It had begun to rain just before I straggled up to the patio in front of the coffee shop in Wayzata.
Walker Ashley had just exited the front door with Brad Dettman, who had obviously had enough time to order and eat the better part of a burger by the time I arrived. I got a tiny taste of how the professional sprinters must feel—the Mark Cavendish’s, the Tyler Farrar’s—at the terminus of a big mountain stage like the Col du Galibier when they cross the finish line and see the lithe climbers already toweled off and giving interviews.
They might have been waiting for me but, if so, it rather begs the question as to why they didn’t wait for me on the road. No matter. I was riding with the big boys now, and Andy Schleck does not apologize to Alessandro Petacchi for dropping him in the mountains.
Soon, our little peloton had reassembled, Walker, Brad, Loren, and me, and we set off for the final eight miles from Wayzata to the Aquila School Parking lot in St. Louis Park. Even though my legs were gone, I figured that I would have no problem staying in contact for such a relatively short stretch. But, as cycling commentator Paul Sherwen would say, “Once the lights go out in the engine room, there is nothing a cyclist can do but find his own little rhythm and get himself safely to the finish line.”
You guessed it. I got dropped again.
I was fine for the first mile or so, but all it took was one little rise, one that would not have registered on a normal day, and I was going backwards. I was in my own little purgatory. The drizzle had become a steady rain, but not even that increased level of moisture was enough to douse the flames and extinguish the inferno I was traveling through.
I rode the final six miles or so by myself, and since I hadn’t paid close attention to our route when we first lit out what seemed like a long time before, I wasn’t even sure how to get back to the Aquila School parking lot. I actually stopped at one point, extracted my phone from the rear pocket of my cycling jersey, and activated my Sprint navigation system.
Finally, mercifully, I rolled into the parking lot ten, maybe fifteen, minutes after the other guys. My sunglasses were glazed with rainwater, and I could barely see Walker, Brad, and Loren as I pedaled ignominiously over the tarmac toward them.
Loren was seated on the runner of his pick-up truck wringing the water out of his socks. Walker had already stowed his carbon-frame BMC in the back of his black SUV. I thanked him for inviting me but admitted, “You guys are a little out of my league. Of course, having a 26-pound, aluminum-frame bike doesn’t help with all stopping and starting, because once you stop and have to go again, it’s hard to get back up on plane.”
Walker laughed. Brad came over, and said, “Let me see how much this bike weighs,” hefted it with one hand, admitted it was heavy, and said, “My heaviest mountain bike only weighs two pounds more than this.”
Though my sunglasses were blurry, one thing was clear: I needed a new bike.