The rest of the day becomes a blur. The next quarter, between the first and second rest stops, I ride with Jay - mr.slim, the narrowest man you might ever meet. He can climb, but to get through the next 24 miles, he stays on my rear wheel.
At the second rest stop, Erin isn't there. She's lost somewhere in the farmland. Jay and I leave together.
Then it gets hard.
The wind picks up. The wait at the first rest stop assured that there would be few chances to ride with any group. I'd hoped that Jay could take the lead, but his lean frame is only making it worse for him. He falls further and further behind. A couple times I stop and wait for him.
I'm in the drops trying to minimize the blast of wind. But I can't stay there for too long, I can't open my chest enough to breath fully. I turn off the speed display on the computer. I don't want to know that I'm only going that fast. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Just keep the legs moving. The road is turning, the wind... is still there. Another turn...the wind is still there. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Whose idea was this f-ing ride?!?
A trio catches me and starts to slip by. With a push I grab on. This is what I wanted. We hum down the road trading the front position. I look back. Jay is a speck.
A stop sign. A right turn. I'm at the rear of the group. They shoot right through. What are they doing?!?! This isn't a race track. There's real traffic on these roads and we've been warned repeatedly that the local Sheriff's office is prepared to ticket riders. I don't want to completely abandon Jay. I stop and wait as they pull ahead on the road.
This new direction, for the first time in a number of miles has us riding without any wind. Jay tells me to go ahead. I can still see that group and like an idiot, I try to catch them. I start hammering. The gap is shrinking. I push harder. I'm in the drops. I'm standing. I'm doing everything. Fuck the rest of this ride. All I want is to catch this group. My lungs are on fire. The gap is shrinking fast. They're just right there, not even a 1/4 mile ahead. C'mon, you can do it.
No, you can't. A little wind and you're done. Spent. Burnt. Ashes. An idiot.