A few weeks ago I had planned on having a weekend off from racing. It was going to be all ice cream, hammocks and sparkling water.
Then the emergency 'Brown' phone lit up and on the other end was a gaggle of riders blubbering on about how 'therewassixbutonedroppedoutandnowtheyneedanother'. Turns out it was an unofficial, uninsured and unlikely gentleman's race put on by Rapha outside of New Paltz NY. Bicycling Magazine had a crew of mostly mountain bikers put together and it was captain Cushionbury who had called me (could have been a text, email or twitter).
I had to make the tough decision of sitting at home sipping lemon spritzers or travel for a 125 mile group ride through a place called the 'Gunks'. I can't resist anything called 'Gunk' and so I packed the green machine and headed to Emmaus to meet the crew. I rolled into my favorite Bikeshop/ coffee bar South Mountain Cycles, had a shot, shot the shit and waited for the band of pirates.
Soon teammate number 1 Selene, the Fitness Chick, rode by and informed me that rider Joule (sp) had just called and was out due to a crash on the bike that day. Damn. Now we had to scramble to find a 6th person, so we lit up the hovering network of cell signals in the sky and had a last minute commitment form Aaron Synder himself, despite the fact that he was leaaving for Europe in 2 days and his girlfriend was left not happy.
Now all we had to do was kill a little time while we waited for Mr. Snyder to show. What better to do than ask to take Cush's souped up Subaru WRX for a quick spin. In the space of 30 seconds I was almost hit twice before I even pulled out of the parking spot in front of the 10 people waiting to go, all laughing at me and placing bets on the car's and my survival.
As I pulled away, Aaron pulled in, and when I got back in one piece, we scattered.
There is an ironic element to the fact that I was about to do a team time trial over 125miles. I had just written a point-counterpoint argument about the merits of Solo Mountain Bike Stage Racing for Mountain Bike Magazine, which Cushionbury had assigned to me. Now I was in a position to see what it meant to race as a team, where no one was allowed to be dropped, and all bonking would be shared.
After a day that saw one rider who had come despite a terrifing crash on the Track earlier in the week, began falling apart at about mile 40, another rider fighting through severe cramps at mile 105, a missed turn and one flat, I realized the spiritual value of riding 'with' people. It required an empathy I'm not used to calling forth and the type of team bonding experience I usually leave for the movies I don't go to see. Except maybe 'Shaun of the Dead'.
Anyways it was a great time. Beautiful place and great team mates. Thanks, Mike, Selene, Mike, Brad and Aaron.