If you’re out on local scenic roads at the crack of day, you’re likely to see a posse of Crozet cyclists trailing slipstreams, winding like wind down the roads.
“Who’s riding?” goes their nightly sign-up call. Meet-up is at The Mudhouse in Crozet at 6 a.m. Home plate, arrived at after an hour and covering some 18 to 20 miles, is Green House Coffee, where they pull in and stop neatly, as ducks settle on water. They grin with exhilaration. Their toes still have spring in them. They feel alive on their bikes, and when their feet touch the ground again, they flinch and must get used to gravity.
They’re in snappy, slippery-looking cycling outfits they call kits. The kit the Crozet Cycling Club guys are wearing takes off from the Crozet crest, sporting an azure blue that seems to soar and, right at the wearer’s heart, a red medieval rose. The look is sort of classy. It was made by Cutaway, a local cycling clothing company operated by Phillip Robb, who is a cycling coach at Miller School, which has made its name famous in scholastic cycling circles.
At Green House, the morning cook counted the headlights as they flashed by and the right stand of coffees was waiting for the guys. Meanwhile they put by their bikes and compared notes on the ride. Their legs are pistons, with pumped-up thighs and drive-shaft shanks. They appear to be all splendid athletes and together they have élan, a zestful camaraderie.
The rides go out on weekday mornings, regardless of season. There are about five different routes to go on. Some are easier than others. You hit the chosen route. And after the ride, after the exhilaration of 50 mph down hills and the conquest of climbs, the riders split, go home, clean up, and go to work. Noah McMurray actually cycles to work in Charlottesville and from there home to Free Union every day. He’s logging something between 400 and 500 miles a week on his bike.
“It’s a great group of guys,” said Rob Allen. “I travel for work a fair bit and I look forward to getting home and getting up at 5:30 and getting on the road.”
“Jim [Duncan] has done a great thing for the community,” added Erik Hultgren. “It’s a very positive group. We stop and go back for people.” Duncan is the club’s founder; it has gone on to form an “easy riders” group, something like 10-mile routes for the less manically committed, and women’s riding group. Learn more at the club’s Facebook page.
“We’re just kids trying to stay happy and healthy, and racing each other,” said Duncan.
On weekends the club might take in a long ride, something 60 to 70 miles, such as down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Rt. 6 and back.
“This area’s hard to beat. It’s gorgeous. We stop to take pictures,” said Duncan. “We take time to appreciate where we are. Morning commuters know us because of our headlight power. We stick together as a group. We’re extremely conscientious about safety and sharing the road. We live here and we don’t want to piss off our neighbors.
“I quit soccer because I destroyed four joints, ankles and knees,” Duncan said. “So I took up cycling.”
“Knowing somebody else is coming out gives you motivation to get up,” said McMurray.
“You’ll hear about it if you wimp-out,” said Hultgren.
They are riding high-quality equipment, but they say the bike “doesn’t matter.” Most keep their bikes in repair themselves or ask a friend for help. “It will tell you when it needs love,” said Justin Beck.
The club has been at it for a year now. It started as a Wednesday morning thing and “snowballed into every day,” explained Dave Paulson. “It’s a remarkable group.”
“We don’t take risks,” said Hultgren. “We call out to each other about hazards and cars. There’s not a whole lot of cars at our time of day. It’s a peaceful time. We ride two-by-two until a car appears. The vast majority of drivers are respectful and safe and friendly.”
The group is open to new riders, but the club doesn’t want the group to grow too big, to get out of control, or become unsafe. “The start time culls the unserious,” observed Beck.
“It’s a good group—easy going, hard working, and friendly,” said David Vance, who discovered cycling last year. “Lighter builds are suited to cycling because there’s less weight to move. It’s a great way to get in shape.”
Their coffees done, they mounted their bikes and in a flash, like surprised birds, each sped off to his day.