Friday, May 25, 2012
guys with guts who hammer.
he will hammer.
i showed up to the group ride last weekend, slightly nervous but mostly just optimistic; i was out for a ride and it was all i would have to do for the next little while. the sun was shining. i was wearing sunscreen and my usual kit. my bike worked, mostly. it was going to be beautiful.
at a group ride, like a group anything, there is much sizing-up and scrutinization. the categories and criteria are varied and storied and often false. that lady with a couple extra pounds and a really expensive shop-floor bike: she will hammer you. that guy with a comfortably rambling laugh, a mop of grey hair under his small carbon helmet and a white pinarello: he used to be a time trial specialist, and he knows more about wind than you do about being winded. then there's the unassuming, awkward-looking vince vaughan lookalike with a green jersey from a bike company that didn't make the bike he's riding with hairy legs: he showed up late, he will make the air part before him and drop you before you know it. the engineer riding his 'other' aero road frame: he will drop you. the nice, scruffy, grey-haired casual rider who got second at the race you finished DFL in: he can hammer AND corner so watch it. the shop owner and provocateur of all this two-wheeled silliness: he will drop himself in a ritzy neighborhood along the way and wish the group well. this is the saturday ride. assume the worst.
i spend my life knowing that few people ever know much about me, and those who know anything probably know too much. i assume the same about others: they are so much more than the nickname they've lodged in my brain, or the association i use to remember it. damon is an engineer and rides a bike made by engineers. jonathan lives in parkdale and went to italy to meet dario and have his pegoretti made for him for the italian fondos he does each year. chris rides a cervelo and broke a shifter cable on the first ride i did with him, finishing easily with the rest of the group, in a 39-12 gear combo up every hill. i'm just a weird guy on a steel bike who started crashing their group rides weeks ago, i'm terrible in the wind, but i'm okay on the climbs, and i make awkward conversation. we don't know each other. we ride together.
that ride ended up being a hard one. i ran out of water somewhere around 70k in, which was also around the time that i got dropped on a small rise into a whipping headwind next to the airport. we had attacked. i had worked, just enough to pull through two or three times, then i spun off and popped. jonathan passed me, working solo. then graham came up, a man of more than 60 years old, pedaling smooth as you like, into a stiff headwind, humming softly to himself. as i sucked wind and bottle and thrashed my pedals while trying not to look like i was beaten, i drifted to the right and let graham go by. then i did what any ashamed, beaten, no good rider would do: i went for his wheel.
i hung on to that wheel all the way around the airport.
an old man pulling a young man like flashy tin cans behind a beat-up VW.
it turns out that jonathan never did catch the leaders. they stopped at a stop sign and waited for the rest of us, jonathan soloing in, graham pulling my sorry ass. i thanked him, throughout the rest of the ride, for the pull that saved me. he shrugged it off, said no problem, and mentioned that time trialing was once his specialty. he's twice my age, and i couldn't bridge up to him if i was paid to.
and that other guy, in the wrong jersey with hairy legs and a vince vaughan-ness about him: he was up there with chris in the breakaway, and i couldn't hang with him. his belly hung low between his bib straps, but every time he pulled in the paceline, he jumped and we broke pace. when we attacked, he pulled through and left me behind.
we often don't look like the complete stories of ourselves. our scars may or may not be a starting point. we may or may not know any good stories, or even how to tell them. we don't know who woke up where or how they got there or whether or not they go home afraid of getting hit every night. we guess. we go on hypotheses. we must be proven wrong. we must be willing to look and learn.