Tuesday, September 29, 2009

“Thanks for the wheel.”

(Note: this post has nothing to do with the tire roll-off incident I had at Barlow, so if you are looking for a race report, sorry!) -m

In 2005, I worked in a very small building at our mammoth company.  While this had a number of bad aspects, it was nice to know just about everybody that worked in the building.  So when a group of guys around my age moved into the cubes around me, it wasn’t long before we got to know each other and found we had a lot of similar interests.

A few months later, another member of this group moved to Oregon.  Shortly after he arrived, I noticed a lot of bike gear in his cube and stopped by to say hello.  Jeremy introduced himself and we chatted for a while, talking mainly about cycling and what brought him to Oregon and parted with a “we should ride together some time.”  Little did I know…

My first attempt to ride with him was a dismal failure.  A combination of my (lack of) fitness, a lack of sleep due to some major blood sugar issues, and a horridly cold May day caused me to cut the planed 75mi RACC route short after just 15miles of riding with him.  A second friend who joined us reported back that Jeremy effortlessly pulled him along for the remainder of the ride and it was all he could do to hold Jeremy’s wheel.

Jeremy, as it turns out had a few years of racing in him back in AZ and was somewhat of a fitness nut.  (We used to joke that he ate “Cyborg Food” at lunch since he always had odd healthy snacks.) I on the other hand was just starting to get back into riding after a number of years of being out of the saddle and enjoyed Doritos.  My fitness was coming back, but it obvious I wasn’t anywhere near the level where he was at.  The good news though was that we had fun together and we continued to ride on Saturday PV rides throughout the summer when he could make it out.

At the end of 2006, the Portland Velo Race Team formed and I joined in on its inaugural season.  I became more dedicated in my riding and rode frequently with the fledgling team.  I was new to racing, and to race tactics and frequently asked Jeremy about things I saw or read.  We swapped weekend ride stories when we couldn’t get together, and shared routes that we had found.

In April of 2007, a friendly rival team invited PV down for a “social ride” of the Monster Cookie Event in Salem.  Ten of us, including Jeremy and I, traveled down to Salem for the event.  It was clear from the start that this “social ride” had “hammerfest” written all over it.  Jeremy towed my sorry ass back into the group on a number occasions, postponing my inevitable ejection from the speeding pack.  When I finally cracked for good, he selflessly pulled out of the paceline and waited for me so I had someone to ride with the rest of the way in.  It wouldn’t be the last time I limped home on his wheel.

Over the next two years we rode together frequently, my fitness improving by leaps and bounds due to dedicated training and racing until it got to the point where we were on about equal footing.  On the bike friendship spilled over to surround our wives and another couple whom we spent a great deal of time together with.  The six of us formed an extended family and enjoyed countless hours in each others company. 

Unfortunately for us, Jeremy and Kimberly found a beautiful house in Arizona and will be leaving the land of liquid sunshine this coming weekend.  We knew the day was approaching, but its always a shock when it arrives.

So this past Saturday, Jeremy and I rolled out one last time on a PV group ride.  I had no intentions of going hard since I had a race the following day and when the pace heated up, I drifted off the back.    And as it had happened so many times in the past, Jeremy waited for me and we rode together.   We picked up another group along the way and traded attacks, laughing at the pain we joyously lobbed at each other.   Ten miles from home we left the group and struck out on our own, determined to make it back before them.  We traded pulls into a howling headwind, wordlessly knowing when to pull through.  It was a fitting way to log the last miles of a great journey with a great friend.

So to Jeremy I say, “Thanks for the wheel.”

1 comment:

Jeremy Schultz said...

Thank YOU for the wheel, Matt! What a fabulous and touching tribute. Thanks for the countless good memories, and I wish you and Traci strong tailwinds! See you soon...