Friday, July 12, 2013

The Tuesday-Thursday Ride -Race

With few exceptions every town the size of Macon  has some kind of Tuesday-Thursday Ride-Race. This has been going on since the mid 1980s when Greg Lemond broke out on the international bike racing scene, and won the World Championship one day race in 1983. He later went on to win the Tour de France 3 times. Inspired by Lemond's extraordinary achievement, all the serious US riders metamorphosed to 'racers' overnight, and we were desperate to mix it up with like minded types aficionados. In the early days, however, there were very few sanctioned races. I had to go on four to five hour drives to Ocala Florida, Asheville NC or Murfreesboro Tennesee to get the fifty five minute "rush" of  guys, shoulder to shoulder battling it out in criteriums through the center of town, going  full tilt, at thirty plus MPH, sprint premes, some breaking away, likely caught later in the race, occasionally crashing, and jumping back into the melee on the next lap.

Hometown amateur facsimiles broke out like a 1950's measles epidemic. Simultaneously in every podunk town the size of Macon between Miami and Seattle, a 'Tuesday and Thursday' ride race was born. Seasoned racers, triathletes, new racers, and dreamers showed up to duke it out on sparsely traveled roads or industrial parks cleared out by the afternoon time clock. Though not sanctioned by United States Cycling, with no motorcycles clearing the intersections, and no prize money, these were, and still are, races.

For me the only good things about aging are (1)  functioning well on 6 hours or less sleep per night and (2) not needing to go far to find riders with superior skills. On Tuesday/Thursday, I rush home from work, leaving charts undone, blasting hard rock on the car stereo for transitional inspiration. After a quick change, I am on the bike. A perfect five minute warm up brings me to the start. I have been doing this for 25 years and loving it. Every year it is harder, and every year I  plan to be better, and occasionally I am, but usually I am not. I don't care much when it doesn't go well. The point is, to go out and let the stress fly from inside to outside and off for good, if I do it right..

Being the second oldest of the 40 or so riders who show up, removes any self imposed pressure to win. If I hang in with the lead group of the ten or so "big boys" to the end, I am happy. The effort to do well draws so much adrenaline, it usually takes two beers, a tylanol PM and a Neurology Journal to calm me down enough to even think about sleeping. (No big deal, sleeping being  a total waste of time, limited time, I am sorry to say).

Once a year while participating in this ride, I do something ridiculous. Last year I drove the truck a mile from the start, bike in the back. I hid in the bushes until the pack went by, jumped into the race from behind, and sailed through the whole pack in Superman Drag. I had a long sleeve classic Superman shirt, Superman underwear over my black bike shorts, and three foot bright red cap, flying off my shoulders when I was at full speed.

This year I decided to honor the greatest cycling movie ever made, Breaking Away. The movie came out in 1979, a few years before I bought my hot pink steel De Rosa bike. Several years ago I converted it to a fixed gear bike with one speed, no shifters, and no back brake  The pedal stroke rpm (cadence) is directly proportional to bike speed. On the flats I spin this beauty at a normal 90 to 100 cadance. Down a steep hill I am committed to an rpm as high as 150 and it is difficult to stay upright. The locals in the movie were called "Cutters", (note my jersey) a word indicating they were locals, many of whom worked for a time harvesting stone in nearby quarries, which eventually made it to Indiana University, where much of the film's action occurred. Some of the sound track was from the Barber of Seville. This year my pro motorcycle racing young friends and filmmakers followed me out to a relatively flat part of the route  where I again, jumped in from behind.

How did the rest of the ride go? Maybe the pack formed a few unsuccessful chases and I soloed home to win easily. Maybe that didn't happen. As Jake said to Brett on the last page of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises  " Isn't it pretty to think so"