A few short weeks ago I recounted how I’d never completed the Saturday morning A-ride — not for a lack of trying, mind you, but either I didn’t have the strength, the stamina, or the smarts to do it. I ride with my balls, I chase down moves for no reason, and by the time we’re getting to crunch time, I’ve blown myself up.
But today… Something was in the air today. We rolled out nice and easy from the shop, slowly ramping up the speed as we made our way down Pascack Rd. Big B tried to get local superstar Zach Koop engaged in a breakaway, but most of the peloton answered and as we started reeling them in, they eased their pace. I found P-Cad’s wheel heading up the hills on East Ridgewood Ave, ending up in a group of blue and pink Brauer/Mick Management riders, and never to be one to take advantage, I took a solid pull on the front to the light. Hitting the light, I roll out onto Kinderkamack with the Brauer boys attached to my wheel, and pull off letting Chris take a pull. He asks around if anyone wants to go faster, I’m happy to sit in, but alas, the Brauer boys stomp on it and Chris and I are quickly finding ourselves toward the back of the field. “Well, I tried,” he tells me.
He and I are still sitting toward the back as we crest the hills by the golf course, but now it’s time to make up some ground. I pull outside and let gravity take hold of me and start barreling past the boys. There’s a group of about 6 that has a small gap, and I answer, bridging and pulling the peloton back together. Me. The fat kid who gives up too easily who never found how deep he could actually dig — until today. We make contact and make the left, a car rolling through a stop sign ends up with Chris’s brake getting a little personal with my left cheek, but no crashes. We continue on to Haworth unobstructed.
The left at Haworth starts a nice ramp-up in speed, the hope always being that the light will be green and someone can make a move for a breakaway — Nope, red light. Light turns, and Zach Koop + 1 get the holeshot. I make the jump, one of the Brauer boys riding a fixie on my wheel, and I try to bridge and answer. As I see Koop + 1 making the left onto Livingston, the light turns yellow, and I sit up. P-Cad pulls up, remarking “Well, now we’ve gotta chase em. Good thing I brought the TT bike, I’ll tow you boys around for a while.” And so he did. P-Cad at the front, Big B behind him, a few more, and myself. P-Cad pulls off, Big B pulls off, and for whatever reason there’s some separation. Two guys are pulling harder than the group I’m in, where Big B and P-Cad are latching back onto, and the two guys in front of me just aren’t doing the work. I drop the gear and go, head down, in the drops, legs burning, and bridge again, but it doesn’t matter, we’re sitting at a red light.
We’ve accepted that Koop + 1 are gone. We roll off, moving quickly through the streets, and things start falling apart. I see Big B struggling and pull alongside him. “Go, I’m listening to my body, my legs are leaden.” Alright, I go, I hook up to TL’s wheel, but as we head up a little riser I see the main pack opening up a gap on him and ML. Big B, who just seconds ago told me to go on, to leave him there, pulls alongside ML and makes the call. “Come on boys!” ML and TL don’t make the move, so I jump onto the Big B’s wheel. We stay together through Tappan, and now we’re at the climb.
Folks, I hate this climb. With a passion. It’s not steep, it’s not long, it’s just obnoxious. I’m sitting on Big B’s wheel, deep in the drops, getting out of the saddle to pick up a little momentum. There’s a little opening on the outside so I move up and pick up some spots in the group. We keep going to the next little climb and I’m out of the saddle, probably around 8th wheel, maybe a little further back. I want to keep going and recover on the downhill a little bit, but to no avail, I’m moving faster than the pack and almost cross wheels a few times without anywhere to go. We hit the hill by Bi-State and we go, and I’m still there. We pass Bi-State, we hit the hill by the reservoir, and I’m still there. I’m with the selected pack and we’re flying around the reservoir. This, folks, is surreal, but not as much as what happens next.
We come around the curve that hits Poplar, and there’s a huge hole on the inside. I hear Big B “Go, go, go, GO!” I take a gear, I get low, I see Chris at the front and then he’s behind me. I’m making my way up the hill leading to Big B’s house, here it is, I don’t need to see the sprint, I could if I wanted to, but I’m good. Two or three come around me as I’m hitting Big B’s street, and that’s it. It’s over. 17 months of doing this ride, about 8 seriously, and I’ve done it, and with pizazz. I was able to make the move. I had gas in the tank. I had it all today.
Today I had, quite possibly, the best ride of my life. But that’s the fun thing about cycling — just because today was the best ride of my life, doesn’t mean that there aren’t bigger monuments to collect. Next season looks promising.