Mike Labat/Erik Sundquist
Patrick Saunders/Max Simon
Winston Lewis/Darrell Tucker
Chris Sinclair/Steve Melton
Jamal Bey/Joao Nero
Special Invited Riders:
Major Taylor Central Jersey
Raul Medina/Jeremy Sundquist
(cameo by Pat Fudge)
and The Soul Train Dancers
“Hard Men” was a working title but in spite of the other titles that were vying for the honor, “Blade Trinity”, “Terms of Endearment” and “Escape From Witch Mountain”, I thought that Hard Men best represented the efforts of the gentlemen involved. The title actually sounds like a low budget war, male porn or penitentiary flick, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth save for Darrell Tuckers striking resemblance to Leon Kennedy.
The “hard men” on the race circuits are those that sacrifice their bodies and own ambitions for the good of their team leaders. It’s not a glorious position, but it keeps the lights on and Weetabix on the table. The hard men are the grinders. They are the fearless and the under appreciated, yet adequately compensated. We all rode like hard men for one another. Personal ambitions have to be somewhat tabled, for the greater good that which is survival.
I’ve taken several road trips throughout the country with friends and at some point during the trip, I wanted to bury them all in a multitude of settings, be them deserts, mountain passes or even in peaceful glens. The feeling has been mutual, so in the end it was all good. It’s simply the nature of spending long amounts of time with others. As a species we look to cohabitate, so long as there is ample “me-time”. In a pace-line lasting near 13 hours, personal space is at a minimum and if you do find yourself with an abundance of “me-time”, you’ve been dropped.
And We’re Off?
Our adventure started out with a bang or better yet a “pssss”. We flatted out in the parking lot before pedaling a stroke. On a ride of this measure, if one person gets a flat the whole group essentially has a flat. I ride 120psi because; I prefer not to drink lite beer. You fill your tires according to your weight and the terrain ahead. Darrell had a valve malfunction that was nowhere near as interesting as Janet Jackson’s infamous malfunction. Stuff happens. We mount up and begin our ascent through Sussex County. It’s 4:50am. We’re riding from a deficit already, but given a steady pace, should be able to make up ground, so long as we all stay within contact of one another. That task actually turned out to be easy given concurrent flats we tallied. It rained the previous evening, which as you all know brings out the worst in road debris.
Our maintenance breaks wound up substituting for our pre-planned rest stops. The master plan did not allow for 4+ flats before we could get a steady rhythm going. The roads when not our worst enemy were our best friends. Smooth and fast. We stayed on 206 south for a decent amount of time. We worked ourselves into a nice pace-line, surprisingly pulling into Kingston averaging 18+mph. Teamwork goes a long way. The climbers paced the group uphill and the diesels led the team on the rollers and the lower graded roads. All in all, we wound up pulling back time arriving only 30 minutes after we were expected.
The gentlemen of Central Jersey and Insuk, escorted us through their playground. We all hopped on their wheels in order to conserve energies for our final push into Cape May. The gentleman that Vernon is, asked me if 20mph was an adequate speed for escort. Not too hard, not soft, just right. We sadly wound up blowing our turn. The sun was shining and the wheels were spinning. Stuff happens. After rerouting, we started pushing pace again to make up for lost time.
The Kindness of Others
Steve found himself at the back of the pace-line when flat-city occurred again. As we barreled down the road, at the next intersection we paused and took a head count. Steve was roadside a few miles back discovering the true spirit of America.
Our SAG had missed his call for help so Steve was forced to self rescue. Some passersby stopped and asked him if he needed aid. They then loaded his bike into their pick-up and took him to the nearest bike shop. When he told us of his exploits, I had “Dueling Banjos” playing in my head with a cameo by Ned Beatty. Thankfully it didn’t play out that way. SAG made the rendezvous and delivered our our teammate back to us.
With a complete set of riders, we went back to what we did best; catch flats. In total we had I believe 8. We lost around an hour in maintenance time alone. You swim in the ocean and there’s a possibility you could find yourself on a sharks diet as either the main course or merely just the soup. You ride on the roads, you understand that flats do happen. In spite of air pressure loss issues, we soldiered on averaging just under 19mph for the entire trip. We worked together as a team taking pulls up front, keeping the pace high and being mindful of each others wheels. No ridiculous heroic efforts. Strength in numbers. Every rider was capable of keeping the pace at 19+. Our resting pace was 18mph before once again taking it into the low 20’s. Separation did occur towards the final 10 miles. Holding 20mph for 130 miles is a feat in itself.
In my best effort to cover bases missed last year, I forgot one very important aspect. We had no way to get bikes and men to the hotels. I informed everyone of this glitch about 20 miles outside of our destination. Unfortunately, the hotel was in 8 miles away in Wildwood in the dark, after riding for 218 miles. Compared to last years totals for me, I still had 15 miles in my tank to go. Pat Fudge had met us at the lighthouse and volunteered to SAG us back to out hotel. Pat’s foot must be cast in pure lead. We’re all pretty tapped out after essentially doing sprint intervals for hours on end, but Pat saw that we had more to give and paced us at 20+. Any ideas I had of drinking excessively had been shot to hell with my quads.
Mike Labat: Rode his tookus off.
Erik Sundquist: Great rider. It was a pleasure. “We want Jeremy!”
Patrick Saunders: Iron Rider not in name alone.
Max Simon: Getting it done
Darrell Tucker: Sarg!
Winston Lewis: Ol’ Sarg!
Chris Sinclair: No tears, just tempo
Steve Melton: True Grit
Jamal Bey: Age isn’t the issue, just the dark
Joao Nero: Relentless pace setter
Ken McPherson: Satisfied
If the stars align just right, the next story should be titled:
The Longest Day 2014