Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dark, Damp and HL

Tuesday morning, for the first time ever, I drove to Jefferson Playground for the levee ride. My two experiences riding out on River Road to levee access near Causeway Blvd. in total darkness, once aggravated by fog, were exceedingly unpleasant. With Daylight Savings Time recently going into effect, 6:00 a.m. Tuesday didn't look any different than midnight, and I was happy with the decision to drive. On the way, I went through a very light shower which caused me to check the weather radar after I parked. There was a broad patch of light rain being shown offshore, south of Lafayette, moving at a good clip toward New Orleans but nothing in the immediate area.

View toward New Orleans at the Little Dip
 Once I got a picture of the dramatis personae at the start -- Woody, Robert, Daniel, Randy, Ray, Max, Big Rich, Big Scott, Vega, CA Rick, and HL -- I knew it wasn't going to be quite the ride I was hoping for when I loaded the bike into the car. I'm not claiming any form of unnatural prescience, I've just been there before -- mix HL's intractable compulsion to surge each and every time he's on the front on each and every ride in any and all conditions with cyclists who have the ability and willingness to play his game, e.g. Woody, Robert, Daniel, et al., and the result, for me at least, is an uncomfortable and usually unsustainable situation. This is especially so in pitch-black conditions, considering my documented history of being susceptible to the howling fantods anytime I'm required to ride blind at better than 28 mph through meandering dogs on long leashes and oncoming unlit, or overly lit, cyclists.

The rotation brought me to the front just west of the country club. I immediately pulled off and drifted to the back. I ended up in front of Vega and CA Rick. I learned later CA Rick was trailed off the back in the natural yo-yo caused by those on the front accelerating out of the small chicane at the new pump-to-the-river pipe crossing, east of Florida Street. Nearing Williams Blvd., I could see the intensity of shadows cast by Vega's super-bright headlight slowly fading to nothing. He was gone. Then Daniel, who was turning at the parish line, decided to show HL that he (Daniel) could take one last sustained, half-mile pull at HL's 20-second-surge speed. It was definitely time to stick the proverbial fork in me.

I slowed to recover until Vega came up and we rode together to the Little Dip. He continued west while I turned for home. As the accompanying images show it was still very dark. On the way in, the fog/mist turned to light rain, but I made it back to the car before it really started coming down.

I received a report later in the day that HL continued his antics, busting the group into pieces on the way in, even resorting to verbal attacks whenever anyone refused to play his see-if-you-can-take-this-surge game. Apparently, Ray, having had quite enough of the taunting, invited HL to join him on a little run.

Oh, how I'd love to see that!

View of Mississippi River batture at the Little Dip
[Note: This blog isn't intended to disparage or offend anyone. If anything herein is believed to be inaccurate or offensive, please leave a comment. Any such comment may change nothing, but will be stark evidence of your right to free expression of thought and opinion, much as this blog evidences mine. Thanks for visiting.]

Monday, March 10, 2014

Late for the Sunday Giro

Sunday's Giro was largely uneventful. The morning started strangely for me. I failed to reset the only two clocks (oven clock and bedside alarm clock) in my house which aren't connected to computers and reset automatically. And although I awoke hours before I needed to, I somehow managed to avoid looking at the ten clocks on two desktops, two laptops, two iPhones, an iPad, and three cable boxes, and relied instead on my oven clock as I sauntered around my kitchen, quite relaxed and unhurried, waiting for my second cup of coffee to heat in the microwave. I returned to my desk and perused a couple of articles about the shake-ups in the Saints roster. I checked the weather observation from Lakefront Airport. And then, for reasons unknown, I happened to glance up at the cable box sitting atop my TV and got most of the way through a double-take before realizing why the box read 6:25 -- daylight savings time. Damn. I usually leave my house by 6:30, and I hadn't started getting ready to go.

 I got away from my house at 6:45, and debated whether I could make it to my normal parking spot on Killdeer and then to the swim hole for 7:08, which is about when the Giro gets there. I decided to play it safe and park at Elysian Fields. At Nashville and Willow Street, about 12 blocks from my house, I saw a cyclist with an orange argyle kit (Ben, I think) heading toward the lake. It was 6:54. I wanted to find out where he caught the Giro because he couldn't have made it to the start, but I never got the opportunity to ask during the ride.

