A “Hey, Don’t Forget to Buy Stuff” Note from Fatty: Today is day two in the 2012 Fat Cyclist pre-order. Check out yesterday’s post for details on everything that’s out there, and go to Twin Six to do your ordering. Thanks!
You know what the most important difference between events and races is? Easy: I can sleep before events.
Which means that the morning of the ride, I slept right through the night and into the morning, ’til the alarm went off. Soundly and happily.
You know what? I like events.
Then The Hammer and I got up, went down to the lobby, had a leisurely breakfast with other Team Fatty members who were also getting ready. Thanks to some good advice in picking out a hotel, we had just a few minutes bike ride to get to the starting line.
At which point, thanks to who we are and what we’d done, we could go straight to the front of the line. Where we had a date with a photographer.
We continued getting ready and a comfortable, leisurely pace. Until I had the bright idea of looking at the time. We needed to be at the starting line in five minutes. Oops.
A quick scramble got us there, and I rolled my bike up to the front, where the photographer had already begun taking pictures.
“Hi there,” I said. “The Award-Winning Beloved Internet Celebrity Blogger is here. You may begin photographing in earnest now.”
And he got some good shots. Here’s Team Fatty looking happy:
And here we are, flexing our massive muscles:
We Shall Not Be Out-Chanted
After the photo session, we had half an hour to stand around before the start. During this time, an outrage occurred: A bunch of kids got in front of our place in the line. As if they were somehow more important than we.
OK, actually they were the kids from Texas 4000 — a group of college kids working their way from Texas to Alaska, spreading cancer awareness and raising money along the way. So I’m going to give them a pass on being in front of us, I suppose.
But then they had gumption — those wacky kids — to huddle up and do some kind of raucous cheer, leaving Team Fatty looking rather quiet and . . . ummm . . . cheerless.
Panicked, I looked back and saw Mike Levin (shown here with Stanley Tucci at the awards dinner the night before), the very first Team Fatty member in the history of the universe (yes, even before me). “We need a cheer!” I yelled at him. “Now!“
Without a moment’s hesitation, he yelled, with the emphasis and gusto that can come only with utter conviction,
Immediately — and with the zeal of true believers — we all took up the chant. All 50+ of us. That’s a lot of people affirming their love of pie. When we finished, the announcer observed, “I’m pretty sure Team Fatty would like some pie.”
Well put, announcer guy.
The Most Wisest Wisdom I Shall Every Give You
Just before 7:30, Lance got up and said a few words, in which he publicly acknowledged Team Fatty, not to mention how awesome it would be if there were no more cancer and LiveStrong headquarters could be converted into a pie shop (yes, really).
Team Fatty superstar Zeeeter caught it on video. Watch it:
Then Lance took off with his riding buddies — I don’t think I’ll ever understand or like the way he goes ahead of everyone like that — after which we took off, right behind the Texas 4000 college kids.
Evidently, the college kids did not expect us to attack them right out of the gate.
Within a mile, fifteen or more of us had formed The Big Orange Train. Within two miles, we passed the fastest of the Texas 4000 kids.
“So long, teenagers!” I yelled as we went by.
Team Fatty was in front, as was proper.
Except there was a flaw in our plan: We let the Chapek brothers conduct the train.
The thing you need to know about Matt and Greg Chapek is that they’re both strong riders. And they both love to take long pulls at the front.
The other thing you need to know about them is that if you let them lead you, they will totally take you off course.
Which is why about thirty or so of us took the first exit — instead of the second one — out of a roundabout.
Which, in turn, is why I got a chance to yell, “So long, teenagers!” to the Texas 4000 kids a second time a couple miles later.
The Orange Train (aka “The Miracle of Flight”)
As we entered the countryside, an amazing thing happened: a group of about fifteen Team Fatty riders — including a tandem! — just sort of naturally wound up in the same spot:
At which point we organized ourselves into a paceline powerhouse.
Here’s another shot of the Orange Train, which I’m putting in mostly because of the rather expertly-executed photobomb by the mysterious rider in the Team RadioShack kit:
Thanks to a flat course, a cool morning, and no wind, we motored along at an amazing pace — never dropping below 20mph. The Chapek brothers seemed to be making it a point of pride to have one or the other of them doing the pulling about 80% of the time. Which worked just fine for me, and The Hammer constantly effused about how nice it was to just get sucked along, soft-pedaling, at 22mph.
