A gauzy blanket of fog floated above the swales in Shorewood as we headed west on Highway 7 to the starting point of the Lifetime Fitness Gran Fondo. It was cold on Labor Day, and my friend Duane and I discussed our strategies for staying warm without having brought thermal wear of any kind.
I had been training for the Gran Fondo since January; Duane had not. In fact, he only signed up the night before and, since the event was supposed to have been capped at 300 riders, it might have seemed unlikely that there would be any spots left, but he was given bib number 216.
We pulled into the grassy parking lot off of King’s Point Road near the starting gate. Hundreds of riders were already amassed in the yard affixing their race numbers or sipping their coffee or pumping their tires. We arrived around 7:00, which seemed to be plenty of time for Duane and me to register and ready our mounts for the 7:30 start time.
By coincidence, the three other members from our Highland Park Club pulled in right behind us and parked right next to us. Our club coordinator, Brad Dettman, was there along with Loren Willis, our ride lead. Just behind them was Walker Ashley. All five of us had been riding together on and off for most of the summer. It would be a good thing, I thought, to have allies for the three to four hours that we would be on the road.
Many of the riders who were mustered in the parking lot were bemoaning the cool temperatures. I was in a quandary about how to stay warm since I only had spandex shorts and a racing kit. I finally decided to don my Livestrong pullover and then stretch my jersey over that. As for my legs, I simply hoped that the increased blood flow from riding would ward off the chill.
There were so many riders to register that the race officials pushed back the roll-out time to 8:00, yet, somehow, when it was time to line up, my fellow club members and I had to scramble to the back of the line. We queued up with about 90 seconds to spare.
The mass start went smoothly. I had half expected a slow-speed crash as nervous riders, attempting to clip into their pedals, might veer unwittingly into the cyclists next to them, but no such tangle transpired. Soon, we were all making the right-hand turn onto Hwy 7.
I was in a pace line of riders from the Highland Park Club—last, actually, just behind Walker Ashley. We had only been on the road for a minute or so when I noticed that the gear bag beneath Walker’s seat was open and the contents were on the verge of tumbling out. I alerted him to this, and he vainly tried to zip up the bag while still maintaining his speed and position in the peloton. I could see that there was no way that he was going to be able to accomplish this feat, so I suggested he pull over so I could zip it for him.
That was all it took……………….
We will post the conclusion of Mike’s ride later this week.