• The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

Ahhh...The Beauty of the Group Ride

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b2ap3_thumbnail_PA020298.JPGIt's been a while, too long in fact, since I've met in a parking lot with a bunch of other people on bikes getting ready to head out on what is simply known as a "group ride". I still remember my first one when I mustered all of my courage and showed up in front of the Ski Hut (Duluth's premier bike shop) on my new mountain bike, hoping I wouldn't cause another rider to crash, embarrass myself, or get dropped off the back by what I thought were sure to be much more talented cyclists than myself. I think back to those days a lot, how I longed to be as good as some of those riders.

A busy race and training schedule has caused me to drift away from the weekly group rides, but recently I decided it was time to get back to what helped me fall in love with cycling. The weekly email came to me like it always does announcing the time and place for the ride. I made sure my schedule was clear so I could be there.

I showed up on time and ready to ride. The weather was threatening to ruin our little adventure, but I knew this crew would be made up of hardy northerners, a little rain wouldn't stop us. Riders began to roll in to the parking lot and as they did I began to think about the talent Duluth possesses in the way of cycling. Todd McFadden (winner of last year's Arrowhead 135 and countless other races), Nikolai Anikin (top tier cross country skier with Olympic blood in his veins - literally, his father earned 3 gold medals for xc skiing), Matt Ryan (HUGE power and a top 50 Chequamegon 50 finisher), Tim Andrew (always at the front of local races and super fast on a road bike), the list goes on. As the group continued to arrive I noted the treasure trove of talented cyclists that live in Duluth, Minnesota.

Ten pedal strokes into the ride I felt the first drop of rain hit my right cheek. A glance over my right shoulder to the west told me that Mother Nature wasn't kidding around and that maybe the Weather Channel was not as "all knowing" as I thought. The casual conversation and light hearted ribbing was a welcomed change from countless hours spent spinning alone through training rides. It felt like the old days again.

The guys teased each other about who was faster at the last race as well as who took the least amount of pulls during Duluth's recent running of the Heck of the North. To be sure, the pace was not for the beginner and there seemed to be little in the way of stops to wait for those that may have fallen behind. These riders all knew who the company they were keeping and the intensity of the effort reflected it. I sat in comfortably around the middle of the group and observed the strengths of the riders around me, the "roadies" powering through the open sections, while the "mountain bikers" let their skills shine on Duluth's challenging single track. I was having a lot of fun with these guys and I was on my bike ... that's always a good thing!b2ap3_thumbnail_PA020299.JPG

An hour in and the rain had established itself as not just a passing event. We were being pummeled by a steady down pour. Avoiding the puddles was a thing of the past as we made our way back to the parking lot. The group decided to retreat for the safety of our cars as darkness crept in, as did the cold wet chill aided by the dropping temperatures. As expected in most group rides a time to flex some muscle was upon us. Todd McFadden, the strongest in the group and most likely the strongest in the city went first. Up a double track section of what is known as the Amity Creek Trail, he hit the gas. I went after him with no illusions of staying with him, but rather hanging on for as long as I could. Truth be told, Todd can shed me from his wheel any time he wants, but this night I was proud of the fact that I was only gradually losing his wheel while conscious of the fact that he was probably only running on about 80% effort. Just then, I heard the familiar noise of tires on loose rock coming from behind and in a blur Matt Ryan absolutely flew by me! "Wow! Now that's some POWER", I thought. I marveled at his speed and reflected on the fact that I was riding with the best in the area - these guys are GOOD!

The remainder of the ride back to the car was uneventful apart from the chill that seeped deeper into our bones. Todd and I navigated the small stretch of trail that separated us from the parking lot in the dark. We joked about how the weather really wasn't that bad, "nothing a hot shower can't cure", I said. "Yeah, just think what it will be like in 3 months", was his reply. We parted ways, thanking each other for the ride and feeling just as happy as we would have had it been 73 degrees and sunny.

There's a beauty in the Group Ride that should never be forgotten. Get yours soon, you'll thank yourself for it.

 

Thanks guys, see you next time.  -Eki

 

 

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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