Monday, January 14, 2008

No cream, just sugar, Thank You.

Reading about Namrita's "fun" experience with the roadies on Saturday, makes me shudder as I relive the many ugly memories of our road days. I say ugly, because there was so much pain involved. When I think of the road, I think pain.

Granted, what Raja and I learned in those long hard years was invaluable. We entered cycling in a different era than most of our current cycling friends. Life was different. The Internet did not exist, phones had cords, and having a computer meant you had a cyclometer.

If you wanted to learn how to ride better, you couldn't get 200 other opinions from a forum board. You showed up for "the" weekly training ride. There was only one designated ride for all of Atlanta. You prayed you wouldn't die before it got a mile out of the parking lot. After a couple of years, if you were lucky and survived the wolves, you might even get a nod from one of the shredder gods. Then after 5 years, if you were even luckier, they might even call you by name and actually give you a push if you were falling off the back.

We had names for everyone, just like the forum names. You didn't speak unless spoken to.You could only admire from afar. So we little people made up names in order to refer to them later in conversation. "Pinkie" always wore pink shorts. "Pump Butt" always carried a pump in the jersey pocket. "Uber Velo" wore one of those fancy team race jerseys. Only a select few were team riders and had fancy kits. I don't even think we knew what a "kit" was. "Breather" cause he breathed real heavy all the time. "Masi" cause he rode a Masi bike. And only a few had the expensive bikes. They were the ones that would show up with the latest greatest. Index shifting,ooooooo! Clipless pedals, aahhhhhhhhhhh! And the ultra cool used sew up tires.

If you made a mistake in the peleton, you would be corrected severely. I'll always remember when I learned never to "thread the needle" in a crit. At least not when Graham was around. I got a tongue lashing from him that lasted from turn 1 all the way to turn 2. But it worked. I never did it again. And I've never taken anybody out or caused a crash.

I learned how to be savvy and smart. How to watch every move like a hawk. When to respond and when to wait. If you wanted to survive to the end of the ride, you learned real fast. You figured out who's wheel to hang on to, and you didn't let go under any circumstance. There's no nice guy either. If there's an opening, you take it and don't let anybody in there. Guys would steal a wheel if you gave 'em an inch. I turned into a tough little cookie on the road. You had no choice if you wanted to survive.

But that tough cookie has crumbled. I'm soft and chewy on the inside now. On the rare occasion we ride in a big pack, I'm amazed that I was able to do all that. Now I'm tentative and meek. There is no place for hesitance. It takes more mental energy for me when riding in a pack. I don't like it, and I don't miss it. I'm glad I've been there though. I can watch pro races and feel that intensity and adrenaline. You almost know what they're thinking. It taught me incredible discipline and technique.

I wish I had been there with Namrita on Saturday, like a little bird on her shoulder. I could have said, "go, go, sit on that wheel, close that gap, look they're starting to pick it up, jump up there, keep it steady, dig, dig, good, now settle in, keep it tight, don't let that guy get your wheel, jump, go, at a girl, good job!" She's got the strength. She just needed some info from the inside. On the road, sometimes it's not how good you ride, it's how good you're in the know.

Of all the riding we've done in 20 years, I don't remember most of the road rides in great detail. I don't relive those memories over and over. The mountain bike rides are the ones I relive and cherish. However, we were able to get to a high level of mtn bike fitness because of all that kick butt road riding. Sometimes you have to take the bitter with the sweet. And in this case, the bitter made the rest much sweeter.

Now, I only take sugar. No cream, thank you.


Blair said...

You have captured road riding. I have the same experiences in the early 90's. It was good chatting with you and Raja on Sat. Great ride. See you guys this weekend at Thomson.

Becky said...

You really did learn some great tips for riding tough didn't you. I will never forget how you were my "little birdie on my shoulder" in our roadie group rides...telling me to keep pushing, dig deeper, and KEEP MY HEAD UP no matter how hard I was gasping...and it worked! Thanks, Coach!!!