When I became a serious roadie some two decades ago, part of the attraction to me was the shared adventure. Group rides that lasted 60, 70 miles or more through mountainous terrain defined my sense of fun. However, finding a group of guys whose idea of fun matched mine was a challenge; most of them headed home after that second hour. That is, it was a challenge until around 2000 when a subset of the riders I typically train with decided to focus more time on climbing the mountains nearby.
One of our number, a guy we refer to as a heat source, has served as a catalyst to drive our rides longer, faster and with more climbing. Unafraid to define someone’s masculinity in terms that would be censored from a Quentin Tarantino film, Sterno crystallizes all that the group itself is: from bonding us through our suffering to demonstrating our shortcomings with the stupid acts we undertake in traffic and the things we’re apt to say when the passions fire first, he is each one of us—only moreso.
And the guy is nothing if not stylish. From the Rapha and Capo Forma kits to the immaculately clean bikes, he’s more PRO in appearance and riding style than any of us will ever be. And in a way that only an alpha can, he is the first to remind you what’s cool and who has it.
So it is that Sterno is moving and leaving the nucleus for another set of mountains, ones more gorgeous and less hospitable. We kid about how long it will take for him to move back; I bet 8 months until his return in the pool we started. It gives us a way to joke about something we are all too sad to face full-on.
Sterno is that most necessary of ingredients. As the center of attention, he reduces each of us to supporting roles in his world, but for that we are enriched, for he can’t be the center of attention without the audience and we, his friends, never want to miss a moment. He keeps the rides together, strings them out and never lets them dull.
We’ve had our moments. I’ve said things to him I wouldn’t repeat to a construction worker. And yet he always wants me on the rides. Those flintier moments give our friendship an enduring spark I wouldn’t trade for gold.
So on this day of thanks, I express my gratitude for someone I simply can’t imagine riding without. We’ll miss you.