What's all this got to do with cycling, you may ask. Well, yesterday morning's group for the regular Bicycle World no-drop ride included dogs both old (me and a few others) and young (two high-school kids) in an unusually large peloton of 23 riders, and tricks both old and new were on display.
We got off to a pretty slow start, mainly due to the very large number of runners in the park. Registration for the 2011 Houston marathon is about to open and it seems that everyone wants to start their training early. Once clear of the park we got going at a better pace, with me heading the charge as usual. Two other riders kept with me, Keith (who owns and runs a restaurant in Copperfield) and a 17-year old High School student whose name I didn't catch. The pace clearly wasn't that hot because the group re-formed pretty quickly and we set out again through George Bush park.
I took the lead once more and we formed a pretty good pace-line at about 19-20 mph, which held together pretty much all the way to Fry road. On the final stretch Kevin took a great lead-out from me (entirely unintentional I have to say) and blew past, with the High Schooler hot on his trail. I let them go, feeling the need for a blow after pulling all the way.
Once again the group reassembled pretty quickly. Manny (the ride leader) gave a brief lecture on riding style and pedaling efficiency, then organised a group photo. We rolled out a few minutes later and once more I was up front pulling hard. Halfway up Barker-Clodine I decided to let someone else do the work for a while and gave the universal sign for the pace-line to pass me (tap the thigh, swing to the left). Unfortunately the number 2 rider didn't speak the universal language and stayed locked on to my back wheel, so I slowed down and gave an extravagant "after you, Claude" gesture, at which point he got it and blew past. Right behind him was a young woman in a Toyota jersey and I slotted in behind her.
A little further on I got my wind back and took up the lead, increasing the pace a notch as I went. This turned out to be too much for the other two and I dropped them pretty fast. When I eased back, though, I was quickly caught by Keith and the high-school kid and we cruised in to the Cop Shop together, with the rest of the pace-line pretty close behind.
A short break to regroup and then off for the final leg (usually called "Wind Alley"). A pace-line formed pretty quickly, with me at second wheel, when Toyota Girl blew past at a flat-out sprint. I jumped on her wheel and hung on grimly as she set a fierce pace. She eased back after about 5 minutes and was surprised when I blew past her. She came back strongly and passed me again but couldn't sustain the pace and I dropped her for good with about a mile to run.
Back in the Park and the pace drops to a spin and grin. Keith and I chat as we go, and I tell him about the Mules, and my plan to return to the fold when the weather cools off. At the final regrouping point Toyota Girl joins us and I tell her that I thought the gas pedal on the Toyota must have got stuck down when she sprinted past the line. She didn't seem to find that funny, perhaps not enjoying getting a lesson in riding from Grandpa. The high-school kid and Keith got the joke, though.