THE PLAINS, VA
The jersey one wears on a club ride can make all the difference in the world. My favorite jersey is my Amgen Tour of California Breakaway From Cancer jersey. But it brings a different look or reaction from other riders than do some of my other jerseys.
I have a jersey from Newton's Revenge, the July version of the bicycle race up Mount Washington. But few cyclists know of Newton's Revenge and only astute riders figure out what that jersey is from. But not so the jersey from the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. It is emblazoned with the words Mount Washington.
So, I can summarize the difference between the jerseys as to what other riders see. First the Breakaway From Cancer jersey:
"Ooo. I wonder what that jersey means? Oh, I think that rider has cancer. I better keep away from him. I certainly don't want to ask. That would be rude. Poor guy, he's already losing the hair on his legs. Heck, I can take him!"
The Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb jersey:
"Hey, that guy has a Mount Washington jersey. He must be strong. And looks, he shaves his leg too. I don't think I can stay with him."
And that's it. Lots of people want to ask me about Mount Washington. No one wants to ask me about cancer.
Today's ride was a bit strange. A "CC" ride, many of the 50-60 riders were older (you know, my age) or packing on a few extra pounds. From the start I was out in front, and as usual with these group rides, I had no cue sheet. I sat in and followed a Clydesdale for a while until it was just the two of us.
I told him I would love to share the work at the front but he'd have to help me with the turns (directions). We stayed together for 2-3 more miles until we came to a short but steep climb. I tore right up the hill and dropped him. I was content to slow at the top and wait but there was a nice descent coming up so I bombed it and missed the turn at the bottom. Oh well.
He told me that climbing wasn't his specialty. I told him it wasn't my specialty either but that I enjoy it the most.
Eventually, after another wrong turn and doubling back, 10 of us came together and for those who had cue sheets, all had problems determining which way to go. So we made it up.
I took my turns pulling the group and when I let someone move to the front I stayed on their wheel. At Airmont the psychological games began even though this was a ride and not a race.
Six of us started together on the rollers of Snickersville Turnpike. After the first climb there were two of us as there would be for the next 11 miles. At times I thought the hairy legged monster might get the best of me but the last big climb on Snickersville I blew past him. I did wait at the top in part because I had no clue as to where I was going.
We took turns pulling and there were times that I wanted to say "go ahead, you're stronger today." And he was probably thinking "oh my God, I'm trying to stay with a guy who just biked up Mount Washington."
We had talked and I knew at Middleburg to turn and it would be a straight run-in back to The Plains. I didn't know how far it was though. We made the turn and my companion just blew up. He was still pedaling but just slowed to a crawl. I kept going. In fact, I lifted the pace.
I think after a few hundred yards he gave up trying to bridge back to me. I was feeling good and at each hill, and there were lots of them, I lifted the pace and hammered it. I only looked back once.
I was a little worried that the other four riders would catch the guy I dropped and they would organize a chase -- not that this was a race. But one thing about today's group -- they wouldn't know how to chase. It works if everyone is willing to go to the front and take turns doing the work but with this group almost everyone wanted to sit in where they could use 30% less energy than by taking pulls. Not today.
I hammered the last 8 miles solo, never looked back, and arrived 3-4 minutes ahead of the nearest riders.
If I had worn my Breakaway From Cancer jersey they would have stayed with me.