October 28, 2012

Saddle Up

It happened that a fellow cyclist was organizing a group ride today, to support his fundraising for a Light the Night walk. It happened that he chose to send the group up Mt. Hamilton. And it happened that I had not yet climbed the mountain this month.

I will admit some apprehension. The climb? No problem. It was the descent that was on my mind.

As I neared the summit, riders were already streaming down. I caught sight of a pair about a mile from the top and ... where were they? They should have passed me.

I rounded the corner, having just missed witnessing the crash. One rider was down, off the road in a shallow rock-strewn clearing carved out of the cliff. "I looked down," he said, regretfully. "On a curve." Lying on his right side, his hand repeatedly probed a couple of his left ribs. His buddy pulled out a cellphone, and I wished that I were a faster rider to reach the group at the top.

At the observatory, bikes were being loaded onto the SAG vehicle to head to the rescue. I briefed them on what they would find.

The air was clear enough for a rare sighting of the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada. It was easy to linger in the warm sunshine on a perfect autumn day.

It was not so easy to banish the fresh image of a crash on the mountain.

How many more curves, how many more descents, will it take to get my groove back? More than 50,000 feet of climbing (and descending). More than 850 miles. More than all of that, to wipe out one single memory—fractions of a second long—the feel of my bike sliding out beneath me.

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