We had just finished the second climb on the Donut Ride up to the radar domes; J.P. had descended in disgust. I pulled up next to him at the water fountain, pretty pleased with myself. “Good riding,” I said.
He didn’t look at me. “How come you never took a pull?”
“Because I was trying to beat you. And I did.”
He looked up from filling his bottle. “I thought we were friends.”
“Is that what you were thinking the first time up, when you sat on my wheel while I pulled you up to the college, then attacked and dropped me on Crest?”
” … ”
“Or is it what you were thinking just now with me on your wheel, over-and-undering me all the way up to try and shell me?”
He grinned. “Aw, man, just having a little fun.”
“Yeah, the kind of fun that comes from beating my ass like a dusty carpet with a steel rug beater.”
“You could have come through at least once.”
“And given you the rest you needed to deliver another carpet beating.”
He started laughing. “I gotta do my best, man, I’m an old man, man.”
“Yep, and so do I, and so am I.”
“We’re still friends, right?”
“Only after the pedaling stops.” I was laughing, too.
J.P. pretends to be a nice guy, and off the bike he is, but stick a helmet and glasses on him and he is all business, the business of Beat Your Ass, LLC. And that’s the best thing about cycling, or one of the best. You give it everything you have to squash someone you actually like, and regardless of the outcome, after it finishes you are still friends, or at least on speaking terms even if it takes a year or so.
J.P. is fifty-eight in dog years, and he is no ballerina, which makes his exploits on the Donut even more impressive. His favorite tool for prying your lungs and heart loose from your legs is the ol’ over-and-under. It’s a tried and true method for dislodging wheel sucks on a climb, but it has its risks if you lack the legs to pull it off.
The over-and-under works like this: You have the wheel suck, usually several of them, and they are waiting for you to tow them until you tire so they can attack and drop you. These are usually your best friends, of course, and the outcome of their strategem, if successful, is horrible as you’ve essentially been ganged up on by your buddies and kicked to the curb like a dried piece of dung. Like I said, best friends.
With the ol’ over-and-under, while you’re still fresh, you do a hard jump and force the worthless wheelsucks to close the gap. Everyone’s heart rate shoots through the roof, including yours. Once they bridge, you stay on the gas for a few more pedal strokes so that everyone is good and gassed. That is the “over.”
Next, you ease off, way off. If they come by you to pull, then you grab the wheel and now you’re the one resting while someone else is doing all the work. If no one pulls through, (and if it’s me, I never will) then you keep decelerating until you’re at a nice, comfy recovery pace. You continue for a bit until everyone else has also gotten out of the red and they’re starting to think, “Hey, this isn’t so horrible. I can make it.” This is the “under.”
Next, you repeat the over.
Then, the under.
Then, the over.
Then, the under.
Then, the over.
Pretty soon you will be by yourself, either because you rode everyone off your wheel or because you blew yourself up with all that overing, including the part where you overestimated your ability to do them there repeated accelerations.
Generally, J.P. uses the ol’ over-and-under to great effect, especially on me, but yesterday I wasn’t having any of it, particularly after the rug beating he’d given me on the first climb, and because we are closely enough matched that I can usually hang on, especially if it’s the second climb. Another famed practitioner of the ol’ O-and-U is G$, who loves to take you up to 500 watts and back down to 50 watts until he’s done with you, which is quickly.
Of course when you’re the wheelsuck, the O-and-U also drains you mentally because you’re stuck there waiting for the piano to fall on your little toe, at the mercy of the front rider, not knowing when the Boesendorfer concert grand will come crashing down but knowing it will, your precious mental energy dissipating by the second as you await the preordained. So, like I was saying.
So much fun.
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