Anyone who rides in DC will be familiar with the 10am ride, and most of those people will be familiar with a famous/infamous local who we'll call "The Muscle" (partly because everyone calls him that). He's had some incredible race results even at the national level, but hasn't been on any of the major big teams. He'll show up for the Goon Ride on a TT bike and no one cares because he's on the front at a speed that no one can pull through. I've never seen him without earphones, supposedly it's Bad Brains and hardcore ska type stuff going on in there. Again, no one minds. His situational awareness and ability to respond, even with music cranked, are higher than yours.
So you meet up at Beach and Broad Branch for the start of the 10am, and he's never there, and you don't even think about it. One time a friend and I were so hungover that we had to exploit what's know as "the top burn." The top burn is when you use the previous night's still-present alcohol as fuel. The trick is to go fast enough to put some hurt in your legs and take some out of your head (pain being a zero sum game, and pain applied in one area means pain removed from another), which usually turns out to be pretty fast, but avoid going too fast because if you break the glass ceiling of the top burn it's all over and you probably need a taxi ride home. Not pretty. Anyway, we were riding a top burn out in the "neutral" section and this former pro woman completely unloaded on us about how some people like to warm up while we get out to Grosvenor. Totally, 100% deserved, but I think the bloodshot eyes that een cycling glasses couldn't hide went someway towards an explanation.
So you get out past Grosvenor and onto Tuckerman, and things get a bit lively. The timing of the Old Georgetown and Seven Locks lights is key; a red light at either means a bigger group for the first tough sections, as stragglers get a moment to recoup from the first challenges. Although it isn't always so, this ride can be fast as HELL. On a fast day, it's much tougher than most races you do because the fast guys are just taking huge swings. Who cares? It's training.
So you've made it past Seven Locks and you're getting out towards Glen where it usually starts to get really quick, and then you remember that this is where The Muscle usually joins. And the first thing you notice is the hubs. His hubs may actually be responsible for my own hub fetish: a set of purple Chris King Classics, with plenty of spokes laced to some non-descript silver rims, likely an Open Pro variant. I see a guy on a bike up ahead, quick check to confirm purple hubs, and I know the game's on and it's about to get fun.
I neither give myself nor deserve much credit as a bike rider, but there was this one day... It was late summer, and time to drag out the cross bike. Since I wanted to go ride the Blockhouse Trails in Potomac, and since the 10am goes right past a bunch of trailheads there, I figure I'll get a tow out there with the 10am until I get dropped (because, you know, I'm riding on Grifos) and then go ride trails. Except I've got the biggest case of wonderlegs(tm) I've ever had, and I'm twisting the throttle on EVERYONE, including The Muscle. Who's pissed about this. Though we have one good mutual friend, we've never talked, and I get the distinct impression (fairly, as most do) that he doesn't like me. So to have me turning screws while I'm on knobbies? Not cool. It was fun. Then, just as we get done with the Esworthy false flat (the toughest part of the ride, in my opinion), I get a flat. C'est la vie.
It's easy to give living in DC guff for about a zillion reasons, but man the riding culture there is pretty fantastic.