When I got on my bike I started soft pedaling east and ended up at the top of the Casino Bridge waiting for the group. Soon, I was joined by the OWNHB. Do you recall I indicated in the first paragraph that my morning started strangely?

I had an interesting conversation with the OWNHB, but I couldn't follow everything he was telling me sufficiently to relate it here with any degree of accuracy. He talked about the most famous European track cyclists training in the draft of motorcycles at 50 mph (40 mph for women), a largely equivalent workout he has devised locally involving a wildly geared bike and doing repeats from the top of the Casino Bridge, but only on the left fork, going to the casino, and only six repeats.

I keep nodding and looking back toward the west hoping to see the group appear. "They're late," I said.

"They're afraid of me. I'm too fast for them," he responded.

When the group finally did appear I learned that Max had a flat at the bridge over Bayou St. John. Max showed me his bloodied hand. I asked him if he had fallen, and he said it was the flat. Zipp 101s must bite because his hand was a bloody mess.

Nothing else of note occurred on the ride. The weather was perfect with calm winds and temperatures in the upper 50s. I was struck with how pleasant the ride was compared to last week's Giro which had split into several pieces both ways. The personalities present yesterday were almost identical to the previous week with the notable exceptions of Brett and Woody. But I've been on many pleasant rides when they were present. So I am at a loss.

Notes: Rob was present on a TT bike but was only seen on Hayne. HL beat the OWNHB in the Chevron sprint.

[Note: This blog isn't intended to disparage or offend anyone. If anything herein is believed to be inaccurate or offensive, please leave a comment. Any such comment may change nothing, but will be stark evidence of your right to free expression of thought and opinion, much as this blog evidences mine. Thanks for visiting.]

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sunday Giro -- Fast and Fragmented

Sunday morning's weather was pleasant, at least insofar as temperatures go, with a range of 62° - 69° during the ride. Not so pleasant was the direction of the 12 mph wind -- SSE. It was the sort of wind that doesn't look bad on paper (or a computer monitor), but made for a rather nasty crossing wind for most of the trip out to Venetian Isles and back. I hadn't ridden my bike for ten days, and with only two 75-minute swims during the layoff, I was keenly interested in the who and how-many would show up for the Giro.

From atop the rise1 in Lakeshore Dr. at the west end of the Swim Hole, where Big Rich and I (and this week, after a notable absence, with CA Rick) usually wait for the group, the first impression one gets of the Giro is the how-many, as a line of silhouetted cyclists shoots out from behind the levee and flickers past the serial trunks of the pine trees west of Shelter No.2. I estimated about 30 riders. As the pack rounded the bend and began up the little incline toward us, I could see most of the usual suspects, perhaps a little heavier on the muscle than most Sundays, and holding true to the recent trend of an increasing number of riders who could be my kids if I had started a family after reaching middle age.

On the warm-up to the bridges I asked Vega about Saturday's Giro, trying to get a sense of the level of pent-up testosterone and the freshness of legs among those present. He said it was only half as large and he had hung on until near the end of the trip home, all of which sounded to me as if Saturday's Giro wasn't a killer and a lot of people were too busy doing Mardi Gras to ride, and all of which was, of course, not good.

Once we got going on Hayne the pace steadily increased and people started getting trailed off the back. I rode the centerline all the way to Paris Road with my head down and chest glued to my top tube. The pace and my level of stress at the turn onto Paris prevented me from moving up in the group like I wanted to, and any respite I thought we'd get turning into a headwind didn't seem to materialize. The wind was about 150° -- at best on our left shoulders while on Paris/510 -- and I was breathing hard and dodging the sleep bumps in the gutter going south. So while the pace was somewhat reduced once we turned off Hayne, the effort certainly was not. When I looked up coming off the raised portion of 510, I was in a group of about nine who had been gapped. With the speed of the leaders and the wind, I knew immediately we weren't going to reconnect. But we had plenty of muscle -- the OWNHB (wnhb)2, Noel, Chip, among others, and we maintained a quick enough pace going out that I had to skip more than a few pulls.

The trouble with working hard chasing a faster, stronger group for 10 miles to a turnaround is that you eventually get to the turnaround and have to turn with the faster, stronger group which has been sitting up enjoying a snack and a drink for four or five minutes while you've been working. As my group turned and re-integrated, near the pee tree, HL made a comment that Rich would have to do a supplemental report for the blog.

