Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Riding With Intensity
Every group ride seems to have at least one true bastard of a human being. The kind where you mention the guilty party's name and a silent nod is given as if to acknowledge the shared experience of embarrassment and disbelief. Their exploits are often traded over coffee and biscuits on quiet Sunday mornings in smallish towns miles from home. They are stories that pique the interest of anyone with a heartbeat. More than the tired drivel of training ride slugfests (they're all the same) or how the latest masters race was won or lost (nobody cares). And while most of these miserable curs are vile and graceless, there is a soft spot in my heart for one of their kind. His name was Dave.
Like most of these types of riders, I had heard of Dave long before I met him. I had been fed a steady diet of Dave stories by the guys that rolled with him regularly. They had grown up with him. I heard how Dave was short tempered. How he once hurled his Gios Torino into a drainage ditch on it's maiden voyage because he had flatted his equally new Vittoria tubular. And, how he had thrown his water bottle at a guy as he was walking back to his Porsche after a heated exchange. I was still new to cycling, and young, so the thought of some older dude lobbing water bottles at cars and creating controversy intrigued me.
My first ride with Dave was memorable because it marked a number of firsts for me. It was the first time I had ever ridden with more than three people. It was the first time I had ridden over 60 miles. It was also the first time I witnessed a "Dave Explosion". True to the tales I had heard, Dave was short of temper and sharp of tongue. I admit that the sight of Dave spewing venom at the older couple in the Oldsmobile probably wasn't warranted, but it was a guilty pleasure.
I bore witness to many more blow ups by Dave in the ensuing years. Strangely, trouble seemed to find him much more often than other folks. Almost unfairly so. Throughout it all, he dealt with the vagaries of confrontation with consistent stubborn abandon.
Even in Dave's most innocent moments on the bike, he was not a rider. He was a fighter. He grasped his handlebars as if he were wrestling a steer to the ground. He never let an attack go without countering it. His sprint was a crazed image of furled brow, clenched teeth, and flared nostrils like a wild bull. He knew how to draft, echelon, and pull through. He was the consumate racer's riding buddy.
In moments of quiet, away from the hustle and bustle, Dave would morph into a personality that was reflective and almost poetic, in a gruff and peculiar sort of way. Profanities not withstanding, he was also very quotable.
Regardless of all the episodes of chaos, we continued to ride with Dave. Not because we couldn't escape him, but because he was actually a pretty damn good guy if you bothered to look beyond his acidic exterior. Dave had baggage and circumstances that most people have never had, and while it lead him to tear things down on occasion, he didn't let it destroy his bond with his fellow riders and friends.
Since those days, I've ridden with numerous other groups and suffered the low rent versions of asshole riders they cannot seem to rid themselves of. I've heard stories of many more and the idiocy they drag around like an anchor with them. It's not a common thing to tow the line and be a likable son of a bitch, but Dave was. He was the gold standard.