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).

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  1. did vega get dropped?
    why was HL with you on the way back?
    did sir rich ride well after wearing a fairy tuxedo the nite before?
    do you think your conditioning is up to par in early march?

    1. did vega get dropped?
      Vega was in the group I was in until HL and I rode off alone.
      why was HL with you on the way back?
      One too many surges?
      did sir rich ride well after wearing a fairy tuxedo the nite before?
      This is like asking someone if they have stopped beating their wife.
      do you think your conditioning is up to par in early march?
      Is this a trick question?