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The Specialized Lunch Ride

The clock ticks over to 12:00. Not a minute to waste, no one waits for you here. In one hand I grab a bundle of clothes, my shoes, and a helmet as light as the brown leaves falling outside.  In the other, I lead my bike, rolling it through the halls, listening to the wheel buzz like a chorus of crickets as the hub clicks away.

I follow the procession to the downstairs change room where a different buzz takes over. Chatter fills the room in anticipation of the hour to come. Cleats tap  the floor, clothes are shoved hurriedly into cubby holes, spandex begins to hide no-nonsense tan lines . Donned in sleek shades and aerodynamic helmets, I barely recognize some of my Specialized co-workers. Others I wouldn’t recognize any other way.

Outside the change room, the chain-link fencing that segments the cavernous warehouse rattles as we pull our bikes from rowed hooks. Floor pumps are passed around and tires frantically readied. Like any office, we gather around the water cooler, waiting impatiently to fill our bottles: enough so we don’t go thirsty. But not too much; water is heavy.

I roll out the loading door, into the blinding midday sun. The wind at my face is calm, for now, and surprisingly warm for early November. Around the corner, the group is amassing.  I take a moment to quickly stretch my back and legs; I’ve learned that the warm-up will be brief.

With a rhythmic snap of cleats in pedals, we’re off. The first wheels move from the parking lot, inciting the others to follow. Forty bikes creep through the quiet neighborhoods of Morgan Hill. The chatter continues and a paired formation naturally takes shape. Bikes roll two abreast for the first few blocks, until we leave the houses behind. A left turn and we’re in the country side. With the change of scenery comes a sudden change in pace. The group tightens and I find myself inches from the wheel in front of me.  The now single file line steadily builds speed.

It’s early yet, and the group works together to take on the country winds. We move as a swarm, rotating duty at the front. I’m oversized for a cyclist and as I take my turn as lead, I  hear an audible appreciation from those tucked in behind me. But I don’t last long. It’s hard work up there; the long flat stretch is a constant fight against the wind, and the speed, nearing 30mph, is the high end of my limit. I pull out, and let others take over.

We approach the first turn, a domino of hand signals followed by bikes swooping around the bend one by one. I have to fight to stay with the group on the turn; I’m out of my saddle for the first time today, but certainly not the last. Lose the group and it will be a long lonely day, without the crucial benefit of drafting.

The first break comes early today, not ten minutes in. Off the front of the pack, an ambitious maverick puts space between himself and the group. There’s a sudden indecisiveness among the mass. How real is the threat? Only experience can answer the question and this time we let him go. Alone, he is not likely to survive. Sure enough, it isn’t 500 yards before we’ve reigned him back in, his legs burning for his hubris.

Back together, the first hill approaches, and with it, the first real test. My legs feel strong. Out of the saddle again, I rock the bike from side to side and recruit every muscle I have. Stronger riders shoot past, and the fear of abandonment provides me an extra push. As we crest the hill, I’m hanging on to the rear of the front pack. Our numbers have halved.

The speed doesn’t relent, and thankfully neither does the fear. Panicked moments are all that keep me hanging on – the occasional widening of pavement between me and the wheel ahead that prompts a few powerful strokes out of saddle. It’s a dangerous energy-sucking routine, but on these short rides, I may just get away with it.  May.

But today is Friday, and Friday is not for the foolish. It’s World Championship Day, and the coveted jersey awaits the winner. Seriously.  The lead group has dwindled to just a handful, but sticks together. For now. It won’t end together.  We’re nearing the final bend, then it’s one last hill to the finish. As much as I want to believe that today is my day, I know I’m taxed. The pace for the past hour has left my legs rubbery, barely able to maintain rotation enough to hang on.  The strongest riders have another gear altogether, and as we shoot out of the turn, they take off. It’s still a long way to the top of that hill and I watch them battle each other as they pull away ahead of me. The first riders to go we’re too impatient and they’re easily overcome before the summit.  With every ounce of energy remaining, I pull myself up the hill in tow.

Absolutely spent, we roll slowly back to the office, shower quickly, grab a burrito and return to our desks. To our computers, phones, and meetings. To our day jobs.

Cramping legs and heavy eyes remind me it’s Friday afternoon.

  1. Rene Vasquez
    November 11, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Jealous of your lunch rides; the feeling I look forward all week, you have it every day, enjoy it

  2. November 12, 2010 at 12:45 am

    That would be a….Specialized Nooner!

  3. November 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I miss the SuperTaq burritos.

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