They ate my lunch. I was invited to participate in a group ride, my first group ride ever, and they ate my lunch.
Walker Ashley, one of my spinning instructors from Lifetime Fitness and a former Vikings linebacker, shot me an email last week inviting me to join him and “a few friends” for a 45-mile ride through the luxurious environs of Lake Minnetonka and beyond.
“[T]hanks for thinking of me,” I replied. “I would love to join you, and the timing is perfect since I’ve been building my road miles to the 35-45 range. Where should I meet you?”
He said to meet at “the Aquila School” in St. Louis Park.
When I pulled into the lot, there was a guy waiting in full racing kit. He looked to be at least my age (44) maybe older, and he look thin, slightly gaunt even, and I remember thinking that he looked like a cyclist. Soon, another rider had entered the lot. Loren (I’m guessing that’s how he spells his name) had a trimmed mustache, look older than me, and, once he alighted from his pick-up truck, his racing kit revealed a middle-aged paunch and his racing shorts did nothing to hide his wide hips. He did not look like a guy who could stay in contact with the peloton—any peloton.
We three riders introduced ourselves to one another, and both said that they had come in response to something called the Twin Cities Bike Meet-Up. Neither of them seemed to know Walker Ashley, although Loren said the name sounded familiar.
Not long after, a large, black, SUV rolled into the lot, and I could see Walker in his orange racing kit behind the wheel. He stepped out, gave me a bro-hug, and said, “You’ve lost some weight.” I gave the credit to him and his kind, the many spinning instructors who, combined, have commanded eleven pounds off of my 5’ 11’’ frame.
I wasn’t the only rider that Walker had recruited though, for, no sooner had Walker arrived than Brad Dettman appeared. I had seen Brad a number of times in spinning class and I met him briefly when he was trying to recruit cyclists for the Lifetime Fitness-Highland Park’s outdoor cycling club. I had seen how powerfully Brad could churn his pedals in spin class, but I also know that prowess in spin class doesn’t necessarily translate to outdoor cycling.
I did know one thing, for certain, about all of my fellow riders amassed in the Aquila parking lot: they all had better bikes than mine. And that should have been the first sign that I was in trouble.
After the meet-up coordinator arrived, we were informed that there was another group of riders waiting for us outside a coffee shop in Wayzata. We had no time to lose, the coordinator informed us, we would have to fly to the coffee shop if we were to arrive at the appointed hour.
Testosterone is a wonderful thing, if you have any, and, for awhile, I did.
Without warming up, we lit out at a blistering rate of speed, the six of us, in a pace line, traveling upwards of 24 m.p.h. To my surprise, I was able to keep up. I stayed in contact, whereas, even on the short, eight-mile trip to the coffee shop, the first rider I met, the gaunt one, was already struggling to stay in contact.
When we got to the coffee shop, the meet-up coordinator remarked to one of the other riders, “We flew here. We averaged 21.5 miles per hour.”
Check back next week for Part II of the group ride. Find out how Mike did once they got out on the ride for real.