Pearson says there’s no way he said, “Thanks, Brad,” but somebody did . . . and it came from his direction . . . and he demurred when I offered to go back into the story and rewrite the scene in such a way that the narrator — me — hears the thanks but isn’t sure who says it . . . which leads me to think maybe he said it but prefers to be associated with a more colorful ride-ender: “Adios motherfucker,” which in the vintage days was a popular so-long among U.S. pros when someone was about to get dropped from a break. (The saying was born from the letters of jersey logo of a big team sponsor at the time, AMF.) I think either is a suitable send-off
The group had shattered all over Indian Creek Road, Steve and Yozell and Animal and Brad already past the rise to the three-town-sign sprint we call the Trinity and vanished into its far side, me closing the door on the group and just now gasping up onto the first degrees of the slope after swinging off my leadout, and somewhere in between the other seven of us out there in the sunny frigidity of one more February lunch ride.
At Allen Street as we started to come back together Kim arced off into the right turn and said, “Bye. Thanks.” Kim has a bunch of junior national and worlds medals, some of them gold. She got ran over by a tractor-trailer last summer.
“Thanks,” someone said, maybe Matt. He brews his own beer. Just got a new Van Dessel. Someone else said, “So long. Thanks.” I said, “Thanks for the ride, Kim.” Jim nodded thanks her way. There is a companionable stillness about him on a bike.
Some of us vaulted the wall up to Cedar Crest, and some of us geckoed up it, and some of us like me were looking around to see if anyone had set in new handholds. We made our way across the busiest street of the ride and came full together at the high school and turned onto Macungie reliving the sprint and starting to talk about lunch. When we all turned left onto Ridge, Brad said, “Thanks everyone,” and went straight, off toward his office.
Ray said, “Thanks, Bradley.” Ray just quit his job, became a father, started riding again after a busted year. Pearson said, “Thanks, Brad.” And Beth and Yozell and MF and Matt and I said “Thanks,” and someone else somewhere in there said, “Thanks for the ride.”
At Sixth, Yozell and Animal gave up trying to talk anyone else into going out for more so they coasted beside each other and looked back before pedaling away and said, “Thanks,” and “Thanks for the ride,” and we all said it to them. MF and Ray and Matt peeled off into the parking lot of the Bicycling office and in a tired chorus thanked everyone for the ride. I rode down Sixth toward the convenience store to get an energy drink for lunch, and slowed as Jim and John came up behind me. They still had to ride all the way back to the Oley Valley. “Hey, thanks for the ride,” said Jim, and John said, “That was great, thanks,” and I said “Nice ride, huh? Thanks for coming.” I’d never seen John before.
At the stoplight I caught up to Beth, who was riding home up the hill and we clicked out and watched a train blur across the road a block up, and I said, ‘Thanks for the ride.” She said, “Yeah, thanks.” The light turned green.
Every ride I’ve been on has ended with the epitaph of thanks. The top level of professional racing is a disaster and a joke and a disgrace. Cycling itself — it’s as great as it ever was, as great as it will always be.
Originally published in the February 1, 2008 Sitting In