Strong winds with gusts in the upper 20's greeted us as we met in the parking lot behind Shades. I counted 45+ cyclists for a 33 mile, mostly flat route.
Lots of new riders joining our ranks but the pre-ride talk seemed to be about one of our veterans who has made only one appearance at the Tuesday Canal ride, Craig Butler, a.k.a THE Boss. Speculation is he is training so when he returns, he will kick our ass as usual. Some thought his new Van Dessel bike has been completely built and he is putting it through the testing phase. Whatever the reason, most of us are anxious to see our old friend but also wouldn't mind if it is to be on a bike, the day is in November.
Of course, no pre-ride is complete without someone dropping a banana peel in my car while I am taking a rest room break. Normally I find one in my trunk but now in the front seat ON MY FREAKIN HELMET!! This is an outrage.
Mitch gave a professional route description and we shoved off, with 16-18 going off with the A's. We headed out Waterloo and that long uphill with a kind of strong pace conspired to drop a couple but almost all hung on until Lithopolis. We headed out Elder and the wind did not seem that troublesome. I took a pull at the latter end of that road and continued on a downwind (of course) stretch before peeling off at Berger. I thought my ceremonial pull would put be in good stead with the group for the remainder of the ride, but I was wrong.
The westerly route on Berger introduced us to the first strong crosswind coming out of the SW. I was at the tail end of the group, just behind Dennis and felt very sorry for him because the guy in front of him was sucking the edge of the road, forcing Dennis to ride exposed, with me tucked comfortably to his right. I figured that could not last long and once we turned south on Richardson, the cumulative effect of the wind had taken its toll on my good buddy and he dropped off. We hung a right on London and thus began a too long stretch on an exposed road with the crosswind cutting the peleton to pieces. The person taking the pull was well left of center so that provided room for 4-5 cyclists to his right, drafting out of the hell-wind. Those unfortunate to be behind that echelon and not drafting were doomed. Jeff S pulled out and I bridged a small gap to rejoin what was left of the group. Soon Kevin H pulled off and then Ryan R did too and I pushed ahead to grab the wheel of someone riding right of the white line, denying me a draft opportunity.. Soon, I folded like a cheap suit and as a group of 5 or 6 moved away, I saw Grand Poobah sitting comfortably in the 3rd position. Later he would admonish me for putting myself in my predicament. Others in the group were a Walker guy, Steve O, Mark C, John Morgan and some other guy.
Kevin and Jeff came along and I grabbed their wheels and we continued on a long stretch into the wind before turning east on 752 and finally, out of the frontal wind, although it was still more crossing than helping. Finally, we reached Goodman and headed north and down wind. FANTASTIC. We turned east on Duvall and an odd sound was made from Kevin's bike. He thought he had hit a rock and I was content not to disabuse him of that notion as I watched his rear tire wobble, probably from a popped spoke. He did not appear to be in danger and the brake pad seemed to only rarely make contact with the wheel so only out of consideration for Kevin, I decided not to make him worry and stayed silent. Except, he eventually figured it out and stopped. Jeff stopped with him and I kept going. My lack of mechanical expertise is well known so there was no point for me to stop and stare.
Finally reached the parking lot with a 20.3 mph average and a measly 1100' of climbing. The lack of climbing was more than made up by the head wind. After the ride, a friend came over and said he could not mention names but told me someone made the claim, "Mark Wilson would draft a wheel chair." Why yes, I would if it was going fast enough and going in my direction. I suspected either Jeff or Kevin made this assertion. I noticed each of them has the peculiar habit of taking a turn at the front but not motioning when they are ready for the person behind to take over. I guess most can tell when the person at the front is about to pop a gasket but I'm always admiring nature's beauty and am oblivious to the signs. Instead, I rely on the front person to drop to the side and motion with the hand. Without this, I figure they like the challenge of a 10 mile pull.