The weather wasn't very cooperative this weekend, but I managed to get in a 50-mile ride on the bike trail on Saturday. Sometimes I like to get off the road and not have to worry about cars, the idiots who drive cars, potholes, dead animals, thorns, broken glass, or the idiots who break glass. On the bike trail you can just spin your legs and shut down your brain for a while.
My intention was to take it slow and easy, but that never seems to happen. I had only been on the trail for a little over three miles when a guy rode up beside me. Although it was overcast and cool, he was in shorts and a sleeveless jersey to show off his guns. No helmet on his shaved dome, because he's obviously too cool for that. He has the $6,000 bike, $500 shoes, fake orange tan, and other than his eyebrows, there isn't a single hair visible on his entire body. (Yeah, he even shaved his armpits.) He looked like a creepy alien dipped in Tang. Motioning towards my bike, he said, "What is that? Road bike? Cyclocross? Touring bike?"
"Road bike, mostly," I replied.
"The tires are freakin' HUGE," he said. "Must be slow."
I shrugged. Like I care what some androgynous dick on a carbon bike thinks.
I let him ride away, though he kept looking back—the way they always do—hoping for a race. I wasn't warmed up, and I wasn't in the mood.
About five miles later I had warmed up. Cruising along at a nice tempo, I passed some people; a few people passed me. Everyone was friendly and saying hello. Nobody was being competitive. Just a nice, quiet Saturday ride.
I came around a corner and I could see E.T. up ahead pedaling in squares, orange knees jutting out. Money might have bought the fancy bike and clothes, but it didn't buy that ugly pedal stroke. No, that was pure natural talent right there.
I rode my own tempo and closed the gap in a little under a mile. He looked surprised to see me as I passed, and immediately jumped on my wheel, as I knew he would.
I like to toy with these guys, especially the ones who make assumptions about my "slow" bike. I let him sit back there for a while as I rode at a comfortable pace. After a few minutes, I slowed noticeably. This makes the rider behind you think you're tiring.
I was not.
He came around and I slipped onto his wheel. Trying to drop me, he put the hammer down, peeking beneath his arm every once in a while to see if I was still there. After a couple minutes I let a little gap form to let him think it was working. As soon as he noticed, he accelerated again. I easily got back on his wheel and let him make his run. Fish on.
I think the most interesting aspect of sports is the psychology. Many times I have been on the winning or losing side of these mind games in real races. Unfortunately, only one guy wins a race, so you spend a lot of time learning lessons from the losses.
Even if you aren't racing, it's always fun to battle wits with someone to see if you can outfox them. Feigning weakness is one the oldest tricks in the bike racing book, but this guy had fallen for it.
He rode all-out for about two miles, which was actually pretty impressive, but sitting in his draft was relatively easy. When he completely detonated, I rode away from him without much effort on my fat-tired, slow bike.
Right at my turnaround point, I saw my friend Curtis riding in the opposite direction. I turned around and caught up. We haven't talked much since I quit my road racing team, so it was nice to ride with him for a while and catch up. After 11 miles, he turned back for home, and I was alone again.
About nine miles from my truck, the weather looked threatening. It started raining about three minutes after I took this picture:
It was a light rain, so it wasn't a big deal. I got back to the truck a little damp, but it was a nice, relaxing ride. Just what I needed after a long week.