All for One.
SCOTT MACEACHERN’s name appeared on my phone in bold letters and I dove for it. 99% of the time if Scott called it was going to be something fun and also something I was most likely going to get in trouble for. This time it was to let me know that Lance was coming for a visit next Tuesday. Then he wanted to know if I could set him up with a training ride. I responded yes before he was finished with the question.
“How far?” I asked.
“40-50.” he said.
“how big a group?” Was the next question.
“keep it tight.” Scott responded.
“Tight” means a small group but more importantly, it meant strong riders and good bike handlers. No chaos.
That night I called 4 of the super juniors on our club and without telling them why asked them to meet at our normal team ride starting point on Tuesday. Be ready to ride at 9:00 am sharp. I told them it was “haute categorie” and if their parents had any issues missing school that day to have them give me a call. I would convince them.
It is important to know the characters involved.
Lance,... it is Lance.
Jim. Quiet, big heart, fun, reserved, organized, Time trialist and rouleur extraordinaire.
David. Big smile, brash, slightly disheveled, loved the long breakaway and making a race hard, would bleed for his teammates, always looking for an angle in everything.
Nathan. Painfully quiet, humble, smart, and the poster child for preparedness and professionalism. Crazy talented.
Graham. Graham is not a character in this adventure because he wasn't allowed to come thanks to his dad. That is another story.
Tuesday morning arrived quickly and the lads showed up in the exact order I expected them. Jim was fully dressed and riding laps around the lot on his bike. Nathan rolled in the same time I did and David flew in with his hair on fire with 2 minutes to go before 9. This was all ok because Lance wanted to ride at 9:30. We needed to be early but this gave us time to strategize. This was a talented group of guys who all had a variety of wins under their belt. Nathan even had a 4th at the Junior National Criterium championships. We all knew our strengths and weaknesses and came up with a plan. It was to be a quiet 45 mile ride with a couple good rollers and subject to the speed of our VIP attendee. The main focus of our planning was the final sprint. We always ended our team ride with a sprint finish and we wanted to put up a good fight.
A few minutes before 9:30 Lance cruised into the lot in a big black limo. The rear passenger door opened and he slide out of the back seat pretty much fully dressed. The trunk popped open on it’s own and Lance grabbed his complete bike out of it. As he slung a leg over he said “ya ready?!” As we rolled out there were a couple raised eyebrows at this efficiency and lack of introductions but we could do enroute. I rode next to Lance as we left the parking lot and it was on. I gave Lance the ride overview and checked to see if that was copasetic. Right in the middle of my description he interjected a question. “Where is the sprint?”
“About 1/4 mile down on the left.” I said. “That triangular sign is the sprint line.”
Lance eyed the sign as we rolled by. 100 meters later he looked back again. 100 meters after that Lance pulled off the front and twisted his whole upper body to lock on and memorize the approach from the other direction. This was going to be epic I thought. When Lance did that I exchanged a raised eyebrow with boys and they all smiled at me knowing that the sprint was on.
For the next two plus hours we rolled a nice 2up tempo ride. I rode next to Lance for the first 5 miles and we caught up and I asked what was probably an annoying amount of questions. I was pretty gassed by the time I swung off and gave Nathan a chance to ride next to Lance. He looked at me with wide eyes that said “What??”
“Get up here.” I said as I gestured with a swinging arm. Nathan rode up and spent the next 5 miles drilling it on the front beside the man. They were talking but we were going faster. It was David's turn next and I could see through his body language that he was like a puppy about to pee himself he was so happy. Fortunately, that didn’t happen but the reality of the pulling hard changed that focus pretty quickly. 5 miles later it was Jim on the front. He was more reserved but I could still see his smile from the back. It was noteworthy that our speed was hanging around 22mph(34kph) and Lance just stayed on the front with us rotating through. He had previously stated that “you get strong by riding on the front” and he was showing what that looked like. We all took our turns working hard next to Lance and were very happy to recover while someone else was pulling. The boys were riding comfortably elbow to elbow with Lance and respected my warning to not half wheel Lance even by a centimeter. If they did they would be responsible for the consequences. Either the grief he would give them verbally or his subtle acceleration that would have us tempo riding at 26 mph instead. I have witnessed him do that in the past and for self-preservation reasons alone it was worth the warning.
So we cruised at sub warp drive out and over Clapshaw hill and turned for home. The anticipation started to build and the occasional glance was exchanged between the 4 of us to remember our jobs in the sprint.
About 5 miles from home Lance asked me “how far till the sprint?” I told him and he inquired about my accuracy. I glanced at my computer and reran the math. 5.2 miles I said.
With 4 miles to go I got the same question. I couldn’t tell if he was annoyed by the miles vs kilometers but I kept at it. He kept asking for updates. We finally rolled thru through the last intersection and it was a straight but slightly rolling to the sign. I told Lance how far and he nodded.
Buried in my wording and emphasis was the signal to the boys that we were “game on.”
We had rotated thru according to our plan and Jim was on the front. He hit the throttle and we all snapped into line in exactly the order we had discussed. At about 500 meters to go David took over and ripped it at full sprint like he was leading me out. We were flying and at about 300 meters, 100 meters too early intentionally, I accelerated into David’s slipstream and went past under full power like I was going for the win. I looked between my legs and could see Lance’s fork blades dancing around back there. He had taken the bait and I dug in even harder. With perfect timing, Lance blew by on the right so fast that I just shut down. He was heading for the sign but what he didn’t know is that Nathan was locked on. From behind we watched as Nathan made his move and it looked like he pulled even. There was a bike throw and then they shut it down too.
As we turned right down the side road that connected us to the parking lot I finally caught up. I was still breathing hard.
I looked over and asked Lance. “So who got it?”
“I don’t know? That was too close for me to call.” Lance responded.
I looked over at Nathan and was greeted with the most amazing Cheshire Cat grin I have ever seen.
“what do you think Nathan?” I asked.
“Well,” he paused, “I think I would have to give that one to myself.” He said with mischievous glee.
I couldn't help but laugh out loud.
The 1/4 mile spin back to the parking lot was more subdued than I expected. We watched as Lance rolled up to the back of the Limo, chucked his bike in the open trunk and was gone. We were more than a little shocked. He was pissed. The boys and I stuck around and nervously laughed about what just happened but we still reveled in how awesome that ride was. They had run the leadout like clockwork and I was certainly proud of them for giving their all. Most importantly we didn’t do anything stupid or cause a crash.
Later that afternoon my phone rang and I picked it up.
“Bill Cass speaking.” I said this time without looking at the caller ID.
“You set me up?!” Said the sharp voice on the line.
“Of course we did!” I chuckled nervously. “When were we ever going to get that chance again?”
I can’t remember Lance’s exact words in response but he was amused. Slightly.
This memory illustrates one of the reasons I love cycling. We had a strategy that we trusted each other to follow and when the time came, we turned ourselves inside out to make it a reality. It was an “All For One” result we made happen. It is a moment I will never forget and I am certain the boys feel the same way.