40 hardened cyclists
Wind (gusty and swirling variety)
1 Long pace line
2 Overlapping wheels
1 Piece of road debris
1 Stretch of asphalt
A dash of carelessness
Blood and road rash to taste
That my friends is the recipe for today’s rather dangerous “Old Fart Run” with the Caloosa riders. The day started out with a big warning sign, heavy, gusting winds well above 20 MPH. In fact it’s been like that since Saturday. By the way, Sunday’s Royal Palm Classic century ride actually took place. Of the 200 plus riders registered, approximately 40 showed up to brave the rather extreme elements. I don’t believe anyone actually completed the century ride, most opting out for the metric century or less, but regardless of the distance, those that did show up are “extreme cyclists” in my eyes.
Actually today’s conditions were not much better. Sure, we had warmer temperatures and sunny skies, but the wind was blowing like crazy. Not only was it a strong 20+ MPH wind, but it was extremely gusty and buffeting us at an oblique angle at all times.
We knew the wind was going to make the ride challenging, especially on the return leg, so the plan was to have a single tight pace line, instead of a dual pace line (with 40 riders, a dual pace line is safer, shortening the overall length of the lines), as the buffeting from the wind would be pushing the riders into one another.
On paper, this was a great plan, but once out on the road, our single pace line was rubber banding all over the place. Everyone has having a heck of a time fighting the wind. Just keeping your bike straight was a real chore. I resorted to riding in my full drops with a finger on the brakes the entire time for better control. Good thing too, as I was put to the test while we were on the airport segment.
While pulling away from a stoplight on Daniels Parkway, a gap formed between the riders in front of me and the leaders. They naturally sped up, as well as everyone following, to tuck in behind the leaders. In that small ensuing sprint, the rider in front of me…now known as “Crash”, overlapped and touched his front wheel with the rider in front of him, sending him hurtling hard to the ground. I was perhaps 8 inches off his wheel traveling at over 22 MPH when he went down, leaving me a fraction of a second to react. I avoided the instinctual reaction of slamming on my brakes as 1. I would not have stopped on time, and 2. the riders behind me would have plowed into me. I did a tight swerve instead, which nearly jettisoned me off my bike. I knew I had come extremely close to his head and hoped that I had not clipped him.
I came to a stop and ran over to him as the other cyclists followed suit. We helped him up off the roadway and laid him down on the grass shoulder. He was conscious, but rattled. I gave him a quick once over to look for anything broken or signs of a concussion (that old MD degree comes in handy from time to time). He was lucky. Just some bad road rash on his arm, elbow and knee. His helmet saved his noggin, as it absorbed the brunt of the fall.
His accident was the topic of conversation while at the mid ride break at Panera Bread. I told him that I came extremely close to clipping his head with my front wheel, to which he replied, “all I saw was the white lettering of your tire taking up my entire field of view”…I had missed him by no more than an inch! In fact, the rider behind me almost clipped him too, and thanked me for not hitting the breaks. I’m sure “Crash” will be sore tomorrow, but I think his pride was hurt more than anything else. He knew it was his fault he went down. His near $18k custom Madone 6.9 took a beating as well as his über expensive Zipp wheel was knocked out of true and his frame took some damage in the chain stay…hopefully the frame did not crack, but the cost of replacing his custom flame paint job alone is enough to bust the bank.
The ride back was a war of attrition against the gusting wind. One by one riders were being defeated by the relentless wind, dropping off the back of the pace line to fend for themselves. There were just four of us remaining in the group by the time we were on the final leg past Daniels Parkway. We actually ratcheted up the pace into the wind, knowing that the struggle was soon to be over. That last pushed sacrificed two more riders, leaving just me and another to eventually coast into the Sweetbay Market.
The recipe for disaster had been served. Luckily no one was seriously hurt….except for “Crashes” bruised pride, hip, and pocketbook.
Ride Time: 2:09:12
Stopped Time: 1:01:05
Distance: 38.55 miles
Average: 17.90 mph
Fastest Speed: 26.40 mph
Ascent: 568 feet
Descent: 496 feet