The banter was light as we waited for other riders to arrive.
“Is Fatty coming?”
“Said he was.”
“Aaron is on his way.”
“Hope he brought his legs.”
“Did you bring yours?”
“You’ll find out.”
We rolled out casually, a pace that lasted at least 100 meters. The moment we passed the pay station the clock started running. Mark surged ahead.
“I think he is.”
“Go ahead, Rick, bring him back.”
“We’ll get him.”
And we did. But the stage was set. We meant business. And from then on the pace was scorching, and the conversation lacking. And as the road turned upward toward Timpanooeke the group splintered. Rick shifted down, stood up and took off.
“There he goes.”
Nobody closed that gap, and Rick rode to victory. That is, he would have, had this been a race. Which it clearly was not.
As each of us crossed the finish line, we all gleamed at having done so in record time. Or, as Fatty said afterward, “Mark and I were your stick, and you were our carrot.” My neck grew sore turning and looking back so often, always expecting the precarious gap to vanish. I had to dig a little deeper than I wanted to… in a group ride. But they were always there, pedaling and pedaling.
I considered pulling to the side of the road, and curling up under an evergreen. But that’s when I caught a glimpse of Rick up the road. Carrot, meet stick. And off I went.
In the end, it was a fantastic result for me—55:00.
It’s a shame we weren’t racing.