The smell of blood, sweat, and fear thickens the air. The scent drove the A1 wolves into a mad frenzy. The pack rode faster on SART, nipping at each other's tire and following the alpha wolf The Animal. The Animal let out a blood-thirsting howl and chases down the A2 “gazelles” even faster. The A2 group, sensing that the predators are near, rode faster and their pack started to break apart. The slower and newer A2 riders started to fall off as gaps opened between riders. These newbies riders were immediately swallowed whole by the A1 and their carnage spat out as road kills on the back. Then the unthinkable happened... The A2 "gazelles" turned around, stood their grounds, and prepare for the oncoming fight with the A1 wolves!
E-mail sent out mid week, and the A2 Road Captains are in sync on the plan of attack. Sacrifice the rookies and newbies first, confuse the A1 wolves with the Posties and Tandems attacks, dazzle them with Rock Racing, and then finally tear out their bike guts by the A2 Road Captains. This was going to be the ride that the A2 would take back the roads from the A1. The A1 numbers have dwindled significantly the last few months: first Dashaan is out with a broken ankle, then Mad Dog received over 30 stitches to his face as he did a faceplant with the ground, next it was Fed-Ex and Nic out and busy changing diapers, Ironman partying in France, and then finally Big H out with a broken collar bone in a 36 mph collision. There are not much of the A1 guys left, but those who are left are still some of the strongest and dangerous riders.
But the A2 riders have the sheer number though, plus brand new recruits had showed up to strengthen the A2 pack. First we have a cute gal named Tina, whose longest ride has been a 24-miler on a beach cruiser. Then we have Loc, a quiet guy and whom I did not get a chance to talk with much. Both of these folks were sporting brand spanking new Pinarellos and are committed to riding with the VeloViets.
Also added to the pack we have Kirk, a very nice guy who have been out of riding for a while, and are trying to get back into biking shape. Then we have Steve, a local OC rider who discovered the VeloViet’s Blog, had read all about our epic rides, and was extremely excited when he contacted Toan by phone. Steve rode a Cervelo, sporting Lightweight wheels, and these wheels were the topic of discussions on the way down to PCH.
Photo #1 - Planning the Route at MSP
Southern California has been in a heat wave. The day is expected to be hot, in the 90s degrees F, and with much anticipation that it would only get hotter as the battles unfold on the roads of OC. About 40 riders showed up, of which only 10 of those are the A1 riders. It is obvious that the A2 riders totally dominate this pack in numbers.
Sporting a double paceline, the VeloViets made their way down on Bushard. The Animal and Greg took to the front first, then it was Sang and I, next Tuan and Duc, followed by Ngoc and Julio, and finally Cap't and myself again. Somewhere in the middle of this stretch, we picked up Dave and Billy P and the pack grew. The pace of the front group broke the pack into pieces, but all arrived safely to the first stop on PCH.
Photo #2 - Double Paceline on Bushard
Though lacking in numbers, the A1 riders made it up with a ferocious attack on PCH. Only a handful of riders were in this A1 pack: Animal, Gear, Warrior, Luke, Greg, Steve, Duc, Sang, Cap’t, and I. The relentless attacks broke apart even this front pack, and Nic, Greg, Animal, and I made it onto the Newport Coast hills first.
Wolves hunt together, but they also are wild vicious animals who will turn upon each other when the smell of blood is near. Knowing we got a gap with the rest of the A1 crew, the four front riders pounced on this hill like wolves on bunny rabbits. Nic and Greg drove the pace hard, with Animal and I following.
Three quarter of the way up, Luke and Steve came waltzing by. These guys must have been outputting unbelievable power to catch up to us. These six riders drove the pace all the way up to Star Crest. Here, we heard a rider that just come up and he was gasping deeply for air.
It turns out that rider was Cap’t. Mind you, I have seen Cap’t worked hard before, BUT NOT THIS HARD. The guy looked like he just stepped out of a shower as he was completely drenched in sweat. This was an amazing display of pure raw power as he must have put out outrageous wattage in order to catch up to the hard-charging six. We all slowed down and let the remaining A1 riders come up. The pack made it to the second rest stop at Circle K. Around 15 minutes later, the A2 folks showed up.
After a short rest, the A1 pack took off and the charge back was hard. The road on 133 Highway was full of cars, blinding the A1 riders as cars and a mountainside on both sides narrow the riding path to a little more than a 3-foot section. My eyes can see nothing, only a mad confusion of cars on one side and rocks on the other side, as we blindingly follow each other. Occasionally down the narrow pipe came orders frantically shouted to watch for rocks on the grounds, or to look out for overhanging branches from trees on the hillside. We finally made it safely to PCH.
Half bent over my bike, I took in large breaths of oxygen to prevent myself from the verge of falling into the bonk zone. Luckily for me, the mad dash down 133 Highway broke loose Animal and Steve so we had a moment to compose while we waited for these two riders. Once arrived, we took off on PCH towards Huntington Beach.
The first attack quickly came as the A1 riders used their bikes as weapons of mass destruction. Even after we communicated that we should spin up slowly from each stops, this agreement was quickly broken as Duc took the first 29 mph acceleration to free himself from the pack. The remaining riders quickly responded as no failure can be accepted by the group. Halfway through the PCH stretch, we caught up to the A2 riders, whom had taken a short cut to skip the longer 133 Highway section, and quickly pass this group. We regrouped at the entrance of SART.
Photo #3 - The VeloViet Pack on SART
There is an old saying that weakness compels strength. When the A1 Group charged by the A2 folks, something primal flooded inside these A2 riders and it gave them the strength to attack back the guys whom have seemingly beaten them on every Sunday’s rides. On SART, it was the A2 Road Captains Long and Toan, along with A2 riders Thang and Sang, who were the most animated. They immediately charged into the A1 Wolf Den, tore up the A1 pack, and leaving bike tire marks on the A1 bodies as they made to the front of the pack. This attack immediately left about half of the riders behind as the pace picks up.
This smaller pack was going hard, and we descended into a large crowd littering one section of the SART. The crowd must have belong to some fraternity and sorority house. Seeing us riding so hard, their bodies already fueled a large alcoholic diet, they broke up into roaring approvals cheering us on. It was as if we were riding a Tour de France mountain stage and we were cheered, and doused by beer, by about a hundred drunken men and women on the side of the roads. Just like Le Tour Baby!
Photo #4 - It's the Tour de France Fever Baby!
After the wooden bridge, the A2 Captains immediately resume attacking again with Sang. Nic and Luke, of the A1 team, were the ones who immediately responded, pulling along a small group. The fight must have reached high in intensity as riders were quickly spat out from the back. Thang and I were following behind, and by the time we reached the end of SART, we passed everyone except for these four or five front guys. The A2 riders, led by their Road Captains, had turned from running gazelles into a fighting wolf pack.
In both cycling and in life, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments that took your breath away. Riding with the A1 Wolf Pack literally “took my breath away”, and seeing the A2 Riders extending their claws, and fighting back, will make this ride one of those rare moments that I will remember. The A1 Riders will remember it too when the “gazelles” decided to turn the table, be out rightly scary mean, and jump the A1 pack!
Special credit and thanks to Tuan, who took the ride pictures, and to Billy P, who took the video and added the music. Thanks guys!