i got a phone call from an old friend yesterday, john m. wow, i hadn't heard from him in probably 4 years or so.
jm was my first real contact to the world of road racing. he had been racing for a couple of years already, and was pretty rabid about it, in his quiet way. jm was one of those guys that soaked it all in...he had respect for EVERYBODY who knew anything about racing and kept his mouth shut and learned from them all. he had a reverance for anyone with more knowledge than he had, and had a soft spot for anyone who knew less. he would go on rides with new riders and teach them what he knew, and go on mega-rides with riders far out of his league. he would never half-wheel a superior rider...that was disrespectful...and would wait for those who got dropped and didn't know thier way.
he took me on a ride one day, out conway road to mason...and dropped me on mason. i was on a borrowed road bike and shoes (toe clips) a little big for me. up until that time, i had only raced and ridden bmx bikes. he waited at the bridge over 270.
"sorry about that," he said, "i didn't know you weren't behind me." i laughed and cussed at him a little, and he dragged me home on clayton road and i thought i was going to die.
his bikes were alway immaculate. not a spec of dirt, yet he road for hours every day. waxed, polished, pristine. his road etiquette was always spot on...you waited at lights, you yielded when you were supposed to, you pacelined properly.
he'd humor me early on by doing sprints in forest park with me, me on my mountain bike and vans tennis shoes. i jump him by 20 feet, and he'd go by me at 30+ miles an hour after i'd topped out at less than 25. it was just fun for him...he'd never go tell his friends how bad he'd beat me, he'd just have fun and ask when we could go again.
and when it was time to go, he'd GO. in his heyday, after i had been road racing a few years, his straightline speed was shocking. intervals with john were like doing intervals with nelson vails...and johns thighs were nearly as big. he'd sit beside me for 45 seconds of a minute-long interval, and then put 6 or 7 bike lengths on me in the remaining 15. to me, he WAS power.
but john was a hefty guy, and hefty guys have trouble in the hills...or "heels" as he called them. because he would outride me in every other way, when i finally got my own road bike and became somewhat of a hill climber, i'd put the the screws to him. i'd put a minute into him out west, wait for him at the top, then pour it on as soon as he'd come puffing to the top. on short rises, i'd get out of the saddle and launch mini-attacks to break him down. i'd pick the hilliest routes i could think of so that i could have the advantage, sometimes riding away and calling him the next day to see if he made it home alright. he knew the way, didn't he?
it wasn't until later that i realized how much of an ass i was for treating such a graceful rider with such disrespect. i learned so much from his behavior, and put none of it into practice until years after i had learned it. i admired all that i observed, yet chose to grab a little glory by taking advantage of weakness.
that's something you do to enemies, not good friends. what i wouldn't give for one of those epic days in the saddle again, jm and i, riding to god-knows-where.