Ride reports

July ride report - Circle of Death

Written by Nico Kantore
DISCLOSURE: Some facts have been slightly augmented (or complete changed and are in no way even close to the truth) to protect the innocent.

Circle of Death

As the name would suggest, this is not a stroll in the park where you stop and smell the flowers.  This route is comprised of some of the most notorious climbs in the southern part of the North American continent.  Some are long and steady, some are short and fierce………and some are long and fierce!!! This day, weather would turn out to be a key player for the GC contenders and race teams as well…. ;-)
Absolutely beautiful morning!! Picture perfect and lots of cool fresh air.  I would try and name all of the usual suspects, but there had to around 50 riders there.  In the days of old, a MACC ride typical meant you would be riding with MACC riders and maybe one or two other non-MACC riders.  On this beautiful day, along with all of the MACC riders, a host of other riders showed up to come enjoy the fun!  It’s so awesome to be part of a premier cycling club! A club that is a staple amongst a host of great cycling clubs in and around Atlanta.  This group of riders could have chosen to ride with a number of other great riders on a number of other great rides, but on this day we were all together as one……..One Love.  A group of great people ready to enjoy a common passion together!
There was a kind of a tension in the air.  An eeriness that just seemed to linger amongst the smiles and hugs and laughs.  I looked around and noticed some of the familiar hammer heads……and some unfamiliar ones.  As I was pulling up, Cedron aka MEGADRON pulled into the spot next to me.  DJ Mapp aka Fridge, OT, uTube, Drew Jack, Yost, Macc Diva, Lori, Prez, D Webb, Carlton, Lil Jim, Larry P, Bo aka Trail Boss, Stephie and a host of other blood hungry group cyclist that were all ready to pounce upon the pedals!  So without any further delay, the pouncing was soon to begin!
As usual, Trail Boss ensured that the whole group was together as we pulled out to make sure we were looking our absolute best…….. all except for one unfortunate cyclist that had put on his MACC shorts and forgot his MACC jersey.  In my haste and excitement, I had mistakenly left my jersey on the couch and only had a blue mismatch jersey in my car. To my dismay, I put on my blue jersey and hoped that no one would notice……but they did.  After a firm reprimand, I ensured the Trail Boss that, although I did not look my best, it was my intentions to be traveling my fastest while not looking my best.  I would attempt to thwart all attacks….both foreign and domestic…. ;-) The initial pull out was very reasonable and all managed to stay together.  Oh how we laughed and chatted and caught up on old times and just enjoyed ourselves as we rolled merrily down the road.  As much as we were enjoying the early morning gallop, we were all very aware of the upcoming sprint zone and the initial HC climb, Mt. Ventoux.  As we approached, it appeared as though there may have been a truce called, as no one was yet attacking the sprint sign.  But as I looked back to my immediate left to see what was plaguing the peloton, a missile had been launched along side the peloton and was streaking past at an alarming rate.  It was the Birthday Bandit aka Lori that had attacked! I looked and was blocked in on all sides.  I called out “Lori on the left!!!” but it was too late……The Birthday Bandit had struck again.  The speed at which she passed was enough to make you say “I don’t really wanna chase that attack.”  First blood, the Birthday Bandit!! Immediately after the sprint zone was the first HC climb and as we passed the sprint sign, all valiantly flailing around for second place, the climbers moved to the front.  First on the attack, El Prez.  Not really a surprise (but not really much you can do about it either).  Kinda like when you are stopped and haven’t quite clipped out yet…… you know you’re about to hit ground, but can’t stop it from happening…lol. As Prez moved to the front, he was stamping out a vicious pace.  As he attacked, Torren, MegaDron and I responded immediately.  I was first on the wheel, and held on tightly as the looming storm approach.  The initial pace was brisk yet doable, but as we continued the storm turned into a Category 5 hurricane.  Hurricane El Presidente’ had come together as the perfect storm. Fresh legs, long climb and a naked F1 had proved to be to be too much for any cyclist to weather.  With Yost right on my heels, I was unable to hold much of a pace.  The initial onslaught left my hill climbing defenses tattered and torn.  Sensing weakness, Yost moved in gently and grasped the jugular, putting me out of my misery and out of position for any contention of 2nd place.  Defenses obliterated, I was fair game for approaching cyclist to easily pick off.  I dialed down the throttle to let the turbines cool and settled in recovery mode.  It was still early on in the ride and there were still a lot of battles left in the war known as Circle of Death.
