She knows me pretty well - and getting a ride is better than NOT getting a ride, even if it wasn't for RUSA credit. So, I saddled up.
I guess I needed to blow off some steam, and it worked. I left a lot of myself out on the roads on this last ride, pushing myself pretty hard. I started out heading south on MurLen, and saw several cyclists here and there, including a group that had a member comment about how much he liked my bike... then I realized I'd left my headlight on, which might have been why he noticed. The wind was just right, and even though I knew I'd pay for it later on, I began to ramp up through the gears. I passed a couple more riders on 175th, even before reaching 169 highway. After that, I let it fly. Thoughts ran through my head... should I go to Paola? Should I just head out to Gardner? Maybe... just maybe... I could catch the 200K in-progress before they get to Wellsville? Bet... game on!
I planned my attack, and kept the speed high. 175th to Clare Rd., then 199th.... dang... lot of riders out today! 199th's hills stretched out ahead of me, and I hammered - pausing at Gardner Rd., and then getting the forced turn at Four Corner's road due to construction. There is also a lot of construction out here on these roads, and it struck me that I hadn't been out on a daylight, sunny, weekend ride in months. On ANY of these local roads. In fact, the last time I was on this stretch of road, it was dark, way back at the Moonlight ride in October of last year. Yikes. With 199th being closed, it was time to enter brevet-mode... the only way I was gonna get to Wellsville was on US-56, and so it was. I hopped onto the highway, with the barely existent shoulder, and continued the pace as best I could. Traffic was still steady for a Sunday, which is unfortunate. I flew along, watching the birds flitter around, listening to squeaky oil derricks, and trying my best to keep the bicycle tires inside the 6 inch shoulder I had. This is why I wear those ridiculous blaze-yellow jerseys... anything less conspicuous, I'm not sure how well I'd fare on these highway sections. I figure, highways workers have to wear these colors - there must be something to it, and I don't really want to advertise for anyone - so the fancier jersey's are "out". Seems to work for me.
I fly through Edgerton, KS., and continue west - I've still got water, and Wellsville isn't too far from here.... but wait... bogeys! Targets! Acquired! Up the road about a mile or more, a little, unmistakable blip of a cyclist. It's not one of the permanent riders, no - wrong road... but it IS motivation. Time to catch em, if I can... I try to remember the maps in my head... the turn south to Wellsville is only a few miles, maybe one mile past the Douglas County line? Bah.... just get 'em. One mile... still don't have em... (well, I didn't expect to that quickly)... but eventually the Douglas County line arrives, and they are only slightly closer... THEY! I see another rider pop out to the left, very briefly they ride two abreast... two targets... ack! Three! Another one pops out... and then they fade back into a paceline... crud, catching a paceline is hard, even if it's only three guys. If they are rotating and taking turns, they will easily hold me off. Only solution... see what I got. I click another gear, and raise the pace until my cadence is back where it was in the previous gear. The turn is coming! Move it!! I pull in another 1/4 mile, perhaps... they are slightly closer, and I can start to pick out colors on their jerseys and more distinct shapes. But, the turn is nearly here.... there's K-33 south... the first Wellsville turn... DG-1061, on the permanent route, is next... okay, what's my move? Do I try to catch them, or do I turn south and try to catch the permanent riders, whom I haven't seen and don't know where they are? There's 1061... and now I can really see the three of them, as they have already turned, probably a half-mile away now.... SO close...
I turn north... I gotta catch these guys, I don't know WHY - but I do....
