in his 60s, finishing the ride together. They had been training together for this go-around. I was welcomed in the same way. I was a welcome addition.
I was in front of the older man as we worked our way through the pace line, again, my pace was slightly faster and he would say “take it easy, there is plenty of challenge ahead.” The first check point came quickly and the SAG stop had a nice assortment of kolaches. I ate one, refilled water bottles and then went to start when the group called me over. All of their significant others were there hosting their own SAG stop. They told me to help myself.
Did they have a spread…..cold sodas, Redbull, candy bars, and bacon. He opened a container that was full of thick cut, perfectly cooked bacon. It was amazing. Then we were off down a stretch of pavement. It was overcast and misty with a perfect temperature for riding. Then it happened.
My phone rang, it was a work emergency and one I couldn’t avoid. So I told them to keep going and I hoped to catch up. I was hartbroken, these guys were great.
We were talking and working through the line. After I resolved the issue, I cranked, again risking burning out early to try to catch them. I came to a small town and I looked for a gas station to buy some food. A sign marked a left turn and shortly after turning, there they were. The older gentlemens wife was there with a 12 pack of Coca Cola.
They had slowed their roll and waited a little longer in the hopes that I would catch up. I drank a coke and we were off again. What an amazing group of guys.