Tsali, our cat (named after the 2nd best mountain bike trail in the world) is on my chest. I’m pinned down like he owns me. He knows I’m not moving. A human kitty bed, I drift in and out of sleep. I finally caved after a weekend of cycling goodness. Periodically I hear the hostess at Eli’s BBQ a few blocks from our house announce over the PA that someone’s food is ready. The blinds are drawn. The ceiling fan spins. The cool leather couch soothes my slightly sun parched skin. I would spend the next ten hours like this. I showered, made a giant vegan protein smoothie with frozen berries, the cat saw his opportunity and I succumbed. At 8:30pm, I got up to buy a six pack of Bells Two Hearted at my wife’s request. The dude abides. The Bells was a cool reward for her MS150 and my impromptu weekend riding with cyclocross legend Paul Curley and friends.
Paul Curley hand-slung me. Wha? Huh? The multi-year Cyclocross 55+ Masters National Champion joined us on the BioWheels bike shop Saturday Morning Beatdown. He was in the Cincinnati area visiting family and called the shop to find an area ride. With gray hair peeking from his helmet, stars on his shorts and an old Verge CX series jersey, he pedaled stoutly on his small black Cannondale. His skin looks a bit weathered. His stocky legs have seen a million miles. I flicked my elbow. He pulled through. He can still pull his weight on the local racer ride. He rode smart, doing work when he could, sitting on when prudent. Periodically, like with any guest on the ride, I’d pull even and give him heads up about a particularly nasty stretch of road, an upcoming hill, or wicked descent.
|A Track Hand Sling|
On a rough winding farm road in Cincinnati’s Little Miami River Valley, a rider punctured in front of Paul and me. I coasted back to make sure the rider had what he needed for the fix. He waved me onward. Looking back and seeing me trying to bridge my way back up, Paul, the seasoned vet, drifted slightly off the back of the speeding bunch and extended a hand. “Is this really about to happen,” I thought. With a thumb up and the back of his hand facing me, this wasn’t going to be a handshake. This was a straight up Madison style hand sling. I took a few hard pedal strokes. With my left hand, I grabbed firm and he hand-slinged me within reach of an easy catch. He jumped in my slipstream. The group slowed slightly through a corner and we were both back on. I get goosebumps thinking about it. Yes. That happened, a legendary experience with a legend. I never expected to ride with him again.
“Is that Paul Curley? It is!” JBV Coach Chris Mayhew was wrapped up in the garage right up until the moment the group rolled out of Loveland. I was invited on this Sunday ride along with other clients and friends of the JBV coaches who held a clinic the day before. Chris, maybe too busy with coffee, didn’t catch that Paul’s sprinter type van was parked down the street. Paul had been planning on doing a nearby race. It was cancelled at the last minute, so he decided to join us. It wasn’t until we were rolling through the tunnel of trees of the Little Miami bike path that Chris pulled off the front, only to have Paul roll by on his right. I was no-handed on the back tucking my arm warmers into my pocket and saw Chris’ double take first hand.
The genuine excitement was priceless. The phone came out. There was a pat on the back, smiles, maybe a tongue in cheek muttering of “go back to the front I’m just a washed up old man,” and a moment was made. Later, Paul asked me what I did for a living. I mentioned we had met once before mud covered in the pits at the Masters Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville two years ago. He was just one of the bunch yesterday. We traded pulls up the long climb into Devou Park. To my left sat my teammate Jason, to my right cross legend Paul Curley. Surrounded by friends and clients of JBV coaching, the Cincinnati Skyline framed a scenic 4 hour 70 mile Sunday ride. If I had a bucket list, this would’ve been on it. However, sometimes it’s just as fun to make the most of opportunity and write the list as you go through life. It seems to work for Paul.