To my delight, a rogue store stop was made.  This stop turned out to be vital in my recovery process.  I was able to catch my breath and regain my legs about me in hopes of claiming some other victories along the warpath.  As we regrouped, we pulled out and continued along.  It’s amazing to watch the dynamics of the group.  Best friends when rolling out, vicious enemies during the attack sections and then back to best friends.  After the first attack section, the pace became a little friendlier for a good distance.  I think we even made it safely to the store stop without any real hard attacks.  We enjoyed the store stop and proceeded out to finish off the rest of the day’s battles.
Next up, the downhill sprint and then the no pedal zone.  While approaching the downhill sprint we could see the pace picking up in front.  It kind of looked like an attack off the front, but it was hard to tell.  Looking a little closer, it was an attack off the front!! Larry P had started his attack very easy and not very noticeable and by the time any one could respond, he was well on his way to victory.  His attack went uncontested by anyone that was fast enough or close enough to be a threat to his spoils. While this battle was about tactics, power and pedal speed, the next challenge would be about aerodynamics and descending. 
PSA: While crossing a 4 way, the peloton was harassed by an ignorant driver.  We pulled up to the stop sign, stopped and then proceeded to cross.  As we were crossing, one of the cars started to proceed through the intersection and directly through the peloton.  As I watched, it appeared that he actually wanted to run the people over as hurried to his destination?!?!  Fortunately he stopped.  A dialog ensued and a heated exchange took place.  If you’re an avid cyclist, ignorant drivers are something that may be encountered from time to time.  While  the “we have the right of way too”, “share the road” and other statements supporting the laws that have been put into place to protect cyclists are good, at the end of the day, you’re on a 17lb bike and they’re in a 4000lb car.  It’s not worth it for both driver and cyclist alike.  If you’re driving, the 2 seconds you’re going to save on your commute is not worth sacrificing your kindness.  Just be patient and polite and the journey will be more enjoyable for YOU! If you’re on the bike, just move out of the way as best as possible and avoid engaging aggravated drivers. No sense in getting run over by a car or even arguing with an ignorant person just to try and prove a point.  FYI: THEY DON”T CARE! Your 30sec rant and rave is probably not going to convince them to be more courteous to people traveling about on bike.  If anything, you’re probably going to lessen their already low perception of cyclists.  Wave and keep pedaling.  Just because they show you how ignorant and mean they can be doesn’t mean you have to content the challenge.  Save it for Alexander Lake.  Or better yet, show them how pleasant and courteous cyclists are.
“Darkness can not be used to get rid of darkness.  For that, you need light.”
- Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.
On to the ‘No Pedal Zone”.  Having safely navigated our way through the stop, we moved onward to the next challenge.  As the peloton moved ahead, I quietly positioned myself for optimum performance during this challenge…..all the way in the back, tucked in the draft.  As we approached the white mail box, I even sprinted to make sure I had ample momentum to challenge for the finish.  As we entered the no pedal zone, I stormed past, tucked on the cross bar, coasting at a vicious pace. I easily coasted my way all the way to the front.  Victory close at hand, I smiled and got ready for the champagne bottles popping!  Little did I know, Yost was tucked tightly upon his more aerodynamic Cervelo Soloist and was rapidly on approach.  I yelled out in agony “noooooooo!!!’ as Torren easily breezed by me into 1st place.  While heart broken, I didn’t have time to pout.  There was still some hill left and I now had a draft in front of me.  This could possible be a victory move for me.  I quickly moved into his draft and felt myself gaining speed.  I held his draft, inching closer and closer to his rear wheel until finally, at the very last movement, I moved out of the draft for the pass.  I passed by quickly, in hopes that he would be unable to catch my draft.  And lo, I had done it!! First victory of the day!! I had won the no pedal section of the Circle of Death!!  Okay, so it may not speak volumes about my strength as a pedaler, but it was a victory non the less…….and victory enough to spark my hunger for another one ;-)
Next challenge of the day: The second HC climb of the day, Alexander Lake.
