Full Gas on the Tour de Guilford
Yes, there was Mexican food the night before the Tour de Guilford, but that is not the sort of gas I’m talking about. For a couple of months, I’ve been suffering from what my doctor called, “allergy induced asthma.” On rides when I’ve pushed myself, I’ve been wheezing and hacking, and generally feeling like somebody riding with one lung. I’d even begun carrying a prescription inhaler with me. Strangely, once in NC, my lungs felt clear, and I could get in a full breath with ease. Full gas.
As we lined up for the start, the day was shaping up to be a hot one. The group took off and as we got to the outskirts, the pace picked up at the front. I was riding with Woody, an employee at Cycles de Oro, on a pretty red vintage Specialized Allez. He told me that the riders ahead of us were from his local group. “If you want to catch them, I think I can go with you,” I said. We picked up the cadence and reeled them in. Our group included some young guys on carbon fiber bikes, and another local on an early 1990s splatter-paint Schwinn Paramount, and Classic Rendezvous rider Michael Maher on his 1987 Fuso (Dave Moulton) RCX.
The route got hillier, but I felt good and set a brisk pace up the hills. I confess to feeling a little pride when one of the local North Carolinians in our group asked me, “are you some kind of mountain goat?”
“Only half goat” I replied. In my part of the country, I might be called “medio cabron”, which could also be translated as “half bastard.”
I like to climb, but when I’m riding with the faster Tucson riders, I’m really kind of a mid-pack dude, and even some of the sprinters I ride with occasionally beat me, but I thought back to the spring and realized that I did have a lot of climbing under my belt: multiple weekly laps in Saguaro National Park, several Mt Lemmon ascents, plus Eroica, California.
I was unfamiliar with the kind of rolling hills they have in N.C. Out west our climbs tend to be longer duration grinders. I liked how at the crests of these rolling hills, you could stand up and not lose all your momentum. We got out into the genuine country and the local riders in our group confirmed that we were indeed riding by tobacco fields. We reached the sag stop and turn around, wolfed down some peanut butter sandwiches, grapes and bananas, and turned back for the return trip.
On the way back, I was riding with Charleston, South Carolina rider Michael Maher. We were passing folks and generally going pretty fast for two middle-aged guys on 30 to 40 year old bikes—full gas, or nearly so. I admired Michael’s white and orange Fuso, which he told me he had purchased on eBay as a wrecked frame for a whopping $22.38! He had the bike repaired and repaired; added S&S couplers for airline travel, and rode twice in Italy for Eroica events. Michael told me that immediately following the Classic Rendezvous, he was headed to England for Eroica Brittania. He said he had even considered doing all of the Eroica rides in one year, which is something I’d thought about myself. I’ll I need is money and time for a heroic year like that. I’ve got enough youth for at least a few more years—I hope.
My stomach began rumbling as we came back into Greensboro. Several days of eating fried green tomatoes, turnip greens, fried chicken and bbq seemed to be catching up to me all at once. I was in a bit of digestive distress. At this point in the ride, going “full gas” seemed like a dangerous proposition. Michael suggested we take the pace down a notch and I was grateful. As we rounded the last couple of corners back to the Lewis Recreation Center, the ride ended just soon enough.
You’d think that several vigorous bike rides might be enough to counter the effects of a big Southern diet, but I found that not to be the case. Even after riding around 100 miles over 4 days, I gained five pounds. I thought about the words of my friend Hampton, an Alabama native, who when asked about why southerners love fried food, holds up three fingers and says, “because it tastes good, it tastes good, and it tastes good.”