Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Spider Monkeys and Strongman Jack

 This past Sunday's North Shore Century bicycle ride in Evanston, Illinois was all wet, literally. I rode most of the day with a local cycling club called The Spider Monkeys. They were a great group to ride with, as they obviously had spent a lot of time working on their pack handling skills. The first 70 miles or so were in a steady, but light rain - just enough to keep you chewing road grit as it spattered off the rear wheel you were drafting off. Good thing we missed running over those mushy, rain-soaked roadkill squirrels and opposums along the way. I'm sure they were organic, free-range and everything, but I found the the rest stop granola bars to have a more attractive presentation. As if getting an occasional taste of worm-water in your mouth wasn't enough, somewhere around the 70 mile mark, the rain machine went into overdrive, along with the now strong headwinds.

  Somewhere around the 75 mile mark, a couple of Spider Monkeys had flats. Everyone stopped to check their own tires. A few minutes later, a few of us decided to keep going and find an end to this day-long bike bath. I left the group with one other gentleman, Jack, a 56 year old cyclist from Poland. Jack was a strong rider, and had no problem keeping our 22-24 mph pace. A few miles later, we were caught by 3 young men - I'd say in their early 20s - in full-blown, fancy "Illinois Tech" racing kit. And their young, sinewy gams provided clear evidence that this paceline was not going to be any ordinary hayride. We all took turns pulling at the front, everyone appearing to behave themselves, with no sudden testosterone-driven jumps being displayed. A few more miles went by. With me having taken the lead, I looked back. All I saw was old man...uh, Strongman Jack sitting on my wheel, and no one else. I asked Jack what happened and he said, "You dropped them at that first hill a couple miles back." I replied, "What hill?". Well, needless to say (but I will anyway), Jack and I were beaming in the fact that us old geezers had dropped three guys half our age...without even trying.

  The last 20 miles felt like they were never going to end. The rains kept coming and the headwinds never let up. Jack was having a  blast riding on my wheel as we maintained speeds around 23-25 mph. I just wanted to see an end to this day. But despite the fact that it was the most uncomfortable century I had done all summer, it was also the easiest. After all, we have real  hills in Wisconsin. ;)

  And may I say to Jack, "It was real, my friend!"

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