Before coming up to the climb, there is a nice downhill section.  As we approached the climb, OT pulls up next to me.  We begin discussing and he asks how I’m feeling about the upcoming climb.  I inform him that I’m feeling good!   I’m not sure about 1st place, but definitely have a strong 2nd place finish in me.  OT asks how I came to that conclusion.   I had been analyzing all day.  I honestly didn’t believe, after the brutal pace of the ride, that there would be many cyclists with enough oomph to contest the climb.  Not sure about how Prez is feeling, I think Torren is about done and I don’t believe Lori has the legs to get me.  Other than that, fatigue seems to be in my favor.  OT asks “Well what about me”.  I’m like, yeah…..okay :-/ If you know OT, you know he’s about 6’2, 210lbs and some change! Not really my idea of people that are gonna contest on a HC climb.  I politely replied, “Well you are here. You might be able to get me” (But of course we both know he’s not!)  So, as we make the left onto Alexander Lake, we head skyward.  And as luck would have it, OT is leading out the charge and has a slight break away!  We all quickly respond and the race is off.  As the pace quickened and the road turned vertical, it turned out to be I who had fallen victim to the plagues of fatigue.  Unable to hold the pace, OT, Prez, Torren, Lori and several others charged on out of sight.  Having fallen to another vicious attack, I again was in recovery mode.  I decided to pace myself and prepare for a 5th or 6th place finish.  Then, all of a sudden….ZOOOOOOM!!! Derrick aka “BeastMode” goes blazing by…..then MegaDron…..Stephie, D Webbs…..the whole peloton was zooming past.  Deep down in my heart, I wanted to pedal my legs faster, but was unable to match the blistering pace.  The whole group was riding like pack of crazed, possessed monsters! As we crested Alexander Lake, Prez, Torren and Lori enjoyed their podium finishes and the rest of us licked our wounds, getting ready for the next approaching sprint.
The next sprint would turn out to be an awesome match up.  As we approached the sprint zone, I moved to contest for the victory.  I figured if I timed it right, I could get up to top speed, thwarting any attacks and threats of anyone coming around me.  Cavemanendish v Yost.  This is what the fans have all been waiting for.  Confident in my strength, I didn’t worry about Yost passing me.  I wound up the speed to a blistering pace and held it.  This is the part where the pace was supposed to be too tough for Yost to come around me but in my peripheral, there was a cyclist coming up along side…..and….it kinda …..appeared that he ….. was …kinda passing me?!?! Wait, no! He was passing me!!! Yost was coming around!  I grabbed a couple gears and dug deep!!!! As I gave the Blue Competition Frame full throttle, the front tire inched dangerously close to pulling in front of Torren’s.  This could be it!! This onslaught of power may be too much for him!! I don’t know where he mustered the strength from, but from somewhere, there came a vehement surge of power that enabled him to hold of the passing of my front wheel.  Only centimeters away from being able to pass, but no where near close enough for victory.  For this sprint zone, again I would settle for a 2nd place finish.
