The cast:

Jake "Jakobie" Buescher

Ryan "Diesel" O'boyle

Richard "Pretty Ricky" Arnopol

Austin "Reverse Breakaway Artist" Venhuizen

The Mystery Machine

The setting:

(Ver)dant (Mont)ains of New England, a land clearly settled by harder men than I....

Chapter 1: The Drive

It was late afternoon on Thursday, the 28th of August, when I got the call. "We're here," the voice on the other end of the line squeaked in the eerily boyish tone that announced the arrival of Jake Buescher. I brought my things up the single flight of stairs which end in an awkward combination of plunging stairs, a jutting handrail, and a door which often forces me to decide which of the previous two I'd rather use to destroy my spine. It was then that I spotted the white Dodge minivan, which will be referred to henceforth as "The Mystery Machine." I'm complete [expletive] at foreshadowing, but if you can imagine a mix between a savior, mobile home, locker room, and 2013 Dodge Caravan, you can grasp the impact it will have upon my journey.

After managing to Tetris my things in to the back of the vehicle around what I will only assume to be the mountain of hair supplies that keep jakes "flow" (e.g. Conan O'brien) in check, I had my first experience with Pretty Ricky. A recent transplant from Seattle, Pretty Ricky had spent the last year working part-time at a bike shop and training/racing full-time for at least two national events. And we were heading to the mountains. And he weighed 125 pounds. "Nice to meet you," Ricky said as he extended his featherweight hands, the bones of which I assume were replaced with carbon fiber. Afraid to show weakness, I firmly shook his hand. Damn, no carbon fiber, I'm just [expletive]d.

We went down to Three Floyd's in Munster to unite our happy troupe with a man who requires no introduction, but I'll give you one anyways. Ryan "Diesel" O'boyle, a mythical creature rumored to be a former Centaur who underwent a human-ectomy to comply with UCI rules. "Hey, I'm Diesel" he signaled to us in Morse code by flexing his quads, which are visible up to two miles and have been used to save no less than two nautical vessels while he was out on training rides. We hopped in the Mystery Machine and began the 15 hour drive to Vermont.

For the sake of brevity, let's just say that the drive was long and monotonous, though I'm still pretty sure that the girl in New York was totally giving me the eye and we need to finish R. Kelly's R&B masterpiece "Trapped in the Closet" as we only reached Chapter 19. If there was anything to be learned from the experience, it's that Febreeze should be kept readily available whenever you pack four cyclists into a car for 15 hours while they're all "carbo-loading." We arrived with just enough time to spin up the nearest "small" climb (which made all climbs in Chicago look laugh-tacular) and hit the sack, quads twitching in anticipation of the flogging to come.

Chapter 2: The TT

Our cadre of watt assassins descended upon the TT course right around 9, allowing ample time to spin around and open up before TT. We were eagerly accosted by a local mountain man who warned us of the drinking water and how happy he was to have all the cyclists in the area. He then described how lonely it can get in the mountains and offered up bedrooms in his shanty for us to stay the weekend. Pretty Ricky, Jakobie, and I conferred on the offer for a moment. "This mountain man has hungry eyes, Pretty Ricky," I offered, "and you're too pretty." Ricky nodded in agreement, though Jakobie was clearly disappointed to refuse the mountain bro.

After watching Diesel gallop off in to the sunrise, we circled back to warmup before the effort to come. Pretty Ricky departed at 11:27:30, I left at 11:33:30, with Jakobie at 11:35:30. I assured Jakobie that I would pull over to the side of road and observe the ancient tradition of Hara Kiri if he passed me as his two-minute man and took my place in the line of those who were about to be sacrificed.

The TT itself made self-flagellation look about as pleasurable as a wine-infused soak in the hottub at the Welshly Arms hotel with your Love-ah. Though it was only a 5.7 mile prologue, the initial 7.5-8 minutes were uphill, with grades just tickling the 11-12 percent. The remainder was a slight downhill with a 50 mph drop straight into a 12 percent uphill slog in to the finish over the last 0.7 mile. We had been informed that, as opposed to last year, the entire TT had a "nasty headwind." They were not lying. A stream of expletives mashed crudely into Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" became my mantra as I hammered up the course.

Somewhere in the fever dream of watts and pain, I caught my 30-second man, which had the brief side-effect of breathing new life in to my legs. I paid dearly for taking advantage of said "life" for about a minute and was fairly certain I was on the verge of an aneurysm when I finally spotted the downhill. In any normal setting, this would have been greeted as a welcome reprieve if not for the devastatingly conspicuous wall which loomed, teeth bared, right over the dip. The foul Katy Perry played on.

I became acutely aware that I was on the verge of total explosion (both from exertion and from dinner the night before) while I was sprinting up the wall, a fleeting moment of amusement washed across my face, yielded to utter pain, and then the legs quit. I sprinted again. They quit again. I must have tried to impose stricter demands on my legs (sprinting) at least three times in the final 500 meters, but they continued to strike like underpaid laborers until I finally conceded to their demands and essentially coasted across the line.

I bled seconds, minutes? Finishing a TT normally yields to some kind of catharsis. Not this time. The falling action after the ride was decided more similar to the "Not the Bees!" scene from Nic Cage's opus Wicker Man. At not-so-long-last, I saw Jake cross the finish line. "Good, I really did want to keep my samurai sword clean" I thought as I began the arduous spin back to the car.

Though I should have led with this, let it be known that Vermont is drop-dead-Scarlett-Johannson-in-leather-pants gorgeous. The mountains, the valleys, the rolling hills, all beautiful. Nestled in the quiet town which hosted the TT was the Warren Store which featured craft beers (which had been bottled the day before!) and tons of Maple Syrup products. We made our way in and got a couple of sandwiches with High Grade syrup infused bread, ham, and turkey. Holy Yeezus be praised was that good. Go to Vermont. Just Go.

Back to the point, Diesel finished the course in 15:50, a time which was 1:20 slower than the previous year. Diesel was upset, but nothing that a couple of beers and sandwiches couldn't turn around. Jakobie finished in 15:18 which, while 18 seconds adrift of the goal he had set for himself, was good for 11th in the GC on account of the headwind. I finished in 16:01, a half second slower than Pretty Ricky who was also at 16:01 which left us 40th and 41st. I set several power records during the TT and still only managed 41st in the field? Well [expletive], Jake is our man.

We headed back to town, had a couple delicious sandwiches in Middlebury, agreed that we all needed to stop spending so much money on food, downed some craft brews, and began dreaming (dreading?) of the days to follow.

To be continued.....