It was pretty unpleasant, that last lap out on the Parkway. There I was, hanging onto Big Thom’s rear wheel for dear life. He was in a hurry and that translated into extreme physical discomfort. For me. He flicked me through to take a pull but I reflected on the last couple of times he’d shown up on the Flog Ride, crushed me, and left me for dead.
My turn could wait.
Then across No Man’s Land came Major Bob, which was great news because he has never shirked a pull in his 35 years of bike racing. He didn’t this morning, either, even as I shirked and faked and gasped and hung on for dear life, awaiting the turnaround.
The whole thing was surreal, and not just because we’d reached escape velocity and had left the gravitational pull of the pack. It was surreal because I was sitting on Big Thom’s wheel, and if there’s one iron law of bicycle physics on the NPR it is this: You can never sit on a La Grange rider’s wheel because they are always buried in the rear of the group, searching for oxygen and spare legs.
Then, there was the other surreal thing … the guy off the front we were chasing was NJ Pedalbeater, another La Grange rider. And the final corkscrewed, Dali-esque nail in the eyeball was that La Grange had been out front for four laps and we hadn’t been able to reel him in. The only thing that smacked of comforting familiarity was that one teammate was chasing down the other. But other than that …
Off the front? La Grange? For four laps? And a desperate chase effort led by … La Grange? And the desperate effort of Big Thom turning manly seal clubbers into soft, velvety pelts ready for harvesting? Whaaaaat?
Call it what you want, but don’t call it an anomaly. Call it Sausage Power.
Since he was elected president of arguably America’s best racing-cyclo club, Robert Efthimos has breathed amazing life and vitality into an organization whose time had come to hand over the reins to new blood. Under Robert’s watch race participation has soared. Rather than whipping out a birder-like checklist and ticking off the rare appearance of La Grange at a race, you can now expect them there because they show up in force, set up a tent, and race the entire day.
Nor is their presence limited to one type of race. La Grange can now be expected at any race you show up at and in any, sometimes every, category. Robert’s brand of leadership by example mixed with a big tent philosophy, his deprecating self modesty, and his ability to execute has given LA cycling an important model for growth. By assiduously courting new sponsors while continuing to work hand-in-glove with his existing ones, such as the incredibly generous and dependable Helen’s Cycles, La Grange is showing other clubs a model for how a club can strengthen its cycling identity while still attracting people who don’t race.
Nowhere is this easier to see than in La Grange’s monthly mixers, where club members and non-members, racers and non-racers, and gasp, and even cyclists from the poor, unwashed South Bay are welcome. Over the last three years we’ve gone from wondering “Who is that Sausage dude with twelve bike cameras and a fast finish?” to “Imma try to get on his wheel and afterwards borrow ten bucks.”
All of this and more went through my head as we hit the turnaround. After having sat on for half a lap I jumped hard, dislodging Big Thom who had so nobly sacrificed for the cause. “La Grange may be on a roll,” I said to myself, “but they still have some work to do.”
Several hundred yards from the imaginary finish I realized that it was I, not they, who was the work in progress: La Grange’s OTF rider coasted across the line with his hands in the air.
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