The Last Gasp Of Durango’s “Tuesday Night Worlds”

by steve ilg

I arrived at BREAD, the traditional launch (and lunch) pad for many of Durango’s club rides, eight minutes early…which made me unfathomably lame.  The pro’s and ‘A’ riders who frequent this infamously hard club ride have an uncanny knack for timing.  A pro peleton never arrives too early, nor too late.  It’s an ingrained capacity whittled from countless, pained hours perched atop a saddle no wider than the width of a common man’s hand.   Pro road cyclists tend to gather in flocks (called, ‘peletons’), stalk in packs, and pounce upon all remaining visceral components of any breakaway within the final kilometer of any ride or race.   It’s just the Way of Things in this sport.

Clipping out from my pedals,  I turn my back toward a cold, whipping drizzle.  “Bad” weather makes no a difference to the hardened discipline of these riders.  Group leader CL’s traditional sign off to his weekly underground emails which etherally connect this Tribe is succinct to this fact of verve; “Shut Up, Show Up, No Whiners.” In evident, somatic testimony to my anxiety over  this cardio-flogging,  I realize my subconsciously puckered anal sphincter and attempt to relax.  Yet, as one after another 3% bodyfat human whippet in lycra roll up next to me, the puckering returns.  See,  Ilg is no pro.  Far from it.  My weekly hours spent on a bicycle are minute fractions of those who now swoop near, like so many vultures.  On this ride, a long-standing Durango institution, non-pro’s like ilg are barely tolerated before being consumed and eliminated as easily as spoonings of tepid gruel.   Though on ‘good days’ I may roll at the front of a B ride, here?  I am naught but fodder for the superhuman, cycling-specfic warriors which animate this ride upon carbon-fiber fierce ponies worth several thousands of dollars.  And it’s along our world-class ribbons of asphalt which lace this heavenly mountain hamlet that these expensive ponies and their devoted masters ride as if there is no tomorrow.  It ain’t pretty when an out-of-towner visits and attempts to mark territory within this peleton.  It’s a rabid bunch of rez dawgs, this group. They’ll eat your young without consternation.  It’s a not uncommon site to see riders soloing back to Durango with egogic tail tucked beneath their seat post after getting dropped within the first few miles of this ride.  Humble pie is copiously served  on Tuesday evenings.  For myself,  it remains a high blessing to suck the wheels of this elite warriorhood.

The rooster tail of wet grime immediately spits into my face as our  30+ peleton bolts north on East A.  Thirty plus!  Can you imagine that in a town of this size on a tuesday evening…in nordic conditions?   We live in a bike-crazed town, my noble friends.  The reality of this weekly cardio hell realm however, is truly an unspoken intimacy and trust among the constituents of this spinning city of pain.  There can be no blinders placed when the searing in the legs and torched lungs just makes you want do drop your head and huddle within.   Cars, pick ups (particularly white ones with trailer side-view mirrors), trucks, road debris, fatigued nerves, sudden flat tires, dogs, all of it makes instant grist for the mill of a hard crash.   The saving graces are the bike skills inherent to this group.  They are at such a high level that even the chronic exaggeration of subjective risks diminish the risks.  In road cycling, it’s flesh that monuments the line of an individual’s  learning curves.  The lessons come fast, hard, and sometimes with serious consequences.  Relaxed alertness is the eventual quality of any pro cyclist.  The polar and unpoetic opposite of the pro is the scared stiff posture of the neophyte cyclist which seems to seduce disaster.

Tonight’s ride is auspicious.  It’s the penultimate Tuesday Night World’s ride before  the time changes whereupon dark evenings make it impossible to ride at the 5:15 pm anointed hour for slaughterfesting.   Upon the time change, and again with impeccable timing, the peleton disperses from this holy grail of training like moths flitting from a lamp suddenly unlit.  Some local pro’s might turn non-local in order to spin the winter somewhere dry and warm, say Tucson or So Cal.   The non-pro’s?   Well, it’s been my wholistic prayer preached since the early ’80’s that cyclists use winter to balance their imbalanced bodies.  Switch up their fitness;  practice some yoga, strength training, indoor climbing,  nordic skiing, snowshoeing.   Most, however,  will not listen to such whole-some counsel and instead continue to warp their thoracic spines beyond recognition and tighten their hip flexors by their predictable spinning in circles upon an indoor trainer of some fashion.   The definition of a sport-specfic cyclist as being ‘fit’ is a fragile one, not quantified by genuine, broad-spectrum conditioning of a human’s physiologic capacities.   I once held a Cat 1/2 (semi-pro) Road Racing License when I lived in New Mexico.  However, after 2 months of eating, shitting, sleeping, and riding?  I easily left the dreck of sport-specifity as is my nature to gleefully regain my pauper status as an endless beginner in many sports, master of none…a sweat-based dilettante.  So be it.

