Another crack of dawn trip to Zube Park, this time under clear skies but with the temperature somewhere between 33 and 28 degrees F, depending on whose car thermometer you believe. A crew of speedsters gathered - Jason, Kevin, Gregor and Ian from Chevron -making me the only tortoise in a field of hares. No American Mules today - the wimps, what's a little frost between friends?
Kevin was looking a bit battered after "kissing the road" last Wednesday. Apparently he was riding back to his car after a few laps of the Fruit Loop in Memorial Park and got his front wheel stuck in a crack in the pavement. With the skinny tires we all use, this is a certain spill and he went down pretty hard, hence the scabs on his face and eyelid, bruises on his thigh and a possibly fractured rib. His bike didn't suffer too badly (he straightened the handlebars and rode back to his car!) but fortunately he wasn't on his new Wilier, which probably would have been much the worse for wear.
I wore all my cold weather gear, including arm warmers, balaclava, overshoes and expensive, Gore-Tex mountain runner's jacket. The latter garment was the cause of much derision the last time I wore it and today was the same. It's not really suitable for cycling but it's the best option I have right now.
There was no wind to speak of when we started, but it picked up later on. The speedsters kept the pace down to about 17-18mph, but I still struggled to stay with them. Jason, bless his Kiwi heart, dropped back a couple of times to pull me back into the group. With about three miles to go to the Exxon station where we break, we saw a lone rider in front and decided to reel him in. Gregor was in the lead and kicked the pace up pretty hard. I was actually able to keep with the group, a very exhilarating experience while it lasted.
At the gas station I decided to strip off as much as I could, including the jacket, which left me wearing only a cycling jersey on top. Ian commented that I would probably do better without the jacket and he was right. I need a more aerodynamic piece of outerwear.
We returned to Zube via Business 290 with a strong cross-wind from the south. I felt pretty strong and not too cold, despite the lack of clothing. The pack dropped me on the climbs but were good enough to wait at the crest. We all shared the lead and worked together well. On the home stretch Gregor and Ian decided that they'd had enough team-work and dropped me easily, but no harm, no foul.
Back home to a delicious bread, cheese and wine lunch courtesy of the Houston Dairymaids, followed by our annual marmalade-making extravaganza. Yum -