A few months ago after one of the spring lunch rides, I was talking with a co-worker in the company locker room. I didn't know him very well, but he likes riding his mountain bike and he apparently tagged along on one of the lunch rides with the "lunch crew" last year sometime (I wasn't in attendance). He lamented that he was promptly dropped by the group before he even reached the trailhead. He told me that his goal for this year was to lose some weight and get fast enough to be able to keep up with the lunch crew this year. All I could do is sort'a nod and offer some words of encouragement... because I didn't have the heart to tell him that he needed to set more realistic goals.
I know that some of you think I'm a cocky jerk for implying that an average Joe can't keep up with our lunch rides, and perhaps for good reason. But I don't have any delusions about being particularly fast, and nobody from the lunch crew will be quiting their day jobs anytime soon to go ride bikes full-time. However, I think that most of the lunch crew would agree that the pace of the lunch rides has frankly gotten a little ridiculous over the past year. The days of having a casual lunch ride are over. Back in the good ole days, you could usually anticipate that there would be at least one guy show up that would help keep the pace at a reasonable level. That luxury doesn't seem to exist anymore. Nowadays, it seems like everyone in the lunch crew has gotten fast and can put the hurt on you.
These past few mornings, a chill has been in the air, and Fall weather means that lunch rides are about to start up again. Race season is almost over so uptight people (like me) won't be worried about ruining training schedules by throttling themselves everyday at lunch. Mornings and evenings will soon be cold and dark, leaving lunch as the best time of the day to ride.
During the lunch ride "off-season", I've been keeping an eye on the race results of the lunch crew. Gotta keep tabs on the competition, you know. A frequent visitor to the lunch rides just missed breaking 8 hours at Leadville by 5 minutes. Another broke 8.5 hrs on a singlespeed. Yet another took 2nd in his class at Tour DAY Park City. There's also a long list of good results in the Sport, Expert and singlespeed I-Cup races. Although these results are impressive, when taken alone they don't mean a whole lot. Because if you're being honest, the results that really matter are those where your name appears above your buddies' names on the results sheet.
Which is precisely why lunch rides have gotten out of control - it's a daily chance to put the smackdown on all of your closest pals. Each day includes 2-3 mini races, each with an unofficial start and finish line. The guy waiting at the top doesn't gloat... because it's not a "real" race. Instead, he dismisses the accomplishment, turning the focus on how the other guys will smoke him on the downhill. But everyone knows who the unspoken king of the day is.
So if you thought I've been training this summer with hopes of doing well at races like P2P, you thought wrong. No, I'm doing races like P2P and Butte as a lead-up for Fall Lunch Rides. I have a feeling that Sunderlage will be riding angry once he's out of his wheelchair and back on his bike. He'll be looking to make up for lost time by putting the hurt on the rest of the lunch crew. If your season doesn't revolve around peaking for Fall Lunch Rides, you'd better reevaluate your priorities pretty quick, because lunch rides cometh.
Oh, and if someone starts a lunch ride by saying "I'm going to need to take it easy today", you'd better be afraid. Very afraid.