There were ten of us, which is about as big a group as I would want to ride in, and we had worked well together through NE Portland calling out “car left” or “clear”, though at one intersection a silver hybrid had appeared sudden and silent, but at such a slow speed that the ten of us could slip through without having to hurry or slow the driver down too much. Joe and i were on the front then, and I had been the one who missed, which brought on jokes about how I had come into town to kill all of us.
Joe and I stayed on the up until we turned left off the I-205 bike path and onto Marine Drive. I quit this team shortly after moving to Seattle. Left the email list, and if it weren’t for a lack of jerseys I probably wouldn’t wear the kit either, so I was a little out of the loop of new faces and shared experiences. There were some people I knew. Of course Justin was there and so was Stephen who I’ve seen become a better rider over a shorter period of time than I’ve been able to gain what little skill I have on bike. There was Kent, one of Juniors who has gotten faster, along with taller and lankier, but still has so much enthusiasm that he comes through a little harder than he should. There were three others who I didn’t know, Vicki who had been around long enough to have a kit and who Joe said had done more races this year than anyone on the team, Alex who didn’t have a team kit, but was strong and knew how to pull through. The third guy I didn’t actually meet.
Our pace was the spot between too fast and a doddle. All of us were capable of holding conversations with the person next to us, pulling through when we were done, keeping time with our cadence. Some a long slow drag of our cranks playing counterpoint to the others quick turn of the pedals. We stayed like this till the nature break at Dabny, then up the first real climb and then along the Old HWY 30 then back to the real climbs.
There was a split along this road and I looked back and saw a number of us had fallen back. I sat up and eased my pedal stroke before pulling off onto the gravel gutter. Joe came by with Stephen and Kent. I took their picture and watched them pass before pushing off and pedaling up to the group.
Stephen and Kent had fully caught on, but Joe was dangling off the back waiting. I caught on with Joe and we talked for spot, lazily closing the gap. The road climbs in earnest here, a little before connecting with Little Page. Kent and Vicki were on the back of the group. She was starting to struggle and Kent had placed his hand on the small of her back keeping her with the group.
The turn off of Little Page onto Knieriem would be one of our last moments as a group until we reached Multnomah Falls. The climb up Knieriem would split us and the gap in our descending skills would keep us separated on the newly paved descent to the falls. The pace would pick up on the rollers at the base of that descent. I would ride harder than I have in over a year as Joe and I chased Justin and Kent over the rollers, taking long hard pulls as the guy I didn’t actually meet attacked and attacked us before he blew up. And after that, while we sat at the falls drinking coffee and drinking coffee, a French tourist will tell me “I’m full of shit” when I jokingly tell him that Joe puts out 1500 watts and the three of us joke about how knowing your power numbers can sometimes be depressing, a cross cultural acknowledgment that cycling doesn’t always validate our view of ourselves, but does tell us what we need to know about ourselves.
When I get back to Justin’s I’ll say that today will go down as one my top ten days of riding ever, but I know that what I’ll always remember is Kent with his hand in small of Vicki’s back keeping the ten of us together.