As I congratulated my nemesis, I looked back and noticed that we were kind of in a break away….of sorts.  During the sprint, we had opened up a nice gap on the peloton……. Wait, we’re on stagecoach too!! Both weary from the days battle, Torren and I both looked at each other and it was on! If we worked together, we could possible ride off to victory!! We poured it on hot n heavy!! We made a decision to give it full throttle, 110%.  We might pass out, but we were not going to be caught by the peloton…..at least not while conscious.  With only one more HC climb left, we organized and got ready to try and hold them off.  Into the climb we headed.  At one point, it felt like our cleats were gonna rip from the soles of our shoes, but we mashed and torqued and clawed our way to the top as fast as possible.  We had done it! We had held the peloton off.  But wait…..off in the distance, we could see a projectile that had been fired off the front of the peloton and we were lined up for a direct hit! We braced ourselves for the impact of “The Prez”!  During the mêlée, the peloton had launched their WMD!  Our efforts to hold him off were futile.  It appeared the approach was malice in intent and I anticipated one of the most dreaded rules in cycling. “When you catch the breakaway, what do you do???  RIDE RIGHT THROUGH IT!”  As he made the bridge, Torren poured it on and Prez made an executive decision to the delight of all our ears.  “Wait up for Cave. Let’s work together”.  Now this I can do! I was dreading battling two of the fiercest opponents in the group and was relieved to know that now, I was to be included in the fierceness.  All 3 of us knew it, if we eased up just the slightest bit, we would be caught.  The peloton had its mouth wide open and was ready to devour us whole!  We pedaled on strong, each person pulling madly, only to hang on for dear life as the next person would come through.  Off in the distance, we saw a traffic light ahead.  Putting safety first, we patiently waited at each of several stop lights.  At the intersection of the store, we almost decided to cut through the parking lot, but opted against it, as not to violate the UCI rules of Group Riding.  Having patiently waited at the light, we made the right turn and passed, on the road, the store and continued on our path to victory.  With only miles to go, victory was nigh, even upon our lips it was so close, Prez pulls up.  “ I’m cramping.” Noooo!! We make the decision to let him recovery and finish up strong together.  Prez responds “NO! This is bigger than me.  If you two don’t ride to victory, then my sacrifice will have been for naught. You must ride to victory.”  At this point, if we waited, we would be caught by the peloton.  We could not sacrifice the breakaway victory.  With heavy hearts, we rode on with only two.  As Torren looked back, a tear formed, streaking from under the mirrored Tifosi lenses and gleamed every so brightly in the sunlight.  As it was swept away by the wind of our 24mph pace, we pedaled on and as I checked back, hoping….praying for Prez’s speedy recovery...... he was unable to.  Like ravenous wolves…..like a pack of lions descending upon a maimed zebra…..the peloton pounced without mercy.  Each one savoring the taste of the sacrificial cyclist.  I looked backed and cried out “noooooooooo”. But it was too late.  The soloist Prez, chase group 1 was no more.  In our favor, the peloton had been strung out thin.  While there were several in the peloton that were efforting to close on our breakaway, they could not get organized.  With dismay, Torren looked at me and said “You got it Cave, I can go on no longer”. I replied, “No no!!! We’ve made it this far, we have to finish strong. Not just for us….Prez would have wanted it this way! We can do this Torren!’  Torren, as he always does when the pressure is on, dug deeeeep!! We pulled it together for one last hoorah and one last effort to maintain the break for our fallen veteran.  The final effort turned out to be enough.  Prez’s sacrifice was that last little bit we needed to keep us ahead!  His leadership had raised the moral of the two breakaway troops to a level that motivated them to go ahead and stick in the dagger.  With Ga Perimeter closely in sight, Torren and I put the strangle hold on the peloton and choked em out of sight!  The victory lap around the parking lot was bitter sweet, Prez’s sacrifice lingering in the back of our happy hearts.
As the weary, battle laden warriors arrived, it was all smiles! Plenty of beverages, food and love to be had by all.  Some laughed, some cried but we did it all together!! Everyone sharing their own personal, embellished stories of the Circle of Death.  Enjoyment at its best, and love as a singularity. One Love.
El Capitan de Cave’ 
Tuesday the 16th. One Love
Copyright 2015