Thursday, April 24, 2008

Paris-Roubaix Lunch Ride

It's spring. Which means that it's classics season, at least in Europe. Cycling fans are all too familiar with what the classics can do to both rider and bike. Below is a picture of George Hincapie from Paris-Roubaix a few years ago.



I was reminded that it's classics season during my lunch ride yesterday. It started out innocently enough. We'd had rain overnight, so the roads were still pretty wet. The sun was starting to poke through the clouds, though, and the temperature was reasonably warm, so I skipped the knee warmers and had nothing covering my legs but my bibs.

Our intended route was the Toppadadump out and back. Toppadadump got it's name because it's the road going up the hill that leads to the county landfill. (If the wind is coming from the wrong direction, this is not a pleasant ride from an olfactory standpoint.) It's a good lunch ride, as it's about 1000 feet of climbing and only 20 miles or so round trip from the office.

There's a core group of seven or eight of us who actually go on the lunch rides, but we never get more than four of us out at a time. Yesterday was just Ladd and me.

We got a bit wet from the roads before we even started climbing. Once the road tilted upward, we were greeted with a headwind. The wind was nothing more than annoying until the last quarter mile or so before the summit, at which point it brought with it first rain, switching almost immediately to hail. Ladd was on my wheel all the way to the top, so it took us about 30 seconds to regroup, catch our breath, and decide we wanted to head down, pronto.

Almost as soon as we started down, the weather got worse. Hail is bad enough, but when you're on a bike and going 30+ miles per hour, it can be downright painful. The hailstones had sharp corners, so every impact with my bare legs and face was painful. One hit my lip hard enough to draw blood.

As if fighting the hail wasn't bad enough, we also had wet roads to contend with, which made cornering and braking frightening. My hands got so wet and cold that my fingers were numb and I could barely grip the levers. Add into the mix the garbage trucks coming up and down the road, and you can understand why I was genuinely concerned for my safety most of the way down.

Once we got to the bottom, as quickly as the storm blew in, it was gone. The sun peaked out, things started to warm a bit, and we had a nice ride the rest of the way home. Except that we were filthy. I felt bad for Ladd, who was on his new bike that, as a rule, he doesn't ride in bad weather. When I got home and took my socks off, my wife took one look at my legs and started laughing. I usually get a couple of pretty stark tan lines at the bottom of my shorts and the top of my socks, but I've never had a dirt line quite like this before. I won't even tell you where else the dirt had accumulated.

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