I don’t know if it was the incredibly beautiful weather forecast for today, or the chatter about this ride on Stlbiking during the past week or so, but today’s group of 22+ riders was the largest ever. That may be an easily managed group for the Columbia or St. Charles Bottoms, but for some stretches of road through St. Louis County out to Wildwood and back it’s quite a handful. Despite that, it was a well-behaved group of mostly seasoned riders, and the size of the group didn’t seem to detract from anyone getting the kind of workout they wanted. In the end, I probably had as much fun today as I’ve ever had on this ride.
We did lose a few people, though—that’s a first. I’ve always led the ride as a qualified “no drop” ride—not in the recreational ride sense (i.e., toodling along at 17 mph and only going as fast as the slowest rider) but in the team training ride sense (i.e., if someone gets in over their head we won’t leave them stranded all alone). We’ve had the occasional recreational rider show up—some have been quite strong and required little or no babysitting, while others clearly didn’t realize what they were in for and have not returned. Several teammates (Mark and Ken especially!) have been a tremendous help to me on these rides watching out for riders in difficulty. But we just couldn’t do it today—there were too many people to keep track of, many of whom we’d never seen before. A few of them got popped on the first two little climbs (Ries Road), and we had to make a decision—if they couldn’t handle Ries then there was no way they were going to be able to handle the big climbs coming up on St. Paul, Melrose, etc. We decided the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few and that it was more important to keep the ride flowing normally for our team riders.
The 18 riders remaining after Ries were a reasonably strong group, so I did my hill workouts and swept the rear after each climb in case anybody needed some help. After the last big climb on Orrville I was still feeling good and also feeling somewhat liberated from the need to babysit, so I broke from tradition and joined in on the fun up front. I used a combination of pulls, drafts, and one well-timed maneuver to catch Justin’s group and break away with him with about 12 miles to go. It was nice to cut loose for once along that home stretch and see how long I could hang with such a strong rider. He put me into difficulty on the gradual climb towards I-270—I had to back off a tad and recover. But he let me catch up again on top and we rolled in together. Hard man that he is, he then took off to get in another 40 miles—all I could think about was going over to Starbuck’s for coffee and pastries!
p.s. This is all true 😉