Friday, May 25, 2007

Ahhh yes, The Pack

Pronunciation: "pe-l&-'tän, 'pe-l&-"tän
Function: noun
Etymology: French, literally, ball -- more at PLATOON
: the main body of riders in a bicycle race

This is the definition of Peloton from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In reality, the short nine word definition does little to describe the drama that occurs in "The main body of riders in a bicycle race". Anyone who has ridden The Pack ride on Tuesday or Thursday knows this. The pack is a L.A. cycling phenomenon that takes over the Rose Bowl every Tuesday and Thursday at 6p.m. The scourge of city planners and infrastructure consultants the pack ranges from 150 to 300 people and circles the Rose Bowl 10 times for a 31.1 mile ride that takes about an hour and 10 minutes. At times it appears as though a spandex factory exploded in 1996 and its remnants circle the hippodrome, it's soundtrack a ghostly whir of rubber on asphalt, littered by occasional shouts from the peanut gallery. The Pack is like a soap opera at 30 miles an hour. There are friends laughing and discussing past rides and races. there are arguments, like lovers quarrels as shouts notify riders of various faux-Paux's they didn't know they committed. There are outstanding crashes, often caused by pedestrians or their dogs. All of this is to be expected. Everyone from beginning racers to seasoned veteran Pro's show up for the pack ride. You have a mix of every category of racer, from the lowly CAT 5 to the European Professional. It is this diverse and volatile brew of ego and ambition that makes the pack what it is.

What ensues when we roll out is controlled chaos. the strongest riders will jockey for position at the front setting the pace. weaker riders will sit on their wheel, while even weaker riders will form an elastic slingshot a quarter mile long that stretches and contracts as it rounds the circular course. Guys check each others pace, their peddle stroke, and how well they hold a line. Heckling begins as one rider can't ride a straight line, and threatens the last 30 riders. His drunken style infuriates riders as they expend high levels of energy to get around him, so as to not end up in what could be disaster. He wobbles off the back, no longer able to hold pace. He continues to slam on the pedals, though his efforts are in vain. the pack has left him for the wind, the destroyer of men. More will feel the Packs cold uncaring grip throw them off the back. In the turn of a corner one can go from protected rider, drafting off the efforts of so many others, to dropped lacky.

I myself have been on both sides. The first couple times I rode with the Pack I hung in fine. I was at peak fitness and the 30 mile effort wasn't too difficult. However, after an 8 month Hiatus from the road and a lackluster start to a training regiment with no immediate goal, my time with the Pack last night was short lived. I was able to hang on for almost 6 laps, getting dropped in the last corner of the 5th. I can blame no one but myself for being fat and out of shape. Although I sure would like to point the finger at the guy in the Orbea jersey who kept bobbing around like a drunken field mouse, sprinting, then resting, sprinting then resting; for my demise. All in All it was a great ride, because now I know where I sit. I know what I have to do to get to where I want to be. I'll be there next Thursday, to do 6 laps. Maybe 7.

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