One of the English guys - Jim Moverly - rode off the front today. He jumped away pretty hard, while all the Aussies and the other English guy were riding on the front. They just laughed. Don't worry about him, they said, he's just playing around. So we didn't worry. We rode along steadily in the afternoon sunshine, digesting our huge lunchtime pancake feast.
We rode like this for a few hours, with everyone rotating and sharing pulls into the usual headwind, and Jim was still away. I started to ask questions about him. Oh, he's hours behind already, people said. Had a flat yesterday, or something. Not a threat.
But every time an Aussie or James, the other Englishman, got to the front, they'd softpedal and the pace would slow. I was getting suspicious. I tried to get everyone else suspicious by suggesting maybe we should make an effort to bring him back, but no one was much interested. People looked downright cranky, in fact, at the prospect of chasing.
So I went to the front and jumped hard. I weaved from side to side to make the following tougher. I had seen videos of Eddy Merckx doing this when he would break away. It gets everyone into single file, so when a gap forms everyone has to work extra hard to get around the slowing rider and back into the draft stream.
I gradually built the pace for ten or fifteen minutes until I was going near my limit. John came around me then to take a pull. Awesome work, Henry, he said. Look behind you.
There were five riders with us, and I couldn't see any others, even though we were at the top of a hill and I could see for several miles.
Rod Evans came up to me then and explained that Jim had come to him the night before. He wanted to win a stage. That was his only ambition in the race, along with finishing, as he had already gotten down on time. Rod said he had agreed to work, along with his Aussie buddy Scotty, to help him realize this goal. Wouldn't that be something to write home about? Wouldn't that be something to tell your girlfriend, he said, that you had won a stage?
I see, I said. I wish you'd told me this back there. As long as he's not an overall threat, I don't mind if he takes the stage. But let's get him in sight before we back off and let him win.
Pretty soon we saw him, cresting a hill about two miles ahead. We'd better slow down, now, I said. There's only a half hour to go, and I don't want to catch him. It won't mean anything to him if we catch him and then let him win. We'll just cruise in behind him, and get a few minutes on the rest of the bunch.
And that's what we did.
That night in camp there was a lot of discussion about my fairing. I kept it in a huge cardboard box, but rumors were circulating about it. People said that when we got to the pavement I'd have an unfair advantage.
Chester Kyle, the race official, reminded them that the race regulations not only allowed, but encouraged any sort of human powered vehicle to participate. The only restriction was that the vehicle had to be powered solely by human power output.
Still, it isn't fair, since no one else has one, they said. I was flattered that they were worrying about it. I guess my attack scared them. Of course, I said, as an honorable sportsman I would not use the fairing to unfair personal advantage. If I am still in the race by the time we get to the pavement, I won't use the fairing to attack. It wouldn't be right. But considering all the work put into it by Steve Bruhn, Darryl Skrabak, and others who designed and built the fairing and its mounts, it also wouldn't be fair not to use it at all. So when we get to the pavement you can all draft behind: I won't try to jump away. It gives about the same advantage as drafting anyway, so if you draft behind me we'll all be putting out about the same effort.
That seemed to put them to rights.