I wheeled up to the Donut Ride and immediately noticed him. It was freezing cold and he was woefully under-dressed; no arm warmers, no leg warmers, not even a jacket or a vest. And he was young. And he was nervous.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi!” he answered.
“What’s your name?”
“Jared. It’s my first time here. I’m kind of nervous.”
“That’s okay, everybody’s nervous their first time. Do you live around here?”
“I’m a freshman at UCSB and am just getting into cycling.”
“That’s great. Can I buy you a coffee?” I was freezing myself despite an undershirt, a jacket, gloves, and tights.
“No, but thank you,” he said.
It’s pretty miserable and exciting at the same time, showing up on your first beatdown ride. I haven’t always been the most helpful person, but over the years it has always seemed to pay off when you’re nice to people in the beginning. They remember it, they occasionally turn out to be beastly strong and repay you with a tow or a push, and I like to think that in twenty years’ time they’ll be the same way, talking to other newcomers and helping take the edge of. As my grandpa always said, “It don’t cost nothin’ to be nice.” Plus, after being nice you can smash in earnest.
Which we did.
I didn’t see Jared again until the bottom of Better Homes. A group of leaders including Pornstache, Tink, John (I think) van Guilder, J.P. “Just Pound” Jones, and my son-in-law had gotten away and I was deep in chase mode. I have never caught the break on Better Homes if they have sneaked away; the climb is too hard and I’m too slow, but I figured I had to try.
I gave it a dig and heard someone on my wheel. He came by hard and I jumped on. It was Jared. He was perfectly sized to climb and had those fresh legs of youth, you know the kind I’m talking about: The kind that can go full out, completely blow, and then recover in five seconds. He put in about three of these monster efforts and suddenly the leaders were just around the bend.
This kid was slamming it so hard and of course I was in whatever zone comes after red. Purple? Black? With only twenty yards between us and the front, he blew up again, this time for good. I punched it and managed to latch onto the leaders. I glanced back as he sat out there in no-person’s-land, then faded.
“Not the last we’ve seen of him,” I thought as we surged away.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and pay to support what you might otherwise take for free. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!