I’m quite excited to write this post. I’ve had the idea for years now, I just didn’t have the right experience to pull it all together. Until now.
My friend Chuck finished the Assenmacher 100 with his tongue hanging out, glad it was done. He was dropped at 70 miles by the group he was riding with. He said he enjoyed the ride, “especially the end”.
In contrast, I had a fantastic ride. To say I was sad it was over might be a bit of a stretch, but I finished that ride exactly like I started it, with a big grin on my face. I was with my group the whole hundred miles and spent a lot of miles helping my friends get to the finish line. It was smiles and congratulations. Handshakes and hi-fives.
Chuck and I are very close in ability. I have him in youth and he has me by a long shot in experience. Chuck is exceptional on a bike and I’m happy to call him a friend. I’m lucky to ride with him.
The difference between the two of our rides was just a little more than a mile per hour. In other words, he finished about 18 minutes before I did, maybe less.
We had one goal: A 20 mph average. Chuck’s group, and we all knew this, would be on a mission of attrition. Imagine a hundred mile, everyone gets dropped ride.
Let’s get down to the brass tacks. Chuck finished maybe 18 minutes before we did. The A guys caught us at the second rest stop (we always skip the first) at 34 miles. Then we caught them at the second at 57 miles though they were mounting their bikes within two minutes of our pulling up, so figure they were five or six minutes ahead of us at that point.
We did a slow roll by the 75 mile rest stop so we could check with the volunteers to make sure everything was going okay, that cost us three minutes and we stopped at the 85 mile rest stop where the A guys either take a two minute stop to top off a bottle and split or they skip it altogether. So we lost another few minutes there…
Chuck enjoyed the ride and was glad it was over. He got dropped after 70 miles. I had the ride of my life, spent a lot more time than I normally would up front and was able to help my friends. I was still smiling as we headed up the last hill before descending to the finish over the last half-mile.
I’ve lost count of how many centuries I’ve done over the last four years, but it’s a decent number, well over 30. I’ve done the A group thing for a few years and managed a 4:36. I’ve also done solo centuries up in the 5:30’s and 40’s. I’ve done small group centuries (four or five of us) and managed to beat 4:50… After all of those centuries, I’m a lot happier when I’m in a group that holds a pace where I can be a contributing member rather than a cling-on. My abilities have greatly increased over the last few years but I know my target pace (depending on terrain, of course… hilly hundreds will be slower than flat, by about 1.5 mph). While I can push that and finish faster, after five years of doing my best to push my limits I’ve learned an invaluable lesson:
While I still remember the finishing time of my fastest century, I don’t remember much of the ride (other than holding on for dear life). After all of those centuries I’ve learned the best one’s are more about who I finished with than how fast I finished. While I would never suggest anyone shouldn’t challenge their limits to become the fastest cyclist they can, I will simply say that cycling is more than just average speed or wattage. At least it can be, if I let it.
Of course, the opposite side of that coin is pretty interesting as well: If I don’t train to get fast, I severely limit who I can ride with, too.
*If you looked at the couple on the tandem in the photo above, maybe you wondered why in God’s name do they have aerobars on a tandem? Very perceptive are you. I’ll reserve comment other than to say, “Dude, that’s bat-shit crazy”. Perhaps the visors on their road helmets explain the aerobars.