I arrived first, but Ian turned up shortly afterwards. For a while it seemed that no-one else was coming, and we talked about riding with the Club. They go off in speed groups - 20+mph, 18-20mph, 16-18mph and 14-16mph - but all ride the same route, which is our standard Mules ride. I thought we would go out with the 18-20 group, as we normally average 18-19mph on our rides, but Ian, who has been out with the Club many times, prefers the 16-18mph group. Apparently both groups are full of Liars, riders who lie about their ability in order to beat the rest of the group, so the 16-18 group actually goes at about 20mph.
With about ten minutes to go before the Club started, Gregor arrived, followed by Alex and Oz. Alex had to change out a wheel, so the rest of us joined the 16-18 group, which was quite large - probably 20 bikes - and formed a double pace-line.
It was a bit of an adjustment to get used to drafting in such a big group. Their practice of hammering through the corners took me by surprise at first, too - the Mules usually take corners slowly and regroup before accelerating. The lead riders on both lines peeled off regularly and I soon found myself pulling the outside line, probably a mistake as it drained a lot of energy, but etiquette (and my pride!) demanded that I do my share of the work.
About 15 miles in, the pace accelerated sharply (as predicted by Ian) and I got spat out of the back of the line. Fortunately there were 4 or 5 other riders in the same position and we formed a secondary pace-line. In Pro cycling this is called a "gruppetto" in Italian, or "autobus" in French - a group of riders from all the teams, usually sprinters and domestiques, who ride together through the mountains to avoid disqualification.
We got to the gas station without too much effort and I thanked the others before joining Ian et al., who had been in for a while. Ian's bike computer showed an average speed (for him and the speedsters!) of about 20 mph - so they were proven Liars. Alex and Oz were there too, having taken a shortcut. We restarted together under cloudy skies and with the wind blowing much harder from the south. Once again I got dropped, but this time I had to ride about 10 miles more or less on my own, before jumping onto the rear wheel of two riders who came through from behind. I stuck with them all the way back, taking a couple of turns at the front.
Back in Zube we exchanged war stories (Oz rode in a relay team in a race all the way from the West Coast to the East a few years back) and talked high-end bikes for a while before I took my leave. Next weekend will see me in Fayetteville on Sunday for an MS-150 ride, so no Zube for once.