I joined a group of 13 riders for a group ride this past Saturday. It was pre-billed as mixed tempo. With a group that included some of Nebraska's stronger riders, it was only a matter of time before the hammers came out.
Usually, it's the strongest rider who chooses the route. Saturday's ride was notably different as no one was sure who the alpha male was after the winter off-season. So what happened next was not unlike a National Geographic Nature documentary about the rites of spring...
Proudly displaying vibrant cycling kits from different social packs, the riders including members from Bike Masters, High Gear, Team Kaos and a smattering of a few renegade nomads. As for colorful mounts, I saw Cevelos, Felts, Madones & LeMonds. One brazen chap even rode a yellow bike without any markings.
An important aspect of evolution has been the ability to vocalize pecking order. Be it talking, yelling, grunting -- the voice plays an important role in a group ride. Often, it involves bluffing your opponent so as to make them believe you're something other than you are -- stronger, or in many cases weaker so as to deliver an excruciating defeat in conquering them, or to have a convenient excuse after they rip your legs off. What I heard was a lot of people claiming that they hadn't been on the trainer but had been stuffing their pie holes with cheeseburgers and beer. Yet only minutes earlier, those same liars were spreading chamois butter over saddle sores like thick layers of spackling on rotted dry wall. Only the very brave have claimed --blogged-- to have been on a strict diet while grinding away on the trainer for days on end.
The (Marked) Territory:
As mentioned, it's typically the alpha male who chooses the route. I don't know who chose it this time, but we gathered at Kohl's parking lot on 72nd and Pacific. Now normally the starting point is a coffee shop, where there are amenities like coffee and public bathrooms. These are nice to have, but not necessarily requirements for a ride like this. At least it wasn't for Shim. For the record, he was facing 72nd street while marking his territory along the Keystone trail.
The pack then mounted up for a light warm up spin on the Keystone. Nobody knew where we were going. It was more like we were instinctively migrating along familiar territory. In this case, it was the Wednesday night Trek Store route.
Positioning, Attacking, Thinning the Herd
The Omaha Trek store route has a mix of long flats and rolling hills, the first of which is a half mile ascent up a 5% grade just north of town. It's usually at this point where the pace quickens. But this past weekend, the pack was still positioning tenaciously for the first to attack. It never happened. Instead, some of the group dropped off the pack, causing the pace to fall back to conversation speed. Confusion and darting looks ensued while the group reassessed. Finally, someone called out that there was a bike failure. Shortly, it was revealed that Bryan's rear derailleur hanger had blown up.
It was as if the prize stag had lost his trophy rack: Bryan was officially out of the ride.
A collective sigh of exasperation followed. What I gather is that Bryan's blogging had seemingly set the high bar on training during the off-season and the group was going to measure up against him. So with Redemske out of the mix, the pack's pent up energy was about to be unleashed elsewhere.
Let it be known that I heroically fought through wicked up-tempo pace lines and savage attacks led by the likes of Limpach and Brackenbury, of Shim and Spence. And while I can't lay claim to being the alpha male, I am able to declare that I hung with the pack* and witnessed the hammering of rams, the power struggle of bears and the running of bulls in what has become my own PBS special.
*I was officially dropped twice; the third time I had already declared the ride a wrap so I didn't count it.