Another beautiful morning greets hundreds of riders at the start of today’s ride. Century and Metric riders take off, up and over a short climb that keeps the initial pace in check. A familiar figure slides on past me while riding his red Bianchi. I step up my pace and ride alongside Xavier Falconi, the President of the Everglades Bicycle Club, and engage in some light conversation. Xavier is a mild mannered, intelligent man who has brought to the EBC his organizational experience from the Pacific Northwest. We meander through the mass of riders as we attempt to position ourselves with a group that suits our pace. We settle into the third group with the first group still in sight, in the distance, yet out of reach. I hold my position as I struggle with the instinct to jump and bridge the gaps as I had done every year before. “Not this year kid, not today” are the words I tell myself to make it sound alright, to soothe the beast that is raging inside my head.
We run the rollers and head over to Thrill Hill. This baby is a short (0.1 mile) but extremely steep climb. You must prepare by shifting into the small chain ring and your smallest COG while you are coasting at speed down the preceding hill. The incline sharpens so fast that you go from 40 to 4mph in a matter of seconds. You must also prepare for the mayhem as riders to the left, right and center, are dropping to the ground like ducks along the Mississippi flyway come autumn. The scene is a little humorous and more than just a little bit pathetic. As the group approaches Thrill Hill experienced riders can be heard, “change to your small chain ring while coasting down” throughout the pace line. And still, you watch in disbelief as you see riders try to muscle up the 18% grade of Thrill Hill. Their bike slows to a crawl and while maximum tension is being exerted on the drive train they will then and only then attempt a gear change. The chain springs off the 52T like McKayla Maroney vaulting for Olympic silver. Slapping against the seat tube the chain comes to rest on the bottom bracket as the full weight of the cyclist is directed straight down towards the tarmac. If the cyclist was sitting he will get one or two rotations of the crank set sans resistance before he tips over in comic relief; and if the cyclist was out of the saddle? Well let’s just say he will gain experience through suffering.
There is still a couple of hill climbs left. Four of us form a groupetto and keep a steady pace of 20mph as we rotate every few minutes. As I slide back after a turn on the front one rider says to me, “you huff and puff but you keep on going”. I am sure he thought he was complimenting me. I am sure he meant no harm. He is right though, I am breathing heavy on some pretty mild climbs. I am struggling with an extra 30 lbs and an asthmatic condition diagnosed during an early morning trip to the emergency room 6 months ago. Even so, I took it as a challenge.
You see, my philosophy has always been, “Speak with your legs”. So on the next climb the beast takes control and I huff and puff my way away from that group never to be seen again.
Not a word spoken…