Saturday, April 10, 2010
They Don't Miss Turns on the Paris-Roubaix
Today's ride is our own version of the professional cycling spring classic race Paris-Roubaix. It's one of cycling's oldest one-day races and it's noted foremost for it's rough sections of cobblestones, or "pavé", that give the riders a bone-jarring, teeth-chattering ride. Coupled with unpredictable springtime weather that produces rain, sleet, mud—this race becomes one of the most hazardous replete with crashes and pile-ups. All of which has earned it the nickname "The Hell of the North" and the "Queen of the Classics."
To honor this ride, we rode our own version on one mile of red brick highway, the Red Brick Road, in Redmond. This historical road contains the longest stretch of exposed historic red brick highway in King County. To reach this one-mile stretch, we left Eastside Foursquare Church and headed out to Woodinville and then south to downtown Redmond. We turned east and climbed Union Hill. The climb is steep and long, but scenic with tall evergreens on either side of the roadway.
Our group of seven was currently being led out by Johnny and Mark. I was doing my best to lead the ride from third place. Johnny and Mark are both strong riders so I wasn't surprised that they wanted to stretch out their legs and put the hammer down. Mark is an experienced triathlete and Johnny is just an all-around "like to go fast" kind of road rider. As we pressed further east along Union Hill Road, they both made the right choice to stop at intersections and allow our gang to regroup.
On one of the earlier regroupings, I called back to Marlene who was riding with us for the first time. "How's the pace?" I asked her. She gave me a thumbs-up and called back, "Great!" "Would you tell me if it wasn't?" I asked. She smiled. So our pace was good and those in the back weren't too spread out. Mark, Johnny, and I realized the advantage to riding fast and then stopping to regroup gave us more time to catch our breath and chat at the stop sign while we waited for the others.
At NE Ames Lake Rd., I turned to our group and gave them our next two turns. We'd be turning right onto Route 202-Redmond Fall City Rd. and then they had to keep an eye out for 196th Ave. NE where we would turn right again and be on the Red Brick Road. Mark looked back and said something to the effect of, "That's why I'm here, to ride the Red Brick Road! I'm following you!" A sense of doubt crept over me. He hadn't followed anyone this morning. But, fair warning was given. They knew where to turn if they got out in front again. And that's where Mark and Johnny went—out in front.
We turned onto Rt. 202 and Mark asked me if this road led straight to 196th. I assured him it did. He took off. Johnny followed suit. By the time I reached 196th Ave. NE and stopped, I could see them about a quarter mile ahead in the distance. They had missed the turn. I shook my head. Not in disbelief, but in quiet acceptance of a fact I've come to respect—"If you're in front, you better know where you're going." As the rest of the group soon joined me, I explained that our fast riders had missed the turn. I called Johnny's cell phone and left him a message. Then I shared with the rest of the riders my homily, "If you're riding in the front, you better know where you're going. We've seen this before, haven't we?" And then the litany of cyclists that have made similar bad calls rolled off our lips—Bob T., Warren, Cary. Someone added, "Yeah, but Cary would turn around, come back and say 'Hey guys, what's going on?!' "
The five of us who remained turned down the Red Brick Road and enjoyed the rapid bump-bump-bump of the cobbled pavement. Marlene and David J. both admitted that the bricks really could shake up your bladder. Nearby restroom, anyone? About halfway down the bricks, my cell rang. It was Johnny. "How's the Red Brick Road?", he sheepishly asked. "Where are you guys?!" They were already at our coffee stop in downtown Redmond, Peet's Coffee & Tea. I busted him a little for missing the turn but it sounded like he was just following Mark. I told them we'd join them in a few minutes. We concluded our red brick bumpy ride and headed into Redmond. We found Peet's Coffee and spotted Mark and Johnny reclining in chairs outside the front entrance with coffee already in hand.
I pulled up to Mark and chuckled. "You're a great leader. Just gotta work on following!" I handed him my camera so he could see photos of all he had missed while I went inside and got my coffee and pastry. Interesting side note about Peet's. They can't warm your pastries. That's right. No microwaves or toasters on the premises. The guy behind the counter explained that this required an additional food service permit. You've got to be kidding. When David and I were chatting about this later, he commented on a book he recently read called Outstanding: 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional. Apparently, not being able to microwave pastries violates about 23 of those ways.
After our coffee, baked goods, and conversation was concluded, we headed back to EFC. Our route along the Sammamish River Trail was busy for an early spring Saturday. In fact, I was amazed to see not just one or two, but no less than five Cascade Bicycle Club group rides each with at least 40 cyclists. Everyone was out today. What had started as a cold morning was now turning into a warm afternoon. It was a refreshing alternative to the wet and muddy Paris-Roubaix. But to its credit, on that ride no one misses their turns...
Riders: Bob, Mike, Johnny, Mark, Marlene, David J., David Z.
More photos here.