Tuesday night, September 16th, 2014. 5:47 pm
Mike and I were nervous as two guys with 10,000 miles for the season between them get. Phil was just getting back from his warm-up but we’d been back from our eight miler for a while. We cruised around the block a couple of times to keep our legs moving. The parking lot had started filling up as we completed our first lap. Neil Pryde Diablo, Trek 5200 US Postal Service race edition, Mike’s S-Works Tarmac. Colnago, Trek Madone, my Specialized Venge, Cannondale Evo, Blue… The high-end carbon was out tonight but that wasn’t what was troubling us, my buds and I all push high-end carbon too. On completing the second lap, Mike chuckled, “You see that? We’re in for it tonight.”
Cat 3, Cat 4, Cat 4, Cat 3, Nationally Ranked Time Trialist, Sprint Triathlon AG National Champ, Cat 4, Cat 4… You get the idea, 25+ racers and just six avid enthusiasts. That’s a lot of horsepower – it’s usually it’s 50/50
I’m sitting up by the starting line, left foot out to the side, firmly planted on the asphalt. Right foot clipped in with the crank arm at 1:30. Right thigh and cheek on the top tube with my forearms resting on the bar, decked out head to toe in my Tuesday best, trying to look nonchalant while my mind raced. So be it, I thought. I’m giving it everything I’ve got and let the cards fall…
We roll out. I’ve got my plan together, starting at the back and I’m not going anywhere near the front. Call me a wheel sucker if you want, pulling this group would be suicide. We roll out… 10, 15, 20 mph into the wind, 22, 23… I’m on the left side so I know I’m going to pay for the first eight miles or so with a crosswind when we turn north. Too many for an echelon and there’s no way all of those horses are going to break that group up to form one. And pay I did… When we rounded the corner at 19 mph and just a mile and a half in, that was the last time I saw anything close to 22 mph.
23, 24, 25, 26.. 27 and 28… “Man, that damn wind”, I thought. “What I wouldn’t give to have picked the right side.” “That’s alright, only six more miles and it’ll be my turn to soak in the shelter”, I tell the committee in my melon.
Three miles later, still pushing between 25 & 27 mph, and the committee starts up at me again. They want me to sit up and take it easy for a while. Surprisingly though, the speed where I’ve been hanging out, about 10 guys back, was consistent – no seesaw and I was getting a great draft… I was feeling pretty good. So I fired back at the melon mess-up brigade, “Sit down and shut the f*ck up” (fortunately you can talk to yourself like that still).
A sharp left… And there’s the shelter. The hard work paid off. At 27 mph I wasn’t exactly sipping a Gatorade, sitting up, no handed but it was at least a bit of a rest.
I have absolutely no idea what time it is, we’re going 27 freakin’ miles an hour for God’s sake
We’re dead into the wind now and thank The Lord, we get to the rollers. Folks, you know it’s fast when you’re looking forward to a hill so you can rest a minute…
We make a sharp left and now we’ve got the wind at our backs, for the most part. Unfortunately, now we’re into the bigger hills. Thank you, baby Jesus, the pace actually eased up… It’s that downhill coming up that you have to worry about. Normal speed down that hill, pushing it, would be about 29. We’re pushing 35 and I simply cannot believe that I’m still with the main group at these speeds… I can’t ride this fast! But there I am… I noticed a couple of my buds having trouble a mile or two back and I think they dropped off and I can see Mike, a few riders up, starting to slouch, to slow down. His shoulders drop… I’m way out of position, behind one of the wrong guys and a gap starts to form. I could have made it at that point, a sharp burst and I’m right there but it’s time to fall off anyway, time for us to kick it for home because it’s at this point our Tuesday night ride turns into a race…and we managed to pick up a horse to boot. Justin, an ox of a mountain bike racer who was riding with the remnants of a cold. We held a 21 mph average for a couple of miles, about enough for me to get a little antsy and a couple of stragglers to catch up and then it was on… We went from 21 to 24 in the space of a quarter-mile and Justin held it there – and I knew he’d be there for a while. Behind him, I thought Mike and I were the two strongest so I took second and Mike took third (for those who don’t know, the farther back in the draft you are, the better the draft is, the easier it is to keep up). I’d forgotten about the second Mike though – he is every bit the match for the two of us…
As we neared the final mile and after taking a decent pull up front, I faded back to gear up for the sprint. The pace was decently hectic, between 24 and 25 mph and the two Mikes (and I) were looking like they were getting antsy, darting to the front to wind it up… With about a half-mile to go, the second Mike made a move that I mistook for his finale, so I went too and it was a huge mistake. Too soon. I sputtered out with two tenths to go and the gang went by. Ride and learn.
When I started cycling, I was happy with a 20 mph average. Two years ago that was 20.5 to 21. Last year we bumped that up to 21.5 and I was ecstatic, over the moon… Then three weeks ago, a breakthrough: 21.9 mph. Just shy of 22 and I couldn’t believe it. I was getting faster!
We finished last night with a 22.3 mph average.
P.S. Again, for those who don’t know, cycling isn’t like running – an average pace is much harder to keep on open roads and with a bigger group, it gets even harder. We have to ride around 25 mph to keep the average at 22.