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Article #5
Sisyphus Speaks

- SlingShot

Lost in the desolate high country north of Middletown, beneath a sky that looked like torn tufts of gray cotton, we stood astride our bikes with water bottles in hand, breathing hard. The wind was picking up.

We had been dropped by the A's and were long since lost and tired. New pavement had overwritten the yellow direction markers with black gunk and stone. A prudent short cut had turned into a long detour.

Now our necks were cocked back as we looked up at the crossroad sign standing small and erect beside the gray pavement far above. The sign was about three-quarter's of the way up the hill and towered over us like a small billboard on the side of a skyscraper. The intersection it indicated was at the top and out of sight. We looked small against the hill.

Previously we had agreed to a hatred of stopping during a ride, only to endure the increased pain of warming up all over. But this was one of several times today it was necessary to regroup and get our bearings. Mike was mumbling, "I hate to say it, but it looks like we just made a big circle."

So the last ten minutes had been a total waste...and at a bad time. On the first approach to this climb Mike mentioned that merely being able to remain standing when we got to Middletown would be enough for him, "Forget world record times." Then we had gone right at the intersection...only to loop around and find ourselves at the bottom again. Doubly tired, we'd have to climb once more and try something else. I wasn't sure I could make it.

Much earlier I was first to be dropped by the A's, but pushed for several minutes more in order to latch onto the second straggler's wheel. It was "Jerky Mike" of Vernon Bikes and The Bicycle Doctor fame. He had not been riding much since the birth of his two kids, now six and one. This was his longest ride this year. I was returning from six weeks off because of a broken clavicle. We made our introductions and were off, afterwards came way too many miles for us both. Over an hour ago it seemed we were almost to our cars at the Medical Center, but we made a wrong turn and the hills began.

As the wind kicked up a little more, we stood up for the next assault on the steep climb. Visions of Sisyphus danced in my head. Would we find ourselves here again? Pain welled up in the front of my thighs.

Finally at the top, we decided to go straight through the intersection. After that everything's a blur until we turned onto a major road with long rolling hills and broad vistas. Mike knew this road led to Middletown. I told him to go on ahead and not let me hold him up. I would manage. He pulled ahead and steadily increased the gap.

The wind had moved to little moments of ferocious gusting as the sky darkened. Afternoon thunderstorms were predicted. Hopefully the rain wouldn't be as bad as the day before when Sparta lost bridges and roads.

At intervals I spotted Mike a few rolling hills ahead, down in the drops and pushing strong into the wind, a tiny figure under the tightening sky. I soon learned that if I got close enough to see him, it meant a major climb was coming. That tempered the happiness of knowing I was going in the right direction.

A delirium of hills, then it was over. I was at the Medical Center. Mike's car was long gone. I popped out of my clips, coasted over and leaned against the truck to nudge myself off my bike. Turning round I saw a rider coming up. It was Louie (Prince of Pain) leading the A's into the parking lot. I quipped, "What took you guys so long (smile)?"

'We stopped for coffee (smile)."

Then came the pay-off afforded by the shortcut turned detour. Louie was telling me what he'd just done to Matt.

At the crest of some unnamed peak from hell, Louie had gotten the jump on Matt by doing a series of five-second sprints punctuated by gear changes and brief spinning rests. Matt pulled up beside us and added that what had happened was he'd run out of gears. He was in his small chain ring and had spun out. By the time he saw what was happening, it was too late to shift into his big ring...and the Prince of Pain had him.

This is not an incident to be taken lightly. Getting the better of Matt on a hill is a mere dream for most mortals. The guy has a well-earned reputation for spinning effortlessly up massive cliffs as if he's tethered to an overly quick ski lift.

Plus Matt is no idiot. As the day's ride had begun, everybody watched him figure out how to retrieve his bike from the locked trunk of his new car. Who would have imagined that a trunk key might not be the same as the door key? Comments much to the point were heard as he jockeyed the bike through the hole where his back seat had been.

"Think he'll get it out?" somebody asked.

"Matt?...He can do a Rubik's Cube in about three seconds. He'll get it out," spurted Twin Lynn.

So neither brute force nor guile offers an easy path to lure Matt past a gear change. Louie's little tip of "Five Second Sprints" is very strong juju, big medicine, massive voodoo indeed. You may ask, "What gear does one use? How many intervals? How do you train for it?"

Had I not been dropped, lost, and toasted with such perfect timing, I wouldn't even have gotten the summary, so for details you'll have to ask Louie...if you can catch him!



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this page last updated:
02/01/2015 10:38:45 PM

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