I showed up for what I thought was going to be a mellow Cali Riderz group cruise on Saturday. I was still tired from the Holiday Ride beatdown and hollerfest.
When I got to the parking lot, George said, “You ready to race?”
“This is the annual Alameda Corridor race.”
“We give the women a five-minute head start and then chase them all the way to O Street and PCH along Alameda. It’s about 13 miles. Whoever gets there first gets bragging rights for the year, and the smack has been nonstop since they beat us last year.”
“What about all the lights?”
“You gotta stop for ’em.”
“Five minutes is huge over 13 miles. Do the guys ever win?”
“They haven’t in several years.”
About this time Michelle rolled up. She was crying.
“What’s wrong?” George asked, alarmed.
“I’m so sad,” she said.
“Then why are you crying?”
“I’m just thinking about how sad you boys are gonna be when we kick your butts again this year.”
I didn’t know what to say. I’d obviously wound up in the middle of a war. “This thing been going on a long time?” I asked.
“Decades,” George said. “Decades.”
We rode a long way to the start, picking up riders along the way. When we got to the restaurant parking lot where the festivities were going to begin, there was a crowd of riders. Part of the crowd included Travis and Joselyn, on a tandem.
“What are they doing on a tandem?” I asked George.
“Travis is going to pace the women.”
“We’ll never catch him.”
“It’s better than their Plan A,” he said.
“What was Plan A?”
“To get paced on a motorcycle.”
“How does this usually work?” I asked George, getting nervous.
“Last year we didn’t go hard enough at the start because of all the lights. After the 91, there aren’t any lights and you have a clear shot, but there’s only five miles or so left, so if you aren’t picking up stragglers by the 91, you’re never gonna catch the leaders.”
“So we sprint after every light?”
“We have to.”
“What about the other riders in our group?”
“What about ’em?”
The women left, timing their departure perfectly with a green light. Five minutes later we started and rolled immediately into a red. From there we sprinted after each light for what seemed like forever, more than ten or fifteen full-gas efforts from a complete stop. After a while it was just me, George, and Michael.
By the time we got to the 91 we could see a few rear blinky taillights. We went even harder. With less than a mile to go we saw Travis and Joselyn and Shermadean. The rule was that you have to finish with at least two women if you’re on the women’s team, and with two men if you’re on the men’s team.
With a quarter mile to go they broke up. We barely passed them at the end.
After we caught our breath the women advised us that it didn’t count. “The real race is in November,” they said. “When we have all our strong riders.”
“What was this?” I asked.
“Just a little warm-up. To let you feel good about yourselves.”
I don’t know how good I felt. My legs just ached. It was, however, one of the most fun rides I’ve done in ages, seasoned with plenty of spicy smack. I tried to keep my mouth shut, which is hard. November is way too close.