Last night was my second run with the boys on the TNWC ride. The warm weather had people coming out in droves. I bet there was 50 riders minimum. As I showed up almost an hour early, I ran into Lou and was invited to meet up with some people at Grounds for Celebration to hang out a bit before the ride. I figured it would at least stretch my legs a bit so I tooled slowly up there and hung out with a few people. We rolled back down to the ride start in lieu of waiting for them to ride by and hopping on.
A huge pack headed out around 5:45 from Bike World on Merle Hay. From the sounds of it, the night might get interesting as Kim all ready was telling a tale of an angry motorist incident. I think the nice days bring out the idiots in swarms. We roll off and pretty much right away I'm pretty uncomfortable with the size, tightness, and attitude of the group. We're just stacked on top of each other and while it might just be my inexperience with racing, it seemed to me that it was a bit over the top. I know you have to stay close to draft, but the surging and slowing just seemed like it was begging for people to run into each other. I know I almost tagged a rear wheel and I was paying careful attention.
I made it to the top of the first sprint hill with the group and then lost it again. The problem is I hit almost my max heart rate (194 last night) by the time I crest the main hill and then we have a false flat all the way into Ankeny. I just can't get my heart rate back down enough to get any recovery in and by the time I do, the group has long since pulled away. So, as a repeat of the first ride, I was again first off the back of the group. At least this time a few others were spit out pretty close to the same time and I could keep my sites on them. Emily and Maria from Punk Rock Cycling were two of them and I caught them as we rolled into Ankeny. I figured it would be best to work together with them so we started trading pulls. One other rider showed up and we jumped on his wheel again working together to trade off. About that time we noticed the main peleton had stopped on the road about a mile north of town.
I was wondering what was happening and why they had stopped. The realization quickly set in that there was most likely an accident where someone was pretty hurt for the whole group to stop like that. Sure enough, as we rolled up and came to a stop, there were a few people gathered around a rider in the ditch. The bits and pieces I gathered were that the group antics from earlier had continued pretty much unabated and the result was predictable. A few crossed wheels, someone went down, and others were collected. There were some torn clothes, a bit of road rash, and a few minor looking cuts on a few guys, but the brunt of the crash fell on Kelli from Punk Rock Cycling. She appeared to have landed mostly on her left cheek and had a pretty good contusion from what I could see. Emergency services were called and seemed to take forever to show up. Amazing we were only a mile outside of town and I think the total time to get there was in the neighborhood of 10-15 minutes. Definitely too long in my book. Kelli got a one way ticket to the hospital and I haven't heard the final outcome. I'm not one for prayer, but she was definitely in my thoughts for the rest of the night and will be for a while. I hope she heals fast and is back on the bike very soon.
After the ambulance showed up, a few stayed back with Kelli, but the rest of the group took off in two main packs. I headed out with the second pack and got blown out another mile down the road with another rider. I tried to keep pace with him, but slowed and he pedalled off as well. I focused on keeping my heart rate in the 180-185 range and pegged it for the next hour. I could always see a rider or two out in front of me, but they never seemed to really get any closer. Finally, as we came back into the north side of Johnston, I was about to roll up on a couple guys. Of course I managed to catch a red light and they rolled off again. A few lights later though, my luck changed and I caught up. They were rolling a pretty leisurely pace cooling down as they headed back to the start. Good thing as I was out of gas by then. Another Tuesday night in the books.