At least for those doing the 105-mile course, this was not just a flat ride. About 35 miles-ish in, the climbing began.
Some people called the climb “Cardiac Hill.” Which, frankly, is a little bit melodramatic. What it actually is is a beautiful mountain pass with a moderate grade.
Steep enough, though, that our train broke up and we were left to our own devices. For myself, I was happy to have a chance to get off the saddle — I’m not used to that much in-the-seat pedaling all at once.
We hit the first turnaround point at 44 miles and then got to do the climb through the mountain, this time in the other direction. I wasn’t complaining, but I could see that the “2400 feet of elevation gain” in the official ride profile was going to be wrrrrroooonng. By about 50%.
Oh, and just as an aside, has anyone else ever noticed that when you do an out-and-back over mountain passes, the elevation profile always winds up looking like a demon? Like this:
The Hammer and I felt like we were having just an exceptional day, right up ’til about mile 60 or so. And then came an intersection that was not clearly marked. We made our best guess — that we should continue straight and start riding the 70-milers’ course, but before long we were second-guessing ourselves
And it’s amazing the way self-doubt saps your strength, your motivation.
We slowed way down, looking ahead and behind. No riders in sight. We became increasingly confident we had gone the wrong way.
And then Brent — a Team Fatty rider, naturally — motored up behind us, told us with confidence that we were on the right course, and then rode and gave us a big ol’ mighty pull.
Just what we needed. I tell you, Team Fatty are the best people there is (are?).
Let’s Finish This
At the 70 mile aid station, The Hammer and I found we weren’t too far behind — or in front of — a lot of the original Orange Train riders. We regrouped just in time for a quick uphill and then 30 miles of mostly flat, which we dispatched at about 20mph.
Riding in a paceline is awesome.
As we rode, our paceline grew. Like a bike-based Katamari ball or something. Mostly folks would just absorb right in and become good citizens on the train.
There was one guy, though, who I think had never been in a paceline. Or perhaps he was a slow learner. In any case, he would ride in the back of the train most of the time, resting. Fine, he wasn’t the only one doing that; we didn’t mind passengers.
What was weird, though, was that every once in a while, he would attack. Just pull out of line and ride his lungs out, ’til he popped and had to slouch to the back of the train again.
Maybe he thought that one of those times his solo breakaway would succeed and he’d reach escape velocity? I dunno.
Meanwhile, the train chugged along. Matt C was no longer part of the ride — he had discombobulated and was riding a slower pace to the end — but his brother Greg still did about 50% of the pulling. Dude’s a total workhorse.
And then, just a couple miles before the finish line, we caught up with Angie.
The very same Angie who had organized the Team Fatty get-together at the Hall of Fame on Friday night.
The very same Angie who had taken upon herself the task of bringing The Hammer’s and my borrowed bikes from Santa Rosa.
The very same Angie who is, quite possibly, the nicest person in the world.
So you can imagine my shock when, when she saw us, instead of riding in together as a big Orange Train of Solidarity, she attacked. Hard.
I tell you, people have entirely different personalities on the bike than they do the rest of the time.
And Now for the Part You’ve All Been Waiting For
In the prior three LiveStrong Challenges I’ve done, I’ve always hung out at the finish line, congratulating Team Fatty folks as they finished. This time, though, I changed the tradition, and for good reason: David had brought pie. Like, 20 of them. All sitting there in the tent.
Furthermore, Roger W’s son Spencer had brought over a couple ice chests full of drinks. And some chips.
Therefore, I did the smart thing and changed clothes, went to the tent, and ate pie while talking with Team Fatty for the rest of the afternoon.
What did we talk about? Everything. Nothing. We were all over the place. Just a bunch of people who hardly knew each other at the beginning of the weekend, but are all really good friends now.
Unfortunately, Yann didn’t quite make it to the post-ride pie-fest. He had something more fun to do:
Dehydration and exhaustion had caught up with him at the very end of the ride. Sadly, by the time he had gotten out of the hospital, the pie was all gone. Sorry, Yann.
But really, what would you expect from a group of people called ‘Team Fatty?’