The southern wind is picking up bigtime, and the three riders are regrouped and pushing harder. It almost seems like they have gained back some distance by the time I make the turn onto 1061 north myself. I slugged some water, and took another shot of Hammer Gel - alright, you abandoned your original plan for these three mystery riders... get 'em, already! I peer down, and I'm already north of 25 mph... there is some push left, so do it! As it's been said.... "get it on...." It's time to make it hurt a little, and if speed is what I want back in my game then its time to push harder than I would normally push - chase them down, and be stronger for it. I channel in some of my frustration from the previous evening in the garage, and raise the pace once again. I have to be faster and stronger then these three working together. I crest another hill, and I see them again - closer... close enough to see a head pop around and look back. Do they know I'm here? The head snaps back in line, and it seems like they organize a little more, lining up perfectly. Oh, no.... I will get you.... My quads are on fire on the next hill.... I'm moving tons of air with each breath.... spitting on the road... the body is reaching its limit, and stuff begins to protest. I remember the tactics I'd seen on countless races and 'Tour videos, Paul Sherwin talking in my ear all of the sudden -- I love moments like that on the bike... DEEPLY vested in the moment of the chase!!! "If he's going to reel them in, he's going to have to do it in the hills - he won't catch out these three on the flats...." ..and his classic counterpart... "right you are, Paul, exactly... look at the face of this man, he can nearly smell the finishing line, and he want's the stage victory so very badly... but if he's going to catch these three before the line in Eudora, he's going to have to take advantage of these climbs before the road flattens out for the last few kilometers ...." Another hill, destroyed...! They are closer... another hill.... legs on fire! I can hear them shifting, just ahead from me... there they are! I'm finally on a wheel..... and I have just enough composure left to pull off the "morning! How's it goin'?!" greeting... in as clear and calm a voice as I can muster underneath the effort it took to get there. At this point, the threesome is split... there is a lone rider off the front, and then these two behind... and I am greeted with "hey there, go chase down THAT guy! We can't get him to slow down!" with a chuckle... "ok, I'll see what I can do!" Still amped up, I pull out, and raise the pace again to catch the lone leader... and a few strokes later, I'm there, on HIS wheel! Awesome! A few pleasantries are exchanged, and he says something about there being two riders behind him... unsure what that meant - but I was anxious to keep my fantasy alive... I pulled around the right as he ducked left to receive a pull, perhaps?, but I had my eyes on that imaginary line again. After chasing for eight miles, I wasn't going to fall into a paceline - no sir... I was taking Eudora, solo... and so I picked up the pace again, right when the RAIN BEGAN! Ahhhh..... there is something dramatic about the scenes playing out in my head as I continued my own training, hammering again, leaving the threesome behind, and tearing a hole in the rain at 27 mph.... I felt really, really alive. I never even looked back. They could have turned off at any of the numerous intersections I passed in the next six miles to Eudora, but I still pretended they were behind me, and I was taking this imaginary stage I'd set up for myself. It's been a long, long time, even if the only willing participant was myself, that I felt that racing urge, that drive to catch, pass, and stay away. And to be able to pull it off again.... I'm slowly reaching a point where, if I play things right, stay injury-free, and look carefully at finances for 2010, that I will create a new benchmark year for myself. No longer will I wax on about 2003... but I will write a new story.... Ahhhhhh..... I feel good today.
The rain fades, Eudora comes, the fanfare in my mind fading a little, no sign of my pursuers. I pause at Casey's and fill my bottles, and the rest of the ride is spent at a slower (nearly by force) pace. I ride up the permanent route, backwards, and pass by Linwood, around the hairpin curve to Golden Road, and pick up the pavement markings from the JCBC Spring Classic on the pavement, and follow that back in towards the south and east. I pass over the Kansas river again, down to Desoto, and zig-zag my way back to 151st Street near Gardner Lake, then thru New Century Air Center, and finally slowing WAY down as I gulp my last drops of water near 167th and Clare Road. It's getting HOT, and the headwind all the way south from Linwood is taking its toll. I find a soccer park and a water fountain, and top off the bottles and myself with cold, cold water. Ahhh..... better... 175th, across the tracks, and back north on Murlen, hammering a little bit more with the wind at my back for the first time in 20 miles or so. WheeeeeW!!!!! I arrive SPENT, cooked, toasted..... very aware of my legs... a GOOD, solid workout, with nothing much left in the legs. As it should be... I haven't had a ride like this in years. Now, to rest. Needless to say, I'm feeling pretty good right now! What could have been a weekend-ruiner from the debacle in the garage the previous evening, well, it turned out okay. It wasn't a 200K, it wasn't for credit... but with a feeling like this, the heat, the scenery, the challenges along the way - this was a good ride.
Thanks for reading!