Today's ride actually started last night. Our club has a "tradition" of celebrating first Friday at one of the multitude of brew pubs downtime. While the event is open to all, typically it’s a gathering of many of the members of the race team plus a few light hearted souls who come down to have a good time. Last night, the place of gathering with the Lucky Lab on Quimby. The Lucky Lab is a chain of pubs in downtown that have a fondness both for dogs and cyclists. It's not uncommon to see both bikes and four legged friends in the confines of the pub.
The beer of choice last night came in a pair of varieties. Lucky Lab had an Organic Red on tap, in addition to an amazing Wheat Porter that the happened to have on tap the last time we were there in March. Wheat beers are evil. One of my favorite beers happens to be Hefeweizen, which is an unfiltered wheat beer typically served with a wedge of lemon. It's amazing refreshing on a hot day. It also has the caloric weight of half a loaf of bread. As someone who is very conscious of his weight for training purposes, the thought of drinking a loaf of bread makes me cringe. As a beer lover... lets just say the beer lover won last night.
The gathering itself was great. I got the opportunity to catch up with a few of my teammates I haven't seen in a month due to life's hectic schedules. As the evening wore on, a few of us ganged up on our teammate Dan and convinced him to do the longer team ride that took place the next morning. We swore up and down that we'd ride with him and not hammer the climbs and make sure he didn't get shelled OTB of the group. The constant badgering and pints of beer finally wore down his resolve and he agreed to ride with the team the next morning.
This morning arrived about an hour and a half before I wanted to. I've told myself numerous times over the past year and a half to not drink the night before a big ride, but it is definitely a major weakness that I have. Fortunately I took it easy last night and woke up only mildly dehydrated. Traci and I looked out the window as we made our breakfast and muttered about the un-summer like weather. We can only hope that now that the Rose Festive parade has happened the weather will get better.
We made our way over Longbottom's to meet up with the rest of the club. Today was the memorial ride in honor of a fallen club mate, Tim O'Donnell. It was roughly a year ago that Tim was struck by an out of state driver who's license to drive had been revoked and killed. While his death was a tragedy for both our club and the cyclist community in and around Portland, I'd like to think it helped spark a long needed revolution of traffic reform in this state. Once at Longbottom's we met up with other members of our club to ride in Tim's memory and present his widow Mary O'Donnell with a framed club jersey. After some solemn words and somber reminders of the hazards we as cyclists face ever time we ride, we split into our groups and hit the road.
Since this weekend had no road races on schedule, the team had put together an impromptu long ride for this date. On short notice the ride organizers changed our route so that we could participate in the memorial send off. It's times like this that solidify my love for this club and the team. On the docket for today was a ~70mile out and back to Timber, Oregon. The route is a favorite the group, and holds a special pace in the hearts and memories of a number of us. Dan had made it out to the ride, with tales of Irish Car Bombs after the Lucky Lab. A number of us made an on-road pact to take it easy once things heated up.
About 10 miles out of the start we hear the unforgiving sound of a tire going flat. Mitch, one of the members of "the pact" rolls over to the side of the road as the group rolls on. A number of us stop to wait for him, knowing that we'll eventually meet up with the rest of our group. After a few minutes we have the tire inflated, but the damage is too severe. Mitch has to pull out of today's ride and limp back to Longbottom's. The six of us remaining get back on course, noting the low hanging clouds and spotty rain in the hills ahead. The group I'm with are great people, and all folks I've ridden with many times before. We set a hard, but sustainable pace, knowing there was little chance we'd catch the group ahead, but riding hard for the sake of doing so. One of us comments that most of the riders Dan was planning to be with were in this group. We ride through rain and back out of it. The changes in temperature and humidity causing us to don and remove vests and rain jackets on road. We pass by the Timber store with out slowing, knowing that the return trip will stop there for a re-supply of water and snacks for those who need it. While the miles leading up to Timber road were relatively dry, our turn onto the road was met with a heavier rainfall. Our small pod of riders press on quietly, hoping that the next bend or rise in the road takes us out of the rain cell.
Javad breaks the silence and points out tire tracks in the wet pavement. We figure the pack is less than 10 minutes ahead of us. The road makes the right hairpin and kicks uphill. Now the fun starts. We tick out a quick pace, each of us trying to find our legs and monitoring our bodies response to the effort. Greg and Jason recover first and open a gap on the rest of us. Sustained climbs aren't my thing and I watch them slowly gain ground on me. I resolve to ride within myself and press on. Kender and I trade blows over the next mile, testing each others legs in a battle of the Bostonians. We can see Greg and Jason just up the road but don't gain any ground on them. As we near the top I dig once more trying to get separation from Kender and maybe open up a bike length on him before he responds. He's riding strong this year. The summit comes into view and I see Jason and Greg sit up as a pair of riders are approaching from the other direction. Dan and Robert had turned back due to a run in with some loose dogs. A short bit later Javad and our lone hardwoman Kristin roll up the hill and summit. We pull off to the side of the road and enjoy a freak break in the clouds. The sun warms our bodied and blinds us at the same time. Steam rises from the road.
Five to ten minutes later the rest of the team comes into view from the other side of the hill, a snake of black and blue digging for the summit. We cheer them on as we'd cheer on pro riders, urging them to the top. I move out to the center of the road and extend my arm in a mock finishing line. Steve and Todd dig deep running neck and neck for the prize, smiling through the pain of the labor. Steve pips Todd to my outstretched hand and give's me a high-five as he goes past. Mitch Lee, ever the work horse rolls past me with a huge grin on his face. The rest of the team rolls up and over the top, some not waiting for a regroup. The chase in on. The ride down Timber road to its start is a blur. Small pods of five to six riders stretched out over a half mile. One of the reasons we ride this road is the utter lack of traffic. The entire time we were there we had a single car pass us.
As expected we stop at the store to refuel. The group changes its route back to avoid climbing the backside of Clapshaw. We had already gone over it once today, but the backside is brutal with some 16% grade sections. Oddly enough its a hill I like climbing.
The trip back was punctuated by flat tires. Small groups breaking off from the main so no one rides alone. I drop back to help out Kristin, who had not only ridden with us, but had rode a good 15 additional miles out to the start. We ride together through the fields of Roy and are soon joined by Kender and Couzens. We are all cooked, but know the ride is almost over. The pack finally regroups a few miles down the road when yet another flat tire happens. Such is riding in the wet weather.
A bit under 4 hours after we left, we arrive back at Longbottom's. We order our food and take a much needed rest. In a blink of an eye an hour goes by and we groan as we get out of our seats. The coffee shop has always been good to us. We thank the staff and head out in ones and two's.
As I roll home, I think about the days ride and what it meant for the club and the team. I decide to crack open a beer at dinner for Tim, and Timber.