Sun, 26 Sep 2004

Nice ride, nasty fall

Several weeks ago, I learned that some riders were meeting at the local bike shop Sunday mornings for a group ride. I've joined them most Sundays since. They've been interesting rides.

This morning, I rode with Joe and Steve. Both are training for the Coeur d'Alene Ironman next June. The first time Steve joined us on a Sunday ride, I didn't recognize him, initially. Half way through the ride, I discovered we knew each other. He lived just around the corner from us for 5 or 6 years before moving out of the neighborhood. Our kids were good friends is Junior High and High School.

Today, we rode from the bike shop, Wheelsport, on Sullivan Road south on Highway 27 to the Palouse Highway, west to Valley-Chapel Road. Valley-Chapel Road is one of my favorite rides. It runs along a beautiful section of the Hangman Valley. There's little weekend traffic and the road is smooth and well maintained.

The route features a challenging climb from the Hangman Valley up on to the Palouse. The views from the high wheat fields are fantastic. There is an old chapel and cemetery on the route just west of the small community of Mt. Hope.

Steve's wife, Pam, had a food booth at the Farm Chicks' Antique show in Fairfield. We planned to drop by on our ride and say hello. I knew the that if we continued east past the cemetery and through Mt. Hope, we'd hit Highway 27 again about 6 miles north of Fairfield. Not familiar with other roads in the area we didn't know for certain, but suspected a turn south at the cemetery would likely lead us to Fairfield.

It did, but it was a longer than expected, hilly detour. We rode almost into Waverly at the southern most point of the route and a looped back north into Fairfield.

We were rewarded for our effort with some of Pam's famous baked goods. The chocolate treats fulled our ride back home but caused my stomach to churn in rhythm with my legs for awhile.

For much of the ride back north on Highway 27 we shared the work at the front with Joe doing 80% of the work and Steve and I helping where we could. (Joe is an incredibly strong, talented rider. Attempting to keep up with him on these Sunday morning rides has really improved my fitness. They are real workouts for me.)

Just north of Mica with maybe 6 or 8 miles of riding left, Steve got his front wheel overlapped with Joe's back wheel. I was at the back and luckily saw the trouble from the start and was able to get clear. Steve was in the aero bars and couldn't get to his brakes in time. He bumped Joe's back wheel 3 times before hitting the pavement and sliding off into the dirt.

Joe almost went down. That last bump knocked his back wheel sideways and he went skidding off the shoulder into the dirt but avoided a fall. I went clear to the left and managed to stay out of the fray.

Steve was scraped up—elbows, knees, hands, shoulder, and hip. But he wasn't badly damaged—no deep lacerations or broken bones. He was more embarrassed than hurt. Steve is an excellent athlete. He's been running with a passion since 1997 and competes frequently in marathons. But cycling is new. Riding in a pace-line has its dangers and Steve learned one of them today. I'm sure he'll be quite sore for a week, but at least no one was badly injured.

If not for Steve's fall, it would have been a near perfect ride. We covered 70 very hilly miles in 3 hours 40 minutes. I was quite pleased with that. I was suffering and holding the group back a bit near Waverly and Fairfield, but Pam's treats gave me the energy to finish strong. On the way out, I had my best time of the year up the grade on Highway 27—under 6 minutes. Overall, I think it was one of my strongest performances of the year. I'm hoping for more good riding weather in the weeks to come and more rides like this one, minus the crash.

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