It was hot last evening, mid-80’s. And windy. I hate the wind on club ride nights and we’ve only had three the whole season where we could just tuck in and get a good draft.
On the other hand, I got my Venge back from the shop before the ride. I can cruise to a 22 mph average on my 5200 but it’s work. That same pace on the Venge is noticeably less work… you know, after writing that, “less work” probably isn’t the proper phrase. “Easier” isn’t it either. Maybe more comfortable or more enjoyable?… See, here’s the deal. I can feel the drag on the 5200. Between the round fork tubes, all of the cables and the fact that the bike is four or five pounds heavier, it just feels sluggish. That’s the ticket! I have to pedal through the sluggishness of the bike.
Anyway, during the 8-1/2 mile warm-up, I tried to get everyone to come to a consensus on how we were going to handle the ride. Where we were going to drop, how much we would protect Brad… I got nothing. So I just rolled with it. I was going to give it my best and call that good.
Turned out the racers of the group figured it out for us. Ten miles into the 30 mile ride, I was up front, pulling 23 mph into a heavy 15 mph wind, and at the end of my turn. I heard someone coming up on my left, over the yellow line. One racer, another, and another… then two more. On the hard, unsheltered side.
I flicked off to the left and let one of the other guys give chase, I was in no shape for bridging a gap after more than two minutes in the wind. In all, maybe eight or ten, in total, made it. The rest let them go. Didn’t break my heart at all.
I bought into that horse shit, about riding with guys faster than me to get faster, and there’s something to that. However, when they’re that much faster, that they can pull 26 mph into the wind, after I’m already in the red at 23 (which was a little faster than the pace I took over at), let’s just say it’s too fast for me to enjoy the ride and still be productive. I hate hiding and sucking wheel… It pisses me off, but at that pace, I have no choice.
There were more guys like me last evening than there were racers so I smirked as they went, and proceeded to drop four guys who made the gap. Six guys with 20 miles to go, in that wind? More power to them.
It took a minute for us to get situated, there were a couple of new guys and one of the regulars was pissed at someone else for letting a gap form and allowing him to get dropped by the main group, but once everything was sorted, we commenced to hammering our ride out. Amazingly, Brad, in his sixth week of chemo, hung on with us all the way into the biggest hill on the ride so we waited for him at the next turn, where we were going to catch a tailwind… Finally.
We kept it quite civil, between 24 and 26 mph and I spent a lot of time up front. I got a great workout and was exceptionally happy to be back on the Venge. With a mile left to the finish I was second bike behind the tandem and I could hear Mike behind me talking to someone. I had a feeling he knew what was coming.
During a slight pause in the push, I upshifted during a three second-long coast, hoping Mike would miss it. The farmhouse that marks the best spot to start a sprint to the City Limit finish was in view and we were closing in on it, fast. Still, riding one gear harder was a little tough, but I knew if I could just bide my time, I might be able to hold Mike off. He’s a heck of a competitive guy and when he’s behind me, he’s almost impossible to shake or drop if he knows what’s going on and he’s exceptionally tough to beat. Inside a quarter-mile to the house I’d been in the drops for more than a mile (another tell for Mike is if I get into the drops late)… 200 feet from the house and we’re at 24 mph and I’m in the perfect gear… 100 feet… 50… I went early, no warning, out of the saddle and I’m hammering for all I’m worth for that City Limit sign. I looked down at my computer, 32-1/2 mph, and thought no way Mike would match that so I risked a glance under my shoulder… He was right on me and grinning. Shit. I dug deep and pushed harder… Only 50 feet to go… And I held him off, barely. I was entirely gassed. Mike and I shared a fist-bump and a chuckle.
This is my new idea of enjoyable riding. We work hard, have a good time and still have just enough left at the end for a good sprint finish. We’re not hanging on for dear life for 20 miles anymore, just to get dropped and struggle all the way back, those last ten miles. Tuesday night is still about speed and getting faster, but I’m finding it more enjoyable to have our group of friends together for the whole ride than suffer for two-thirds of the ride only to hit the last ten miles with Mike and Phill, if we’re lucky. Call it an evolution in thinking – which fast is fast enough… It’s not perfect, I can’t help but think I’m wasting a little bit of potential, but I’ve been at this for something like three years now and I’m only marginally closer to hanging on with the main group. I’ve got a group of friends and we all ride well together – it’s time to leave well enough, alone. The trick, of course, is not resting on that… Lest I slow down so much my friends drop me too.
And for that I am grateful.