When things started to ramp up coming in, there was a perceptible nervousness in the pack. I could hear Keith N. somewhere behind me admonishing someone not to let anyone cut into the line, as almost everyone was in the gutter and people were trying to move up to better positions. The speed seemed to go up and up and up, until, just past Little Vietnam, I was done and moved a little left into the wind and threw an elbow for people to come around me. Nothing. Another elbow. More nothing. I looked behind me and there was only empty highway. So I stood up and tried to accelerate thinking I might get back on, but my lungs had another idea, objecting in the strongest possible terms.

I could see HL just up the road, and as I passed the intersection at the Chevron station, a group of about 10 cyclists came by me like there was a fire somewhere. It caught me a little off guard and I found myself having to chase. Chip and Keith McD. turned into the service road but most went straight toward Bullard. I went straight but may not have made it to those guys if HL hadn't waited for me and pulled me up.

Once we got onto Bullard, HL got antsy and upped the pace. Most were pretty cooked and weren't interested, but I got onto HL's wheel and he pulled me to Hayne and for a couple of more miles until he signaled me to go around him, which I was happy to do, but was wondering why we were riding at an uncomfortable pace (at least for me) when we were a long way ahead of everyone. So when he came back around me, I slowed and let him ride off of my wheel. As I was climbing up the Casino Bridge a little pack of about seven or eight strongmen came screaming by. I didn't even think about trying to latch on. I never saw anyone else on the ride in until I was turning off of Lakeshore Dr. onto Beauregard Ave. and Mignon, who was now just behind me, alone, told me to have a good day.

As I was driving out of Killdeer, after talking for a little while with my friend George and changing, I saw Rich and CA Rick just coming off Lakeshore. My sense is that there were single riders and numerous little groups strewn over miles of New Orleans East for much of the Giro going both ways. Since I rarely saw the front of the group, I can only surmise as to the principal cause of the shattered morning ride. My best guess is young Ben and his orange-clad allies agitating the likes of Brett, Woody, and perhaps a couple of others -- the kind of behavior which, in the good old days, always irked Old Joe. He couldn't understand why anyone would want to "poke a snake with a stick" or "kick an ant pile."

I got no supplemental report from Big Rich about the ride out (as HL had suggested) only his profile (see below) and the briefest statement in an email subject line regarding his ride in: "flatted on the service road just as we were catching the front group--100yds." When I saw Rich at the Thoth parade later in the day he said Chip had played a big role in their almost catching the leaders. So maybe I should have followed him into the service road rather than casting my lot with HL and the others who went Bullard.

A few other random notes: The only fashion faux pas noted by Big Rich was Triceps Dave's decision to don a sleeveless jersey (all the better to show his enviable guns) along with warmers. Rich used technical sartorial jargon to describe the gaffe, saying, "That ain't right."

Just after we turned at Venetian Isles, Pat F. was found to be more than a little exercised about a cyclist who I won't identify except to say he once maintained he could ride better than everyone on the levee shortly after he had been de-biked by a turtle. Apparently this rider pulled a move Sunday which is closely related to what Donald would denounce as "getting on the bus without buying a ticket." This particular version of the move involved hiding in the pack until a gap opened and then attacking the gapped riders rather than working with them as a group to reconnect.

While Ray perhaps needs a few ski lessons, his cycling doesn't seem to have suffered a whit from all the tumbles he took on the slopes.

= =
1. Also known as The Rise That Rich Will Not Cross.

2.  The OWNHB (The One With No Handle Bars) was in a one-bike crash in late January, said accident no doubt having been caused, at least in part, by his having no handlebars. After a brief recuperatory hiatus he returned to the Sunday Giro on February 17th with a bike equipped with handlebars. That welcome change lasted, as far as I can tell, exactly one Sunday Giro (the 24th being a washout). Yesterday he was again on a bike wnhb (with no handle bars).

[Note: This blog isn't intended to disparage or offend anyone. If anything herein is believed to be inaccurate or offensive, please leave a comment. Any such comment may change nothing, but will be stark evidence of your right to free expression of thought and opinion, much as this blog evidences mine. Thanks for visiting.]