So here we are – summer’s been and gone and fall is upon us. I wrote a long and self-serving bit of whinge about why I rode so little this summer but it was so…well, pathetic I couldn’t bring myself to subject anyone else to it. Suffice it to say, my cycling mojo took a holiday this summer.
Whatever – I’m back on the bike and finding my legs again. I like riding again which I haven’t all season. Hoo yeah, that first day back on the bike this month was a killer. My heart felt like it might explode, feeble, uncoordinated legs and astonishingly little aerobic capacity. Frankly it felt like hell. I didn’t want to ride the next day so I slept through my alarm and drove in a panic, late for work.
Monday was better and when I got home a wheezy, sweating mess I was glad that I’d managed to ride two consecutive days and could find an excuse to drive tomorrow…wait…that’s Tuesday…if tomorrow is Tuesday, that means today is Monday thus I clearly haven’t ridden to work two days in a row. Brain scrambled. I dutifully put on my gear and rode today, and I fell in love with riding again.
Enthusiasm. Inspiration. That magic ingredient that makes life exciting. Sometimes it’s triggered externally. Today the gods of all things Cat-6 rewarded my pitiful summer with inspiration. Someone to chase.
As I rode through Max Bell, I saw him in my peripheral, riding a parallel path along the ridge. As we continued, convergence became inevitable and he dropped onto the path a few meters ahead of me. Never one to let a good chase go unchallenged, I put my big-boy pants on and got to work.
We made good time over Deerfoot, shortcutting through the grass at the bottom and carrying a nice bit of speed with us. He started mashing immediately, a suggestion of what was to unfold over the next 10 kilometers. I stayed close, expecting him to peel off and head into downtown for no more reason than that’s what everyone seems to do at this point, but he pointed his wheel north. This game was on for real.
The blue, fendered Kona set a steady pace just over 31km/h and I had to push hard to stay with him. We rode past the Sparks center, through the bends and up to 8th where I couldn’t help but hope he’d peel off, but he didn’t. He didn’t ease up either. I was fairly confident I could pass him but equally certain I couldn’t do anything with it – I wouldn’t be able to pull away and would likely gas myself trying to get around him. So I cheated.
While they may have re-paved the section of Nose Creek path between 8th and 16th ave, there’s still a well-worn path through the weeds where it used to be. After watching him drop down from the ridge in Max Bell, I expected him to head off-road and when he didn’t, I went anyway. It’s shorter, straighter and lacks the little hump you have to climb. If I could maintain the pace, I could put some distance on him until at least the other side of 16th where, with any luck he’d peel off and leave me to expire in peace.
A shoulder-check half-way through Fox Hollow showed me half-right – I’d put some distance on, but I was flagging and he was still coming. It didn’t take long for him to close the gap and ultimately pass me – fair enough. I started to fall behind but managed to make up some ground on the little climb to the top of the course, and again on the drop down past the sub-station. I wasn’t hanging back anymore, firmly and completely wheel-sucking - hiding in his draft and catching my breath.
Still he continued along my route, and still I followed, unwilling to concede complete defeat. Past the 32nd connector (why don’t you turn off?!), under McKnight, onto the road and…man this guy just doesn’t stop and he’s still on my route! Onto 4th / Edmonton Trail (why isn’t he going straight west?) and a bit of confused traffic gave me a chance to re-group and prepare. Surely he’s not going to zip up the bus traps so this will end there and I can finally ease the pace a little. As we rounded the final corner to the bottom of the traps, it was obvious this wasn’t over yet. Then I saw my chance.
He stood up to climb a fraction too late and I attacked, cursing him as I went by. “Damn, you just won’t turn off!” I said as I climbed past him. He grinned. I made the top of the traps ahead of him, but paid the price for it, unable to keep the lead or even latch on as he caught up and went by. We exchanged a few pleasant words until he continued north and I hobbled my way home west. Spent. Exhausted. Completely happy.
In 8900km of riding, that was one of the best commutes I’ve ever had, certainly the longest chase and the most entertaining one at that. Damn you blue, fendered Kona for not letting up. And thanks. Auf Wiedersehen!