Although the plan had been to ride twice over the long weekend, after my epic flame-out on Thursday I wasn't at all sure that I'd be ready for more punishment on Saturday. But chocolate milk and sleep worked their magic and I actually felt pretty good and certainly ready for more saddle time when Kevin rolled up.
Off to Zube, then, for a date with the Mules. Paddy had already set up the new trailer when we arrived, and Gene, Crawford and Yvonne were there too. I wanted to start with them, expecting to get dropped, but when we got back to the trailer after the obligatory visit to the toilet block for fluid level adjustment they had already left.
Kevin had come loaded for bear after our last outing. He traded me a bottle of water for one with Cytomax, a more scientifically designed version of Gatorade, and had a stick of chews too. Good job there's no drug testing for weekend warriors - if I'd had to pee into a plastic cup it would probably have melted after that lot.
Saturday mornings are always very busy at Zube, and as expected we were passed by several fast groups within the first few miles. Cycling etiquette calls for announcing your presence when passing with a cry of "on your left" but some of the groups are too proud to acknowledge the existence of lesser riders and just zip past, barely a water-bottle's width from your shoulder. It's more annoying than anything else but I often send rude riders on their way with a well-chosen expletive or two. Today I was too mellow to bother but Kevin chose a great moment to expectorate on his left.
We had a tail wind on the way out so our slow start had us above 17mph. Quite a difference when we turned north and it became a cross wind. But I was feeling pretty good, certainly better than Thursday.
We reached the Harris county line and decided to take the short cut to the Exxon, an audible from Kevin that I knew not to ignore at my peril. The route has a short climb, then a nice long descent all in pretty countryside, before you pick up a busier road into Hempstead. With a wide shoulder, smooth surface and tail wind we were soon cruising at better than 20mph. I was glued to Kevin's rear wheel and felt like a pro in the Tour de France peloton.
At the Exxon we were about 5 miles short of our normal distance but both felt strong enough to take on the more hilly route home via Prairie View A and M. My climbing was pretty solid but I had to call Kevin back towards the end of the section.
The last 12 miles were dead into the wind but we managed to keep a respectable pace. Somewhere along here we were passed by another group but this time the lead rider actually called out as they drew level. Kevin noted that the group had a woman in the front, perhaps that's the difference.
Back at Zube and the Mules had gone. They must have been much faster, or taken an even shorter route. Too bad, I wanted to catch up with everyone. Anyway, first things first - I broke out the chocolate milk (organic of course, nothing's too good for my domestique) and we began the recovery process. All things considered I did pretty well, which we'll put down to a combination of Cytomax and sensible route selection.