By Charlie Bailey
Published 04/14/2016; Updated 09/15/2021

by Charlie Bailey » Thu Apr 14, 2016 6:30 pm

It was a small group this evening with only four riders: Zinj, Damon, Ron and me. The weather was beautiful and we were all excited to get the first Thursday night ride of the season off to a good start. Everyone arrived early so we had plenty of time to sign the new waiver and get off on time. We rolled out of Northampton at about 5:32, but with the construction at the academy, simply navigating the first intersection took two cycles of the lights!

The pace was immediately pretty quick, but I was content to let everyone settle in, and besides, it felt pretty good to stretch our legs. Shortly after passing the high school on our way to Leeds, we picked up Scott and another rider on mountain bikes who said they were going to try to hang with us as long as possible. They accelerated quickly and settled in behind the four riders. They sounded a bit like indy cars behind us with the knobbies putting up quite a racket. As we climbed into Leeds, Damon pulled off (he had been pulling from the beginning) and Zinj took over. I think there was some attempt going on to drop the mountain bikers, so the pace picked up just slightly. Ron took a solid pull, and then just as we were hitting the Dam before Leeds near Arch street, I took over the lead and promptly slowed the pace a bit as we rolled towards the post office at River Road.

The group broke up a bit as we climbed the short hill on Audubon Rd that is even more pock marked than last year (I’d say it’s more pot hole than pavement at this point). I dropped back a bit and a small gap opened up between me and Zinj with Ron right behind me. Damon and the two mountain bikes were up front. The gap got a little bigger so I pulled to the left a bit a waved Ron through. I caught his wheel as the terrain leveled off and I thought I’d just hang there and catch my breath for a bit. I had about 30 seconds of relief when it became instantly clear to Ron and me that the group in front of us was pulling away. Ron stood up and bridged the gap in about 20 seconds, but I was spent. I watched the group pull away from me, and rode on by myself (don’t worry, there’s a happy ending to this below – so read on).

So here’s what went wrong:

1. Although I had it in my jersey pocket, I forgot to eat my traditional pre ride banana
2. As ride leader, I didn’t make my intentions for the ride clear at the pre-ride meeting (I figured everyone was clairvoyant!)
3. When the pace was too fast, right from the start, I didn’t speak up
4. When other riders joined us mid-ride, I didn’t articulate our intentions
5. When I started to suffer a bit, I didn’t speak up
6. When it was clear I was getting dropped, I didn’t speak up
7. When Ron pulled away, I didn’t ask him to let the others know I was getting dropped

In short – I didn’t make it clear that I wanted to control the pace, nor did I attempt to control the pace…. and I didn’t eat my banana!)

So the guys actually waited for me in Williamsburg, and for that I am thankful. Ron had to bail and had already left, but I did catch up to the mountain bikers and Zinj and Damon. the mountain bikers went on their way and the three of us began the long climb up Ashfield Rd. Though I had no intention of going to the top with them (wasn’t in the cards for me at that point), we did have a chance to chat about what had transpired, and after a mile or so, I waved the two remaining riders on, I headed back to Northampton, and we all parted with smiles.

I spoke about attracting more B riders to the TNR at the ride leaders meeting this year and I intend to follow through on that promise. One of the things that attracts me to the TNR is the climbs and the descents! But a big issue for me and other B riders is getting to the bottom of the climb in Williamsburg with a little gas in the tank. If I’m completely spent at the base of the climb, then that climb is going to be no fun. If I’ve got something to give, then the climb will be hard, and challenging, but attainable and ultimately enjoyable.

Among other things, Zinj and Damon and I talked about really ramping down the intensity of this first part of the TNR and keeping the ride into Williamsburg at a very social pace. Let’s ride at a pace that’s easy for everyone. Once we get to Williamsburg, then all bets are off. We will decide then if we want to split into two groups or remain as one. We hit that hill with all we’ve got. Some will take it faster than others, but we’ll all regroup at 116 (in two groups or just one). But we’ve all got to get to the base of that climb in one piece.

I’ll restate these intentions at the beginning of the ride next week, and in subsequent weeks. I’ll certainly need help from other riders to control the pace into Williamsburg. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but there’s a note on the sound board at the Iron Horse intended for the visiting sound engineer; it says something like this: “If YOU think it’s too loud, it probably is. If WE think it’s too loud, it is.”. If you think it’s too fast, it probably is and please help to control the pace. If I think it’s too fast, I will control the pace.

Once we get to Williamsburg, we’ll put the pedal down and attack that beast of a hill, but let’s get there together.