It was a normal morning. Clear. Warm. Windy. I was doing a climb I used to hate, but have grown to love: Squaw Peak. As usual, that first corner seemed steeper than I remembered, but past that I had settled into a nice groove and was feeling strong.
About 1/3 of the way up the climb, 4 large crows started cawing at me and circling around overhead. Perhaps this would be seen as an ill omen, but I was in too good of spirits to think much of it.
Further up--say 2/3 of the way--I heard something behind me just as I was rounding the corner. I glanced back over my shoulder and barely caught sight of another cyclist. Instantly, I lost sight of him/her. The only thing I remembered was the light-blue jersey he/she was wearing.
Flashback 30 Years (Or so they say...)
Jimmy was no Italian-born super-star, but what he lacked in heritage, he made up for in determination. There wasn't a hill surrounding Utah Valley that he didn't know--and know better than anyone else. Squaw Peak was a challenging climb back then, also, though made more so by its lack of pavement. The alpine loop wasn't completed yet, though he spent his fair share riding up "Sundance Mountain". He knew every pebble, every turn, every incline.
When the local club set up the Squaw Peak hill climb event, Jimmy was there, lined up with the rest of the local hopefuls--some from as far away as Fruita. The gun went off, and Jimmy quickly moved off the front. There wasn't a soul there that day that could compete with Jimmy.
As years rolled on, and the race became an annual event, no one could ever touch Jimmy. The next closest time in this 4.5 mil climb was 20 seconds back.
Three years after the start of the race came the end of Jimmy's reign--though not in any way that even his competitors wished. Due to heart complications (some say it was a heart attack) he fell over--only a half-mile from the top.
All the racers were in disbelief. No one even rode past as the medical crew tried to revive him. That was the last Squaw Peak hill climb. Those many years have passed and the road is now nicely paved, no one would dare hold another race there. For one, too many people remember all too well the events of that fateful day. For another, others are too superstitious.
You see, ever since then, they say Jimmy still rides the slopes of Squaw Peak. Challenging anyone who attempts it. They say he can be seen wearing a light blue jersey, riding his old Raleigh.
Fast Forward to today
Though I'm getting much better at Squaw Peak, if I encounter people climbing it, they usually pass me. I didn't want that to happen today. Before every turn, I would glance back to see how close this cyclist was. I upped the pace. I was not going to get passed today! I felt too strong, too in-the-zone. Over and over again I glanced back to see if I could spot that cyclist gaining on me. I never did.
Finally, I stood up and sprinted (as fast as I could) the final half-mile of the climb. As I paused to catch my breath, I turned and looked for anyone coming up after me. I was surprised to find no one. Not a soul.
Triumphantly, I thought I must have picked up the pace too much for my follower. Perhaps they even gave up and turned around. As I thought this, however, the wind picked up around me and I swear I heard laughing in it. I shook off the feeling, and the wind passed. I looked forward to waving to him/her on my way down--only I never saw anyone.
Some say Jimmy still rides the slopes of Squaw Peak. They say it was his favorite. They say he is there to prevent anyone else from riding it--a sort of selfish hell that binds him there. For me, I know what he did for me: He pushed me that much harder up the hill. He's still there, all right, but just when he needs to pass on some of this iron will and determination.