Too Long in the Wind

When I looked over at the thermometer this morning I knew what to expect. The cold front that had come through yesterday had dropped the temperature down to around 52F, but I knew that wasn’t going to be the real problem. When I stepped out the door the sound of rustling dry leaves confirmed my expectation.  There was a cold stiff wind blowing at 15-20 mph out of the north-northeast, which meant that the ride along the lakefront would be an hour and a half of white-knuckle echelon practice. SurpWhen I looked over at the thermometer this morning I knew what to expect. The cold front that had come through yesterday had dropped the temperature down to around 52F, but I knew that wasn’t going to be the real problem. When I stepped out the door the sound of rustling dry leaves confirmed my expectation.  There was a cold stiff wind blowing at 15-20 mph out of the north-northeast, which meant that the ride along the lakefront would be an hour and a half of white-knuckle echelon practice. Surprisingly, there was a fairly good turnout as the group started out to the east along Lakeshore Drive. The wind was actually from the north-northeast, so in addition to the gusty crosswind there was a significant headwind component as well. Aside from a small group that had rolled off the front at the start, the main group stayed together out to the loop at Seabrook.  Once we started back to the west, however, the pace ramped up quickly as the tailwind started to kick in. The problem was that there was also a huge crosswind, so the eschelon immediately spread all the way across both lanes, and probably into the oncoming lane if I had to guess, which I do since I was doing my best to stay near the front. Somewhere around Franklin Avenue I heard a pickup truck behind is just laying on the horn.  I didn’t have to look back to know what was going on. I’d been hanging on for dear live as the rider at the front was motoring at 28 mph, looking back every now and then, apparently to see if I was still there. The commotion with the pickup truck must have forced riders out of the draft because soon there were just three of us.  I took a short pull and then eased up a bit as Daniel rode past along, mumbling something about people riding like assholes in the crosswind. I latched onto his wheel and found the sweet spot with my front wheel about even with his bottom bracket.  I think I probably spent 90% of the rest of the ride pretty much in that same position. By the time we got out to the bike path in Metairie there were only a few of us left.  A couple of riders were way up the road somewhere and soon we caught Howard who got into the group and periodically pulled past everyone in futile attempts to either increase the pace or just increase the general level of suffering. I don’t know what happened to him after we turned around out by the casino boat because he wasn’t with us on the way back.  Most of the way back I was glued to Daniel’s draft. He spent most of the time on the front.  Every now and then Brian, who had been in that lead group earlier, would come past and give him a break.  At one point we tried rotating through but taking short pulls was way more painful since you’d end up out in the wind so long while dropping back and then you’d have to accelerate again to get onto the wheel of the last rider (there were only four of us). We ended up reverting to Daniel and Brian doing most of the pulling. When we finally turned south to head back home it was a huge relief, but within ten minutes I started getting really cold.  For one thing, it’s always a little warmer along the south shore of the lake, and for another, we had slowed down and the combination of the cold temperature and damp clothing started getting uncomfortable.  All I could think of was the hot coffee I hoped was waiting for me at home.

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