40 at 20 #5 – Short of Breath

OK, so maybe it’s not the Giro d’Italia or the Tour of California, but we humbly present #5 in our series of Wednesday night ride recaps, wherein an ever-changing band of riders from HQ aim for 40 miles at an average pace of 20 miles per hour (or more).  Commentary, as always, is provided by the ever-youthful Randy (who never misses a chance for a musical reference):

Like jellybeans of every imaginable color and flavor, 16 riders spilled out from the world of proofs, powerpoints, and production into the cool sanctuary of sanity that is the 40@20.  New to the mix were O’Reilly and Danz, both of whom looked eager to prove their mettle and their chops to the motley crue. Danz fired the start gun early–needing to get back in time for The Love Language and St. Vincent show–and was off the front into the strong NW winds before Tony D could even put his Huey Lewis and the News cassette tape into his stem-mounted Walkman.  The temperature was as brisk as the pace, and the variety of fashion accessories on our heads, arms and legs gave pause to commuters, who must have thought we were either a month late for Mardi Gras or eager participants in the new video collabo from Marc Jacobs and Sigur Ros.  Eichvalds, clearly hailing from the equatorial climes of Kiribati, was more bundled than Randy getting ready for school in A Christmas Story, and he could barely turn the pedals for the bulk of his goose down leg warmers and 12mm neoprene socks.

On the first set of rollers down Lamont Norwood, the group was as strung out as Pete Dougherty at breakfast.  Jones was off the front, Gaynor was off the shoulder, McCarter was holding on to Baker’s saddle, Ali was riding wheelies, Overby hit a double between mailboxes.  Always a bit of a codger, Webster didn’t cotton to the chaos and shot to the front to rope in Jones and ease back the pace.  The rope-in was successful but for one lone calf—O’Reilly.  Some believe he was abducted by aliens at mile marker 2, others posited he was vaporized by a thermal anomaly, but a report in the local paper seemed to have the real answer for his disappearance:  “Late Wednesday afternoon, a Chatham county woman reported a man thrashing a set of aero bars in her front yard.  When the police arrived, the man in question relayed a cryptic story about late night infomercials, 4 easy payments of $79.99, and promises of aerodynamics more sophisticated than even Boeing could develop.”  Next time, O’Reilly, just pedal faster!

Charged up and bunched up, the mass hit River Road full of chatter.  Swan and Gillis discussed belt buckle and cowboy boot pairings, Rogers and Tommy V discussed the shrimp and grits at Crooks Corner, Danz and Ali discussed beer selection at The Federal vs. Pinhook, Gaynor talked to himself.  Baker began to sweat.  Maybe it was the talk of cold beer, or maybe the pot holes and grass made her think about her hard efforts during the cyclocross season, but Ali jumped out front for the first truly strong pull of the ride, and again let us know that the group better get cookin for the county line sprint.

With Jones and Eichvalds up front, and the winds howling in their faces, a strange buzz could be heard emanating from the peloton.  Eich thought it might be Tony D’s Walkman chewing up Purple Rain, Jones thought it might be Tommy V’s Blackberry; neither expected what came next.  With no less than two miles until the line, McCarter—feigning fatigue all week—exploded from the pack, beginning what would become the longest and hardest sprint of the season.  Hard on McCarter’s wheel were Turits, Overby, Gillis, Rogers, Webster, Baker and Swan.  Jones and Eich couldn’t believe the attack was happening so soon, and it took all they had to grab a wheel.  As McCarter started to fade, Turits dropped left and started the second attack.  Those of slow recovery dropped from the sprint: Baker got the shake-n-bake; Swan slipped on an Irish loogie, Eich had just had enough.  When Turits started to fade there was a collective exhale as we thought the madness might be over.  Little did we know that Danz had a score to settle with Rogers over a lunch ride drubbing earlier in the week, and the collective exhale quickly turned to a collective curse as Danz jumped up for the third attack!  Gillis, Turits and Overby, knowing that Danz didn’t have the top end to hold on, stayed tight and waited patiently for him to blow-up.  It took only 40 meters for the meltdown, and the final seconds looked like this:  Turits jumped hard, Gillis gave chase, Overby was content, Webster looked over his shoulder, Jones jumped around Rogers and McCarter.  At the line it was Turits by a wheel over Gillis, Overby by a camera lens over Jones, and Webster by a salt shaker over McCarter.

The sprint had us all whipped and it was a nice soft-pedal out to the crossroads.  Gaynor, Ali and Tony D dropped off the pack and enjoyed a great 30 miles at an 18.5 average.  Nice work, guys!  The remaining dozen popped gels and sipped bottles, readying for the long slog through Orange County.  Down 54 and onto Orange Grove it seemed that Gillis, Baker or Danz were always up front.  It was great to see Baker riding so strongly, the 12 step program at Burritos Anonymous clearly working well for him.  Jones and Swan took to the front for the long climb up Dairyland, and Swan put it best when he said: “I hate getting stuck up here for this stretch.”  It was brutal on the legs, and more than once did Jones wish for Overby to call the ride a success already and suggest a laggard jaunt over to Maple View for some ice cream, chocolate milk, and sunset snuggling.  Alas, that dream was laughed off, and the consolation was the sweet glide of Dodson’s back to 54. The Kraken bar beckoned again, but a snarling dog tied to the bumper of a primered El Camino triggered a childhood nightmare for McCarter and he was soon in tears babbling about Toughskins jorts, a pack of Skoal bandits, and some “experimentation” with firecrackers and a watermelon—things get weird in Oklahoma; we kept riding.

Onto the rollers of Old Greensboro-Chapel Hill Rd, it was clear that everyone was feeling strong, and more than ready to make the final hill sprint one of great suffering.  Turits and Eich pulled the first stretch at close to 25mph, with Jones taking the rest at maybe 12.  The short connector road gave time for a last gel and a little ribbing before the home stretch.  Yet again, the Damascus devil alighted McCarter’s shoulder and he attacked strong and early.  Everybody gave chase, with Jones, Overby, and Baker off the back and needing a miracle to catch up. Overby looked over at Jones and asked if he was ready to hurt? Jones wasn’t, but his ego got the better of him, and he was soon hard on the wheel of Overby as they caught the group just as the descent began.

The swarm of riders descended with great fury, and it was Eich’s body mass and strong legs that carried him out into the lead and pushing strong into the first rise of the hill.  McCarter made a jump with Overby, Gillis and Turits, while Webster, Danz and Rogers tucked in.  Jones had somehow managed to be last in the mix, and was amazed that his legs didn’t disintegrate when he stood to overtake Swan and Tommy V.  Up ahead, Jones could see McCarter, Gillis and Rogers fading, and that sparked another out-of-saddle attack to put him just off the wheel of Danz.  The lead group was now Turits, Overby, and Webster, Danz and Jones in the chase.  When Webster looked over his shoulder with a string of drool slapping his helmet, the chase knew they had a chance.  Jones kicked hard enough to take Danz, and kicked one more time to take Webster.  The Turits-Overby battle was over quick, as Turits just walked away with yet another victory.  Overby was a strong second, even while lugging a camera strapped to his chest!

Rolling back in to the ranch, Turits couldn’t resist another sprint attack, and he launched a head to head battle with Rogers down Mann’s Chapel. The group gave chase but only to watch the finale.  Rogers took the young Turits at the line, and gave the young man some classic Irish words of wisdom:  “There was never a scabby sheep in the flock that didn’t like to have a comrade.”  Now, I’m not quite sure what the heck that means, but if I had to guess…. “Nice riding everyone, te veo el Miercoles.”

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