Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Halloween Scare

Kenner Bend Anchorage

There are certain universal truths in this world. When a doctor says you might feel a slight pinch, everyone knows to brace for broken-bone pain. The same goes for a toothy TV personality standing in front of a weather map telling you it may be a little breezy in the morning. Hang on to your hats. Officially, the NWS observation for N.O. Int'l Airport at 5:53 said winds were south at 10, and that was expected to worsen as a front approached. (After the ride, I checked the 8:53 observation: S at 17 with gusts to 28.)  At the start, one of the guys who rides from Kenner to meet the group just shook his head and said, "The wind."

Time to Clip-in
I started near the front of the group, right behind Brian B.  and Keith McD. They rode side by side to the playground, and then Keith pulled all the way to the big bend by the country club. Brian took a very brief pull, telling me he was saving himself for the ride in. I spent what I tried to judge as the absolute minimum time on front which could still be considered a pull by the generous and then got off. Well,  a couple of guys go by, then Brian and Keith, and then nothing. A big gap. I look over my shoulder and see HL on the front of the long train of riders. No way am I letting HL force me into this rotation especially not in front of him, so I just keep pedaling in the left lane. Eventually HL goes by, and then, of course,  nobody is interested in letting me in and I end up on the very back of about 18 riders, 14 of whom are in the gutter getting absolutely no draft.

For the next few miles I was stuck in the yo-yo at the back until people starting getting pinched off, and I found myself repeatedly having to go around riders and accelerating to get back onto the group. Near the parish line, the group was splintered into four or five pieces, and I ended up on Triceps 1 Dave's wheel with a few others in what I think was the first chase group. I don't know who was in front of Triceps Dave, it was nighttime. Suddenly Dave said, "Left, LEFT, LEFT!"  Then I heard the awful, awful sound of a wheel locking up and a woman screaming in terror.

That was about enough excitement for me for one morning, so I dropped down into the Little Dip with Dave. I still don't know who the rider was in front of Dave or why he was in the left lane.

I do know that at the parish line where this happened, the backdrop from which an oncoming headlight must be distinguished is a thousand lights on the several ships moored at the Ama Anchorage, which, of course, is why you stay out of the left lane. I also know I will never again ride in the dark with this group.

Calling it a training ride is a misnomer. It is a race, and racing in the dark in a howling crosswind on ten feet of asphalt, five feet of which is the right-of-way of oncoming cyclists is just plain idiotic.

I learned later in the day it was Mignon who the group put at risk. She said the group should stop riding like a bunch of jackasses.

That's much too kind. 


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