Friday, July 11, 2008
God Bless Helmets and PennDOT.
Without a doubt, this edition of The Grimpeurs was the best ever. There were a lot of climbs and all, but it was the in the final minutes that the excitement was kicked up a notch. Hell, we kicked it right off the post. The Tour De France plays in the background as I type and I am bored with it, having lived today’s ride. First things first, though.
New Grimpeur, Marc G. joined Boy Scout (who strongly desires the due recognition he was denied in a prior post when he was incorrectly identified: he is MarK R!), The Fat Cat and Talks-With-Legs. After a stop for fresh spring water on Mud Pike, the two Marks pulled away and crested the opening climb together. Neither laid claim to the Polka Dot Jersey. My, my, it has become downright gentlemanly on the Mountain lately.
After that, everybody headed north across Skyline all the way over to Jumonville and its silky smooth descent. It was here that Marc G first challenged the Cat’s here-to-fore unquestioned supremacy in falling down mountains. The two riders traded the lead spot several times, tucking in for a top speed of 52.9mph. The scary part was that a coal truck slowed them just as they reached the steepest part. There is no telling what speed may have been attained had they hit that section at a full gallop. Honestly, the Cat was already fighting the urge to brake. The Cat and then Marc both passed the truck. Yahoo! Chalk up another one in the bikes are boss column.
An obviously deranged Fat Cat eschewed the normal lowland return route. He suggested heading North a bit towards a never before ridden climb back up the mountain. What a schizophrenic ascent. First it made you question your ability to go on. Next it had you thinking it was easy. This sort of mental and physical game went on for 3 or four miles until, in the end, the hill decided it was just going to stand up and be a real bitch.
The Grimpeurs, suffering a bit from the two bagger of Cat 1 climbs, headed back along the spine of the mountain on Skyline. A quick stop for fuel at the Summit Inn served to sufficiently delay the short but steep run up to the golf course that nobody seemed enthused about.
Now comes the fun part. The Fat Cat took his usual lead on the descent of Mud Pike. About half way down and, what tha? Marc G slid past. The Fat Cat long ago became numb to the beatings on the ascent, now content to placidly bleed. But this, this could not stand. He knew that his only chance was to try and hang close until after the hairpin and shoot by on the super steep bottom section. Now, keep in mind, Marc is an honest to goodness bike racer and he was f-l-y-i-n-g down the mountain. But, the Cat stayed within 10 yards of his wheel. The Fat One knew that a very tricky turn was just ahead. The nasty buggar quickly dropped in elevation at its apex. But, if Marc wasn’t braking, then neither was the Cat. After all, he was following an “experienced racer.” What better way to rail slide the ragged edge?
In the next two seconds, spacetime seemed to bend and slow to a crawl. All the thoughts and actions to come actually took place in that short window. If only the Cat could squeeze that kind of lightning info processing out of his graying matter under normal circumstances.
Marc hit the brakes. His tires locked up at just under 50mph. His Lemond slid sideways to the left, snapped to the right and then again leftward. The Cat watched this from just behind, momentarily alarmed at witnessing the potential disaster. The concern was short lived. It occurred to him that in the next millisecond he would be in the same straits. Somehow, the thought took away any fear. Logical thought wedged in a foot. Sure enough, the brakes were no match for the diabolical combination of suddenly increasing grade and a radical change in angular momentum. The Fat Cat may has well have been on ice. He went into the same slide he has just witnessed. Try and find max braking with minimal sliding, he thought. He worked the brake lever madly. Up ahead he saw Marc hit the side of the road and fishtail. Amazingly, he made it through the small patch of deep black ash that had found its way to the burm. Marc let out a war whoop.
The Cat knew his bike handling skills were no match. He slid and shifted weight for all he was worth. He rapidly realized he and the road were destined to part. A quick survey revealed trees and steep drops every where but that one spot in the apex that Marc just plowed through. All hope was pinned on that spot. The Cat got it down to about 20mph. Then he tossed himself toward that one cubic yard of relative safety. He started to put out and arm but had the time to think about broken clavicles and such as he floated over his bike. He tucked the arm under and flew head and shoulders into the black. His helmet plowed deep into the soft ash that had helped him climb the mountain only months ago. A wave of the stuff curled over him like a collapsing pipe crashing into Maui.
In a flash the Fat Cat was up and mounting his bike, still consumed with the chase. His twisted chain delayed him long enough for the trailing Grimpeurs to catch up. What a sight he was, a big white smile set against a head to toe gritty black coat. I ask you, what kind of a nut thinks a high speed bicycle crash is a great time. That boy ain’t right in the head.
At the bottom, The Cat felt like a rock star as the other Grimpeurs unloaded their cameras on his filthy and abraded visage. After all had satisfied their morbid photographic desires, The Fat Cat was treated to an impromptu, water bottle shower. Good times, good times…
And now, to the granting of Marc’s Grimpeur name. My first impulse was dumbass. But- who’s the dumbass: the one that hit the curve too fast or the one that followed him in and bit it? Marc, let’s just go with “Slider.”