The usual bullet-fast pace was intensifing…Zen-focused on the whirring cassettes in front of my skinny tire, I attempt to ignore the eye-blinding muck flung into my eyes. Elbows and handlebars horn in on me inches from my own.   We stampede our stallions through a rain-soaked, mist-shrouded shambala which is the Animas River Valley on any given evening.   Perhaps it was angst uncovered among the elite toward winter approaching?  Perhaps it was the unforgiving onslaught of wind, cold, and rain that just made everybody want to get home faster?  Whatever it was, the pace shifted from insane to inhumane.  For the first time this season,  I envisioned having a cup of hot tea after the ride instead of a cold brew as I spat out another mouthful of pea gravel chips pre-soaked by chain lube greased water.  Soaring over Bakers Bridge like a coven of crayola-colored witches upon their brooms, Hal remarked that his computer read an average speed of 31.5 mph.  31.5 mph?!  Hearing that statistic somehow eased the pain clawing at my cells, pleading for a reprieve from the battering.  The pain-easement lasted but a nano-second as the big guns up front again fired and surged, this time south – direction of home, over rollers, toward warmth.

Truth is pointless when it is shallow.  Courage that stabs deepest elevates integrity highest.  Tuesday rides are to me, like a great moving mirror which cuts through ego toward the heart of true self. They must, for me, be used wisely.  Riding a wave of sudden physiologic recovery sync’d with a perplexing, yet welcomed cresting emotional wave of gratitude for just being my age and still being able to be spinning Here Now,  I attacked on a timing roller.   Got a gap of several seconds.  Found myself off the front of one of our nation’s fastest, fittest, cunning, and historic peletons.   Such spontaneous, sublime moments of inner renaissance which rise imperceptibly like the Phoenix from within a lactic acid molecular ocean defines the vague, bold beauty of road racing.

I stayed off the front for what felt like a long time to my physiologic timetable.  Hunkered low in Time Trial mode,  I forced myself to believe 100% in each pedal stroke at a 110 rpm cadence.  In chronologic time?  It was  mere seconds. In spiritual time, however, it was a lofty, suspended realm flirting with eternity.  Soon enough,  a pro, MB, had had enough of my antics out front.  He leaped off the chasing peleton and came around my left shoulder like a surge of caffeine into a meditating monk.  I nuked the last of my fast-twitch fibers from my quads and glutes in an attempt to bridge…looking under my right armpit, the peleton was scrambling in disarray five wheels behind me.  Head down, I again went hard.  With only 2k to the finish line, that pro was not gonna come back if we allowed him a gap.    I dived into the guts of going even faster, of not giving up, of not letting that wheel go…pro or otherwise.  Glancing behind…still the flock quivered in the rolling wave of a wet thunder which I had stirred!  Ha!  Sometimes the dead can still dance!   “How stinkin’ fun is this?”   I heard a voice from within shout above the roar of my numbed limbs and heaving lungs and now pounding rain.   I’d been rampaging in Heart Rate Zone 4 now for what seemed like an eon…and I flicked my right elbow in repetitive chicken-like motion which in peleton morse code translates as, “Get the F*&k up here and help me catch this guy!”

Which they did.

Remember,  they always do.

And they tend to so with as much exquisite timing as do autumn leaves dance into the welcomed snows of winter.

At the final sprint, the “Welcome To Durango” sign beneath the X-rock climbing crags on 550,  7 riders finished in front of me as well as a hopefully long and luscious winter season before this sweet, scintillating pain of Tuesday Night World’s begins again…

and again…

and – Ilg prays – endlessly again.

Thanks to all of the amazing cyclists who choose to spin Here, Now.  It was an amazing season!   Hope to see you on the snow!

steve ilg, a Durango native, is a local yoga teacher, author, coach, and founder of www.WholisticFitness.com.

7 Responses to “KICKED TO CRANKDOM COME.. The Last Gasp Of Durango’s “Tuesday Night Worlds””

  1. py says:

    Beautiful, Sublime post.

  2. BB says:

    Love it!

  3. Leferisen John says:

    Get Em Coach!!!

    again and again

    no matter the conditions!

  4. Brad Gantt says:

    What a great ride story well told. And way to put the wood to ’em. Were they aware that you’re on PEP (Performance Enhancing Pran)?

  5. Johannes Gmeiner says:


  6. Roberto Crespo says:

    I had to laugh out loud after this gem….

    I’d been rampaging in Heart Rate Zone 4 now for what seemed like an eon…and I flicked my right elbow in repetitive chicken-like motion which in peleton morse code translates as, “Get the F*&k up here and help me catch this guy!”

    Flashbacks to my days in the saddle, chasing someone down, hoping SOMEONE was there to see my chicken wing.

    Beautiful writing Coach…..Namaste

  7. coach says:

    Precious Ones!
    wow! thank you for all the Metta! stoked that my suffering incited some inspiration!

    keep it cranked…within!

    oh, and Yogi RC; in all but my final drafts instead of “guy” i had “bastard” and even tried “sonofabitch”…but, since i know the guy (really a swell guy), i went with ‘guy’…

    head bowed,

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