Cycling season 2016 is officially over next Tuesday, our night ride.
To fit last evening’s ride in we had to start at 5:00 on the nose, no warmup.
We had a fantastic crowd, considering. My wife and I rode, along with my friends, Mike, Phill, Chuck, Chuck, Mike and Diane on their tandem, Karen, Gary, and Jonathan.
We set a fair pace but that lack of a warmup really made it tough. I struggled for the first ten miles but oddly, only when I was at the front. I took my lumps of course, but I was always huffing and puffing by the time I went back to hide again.
Karen dropped first and my wife went with her so she wasn’t alone. If I had to guess, this was about eight to ten miles in – and what intrigued me about the fact that she dropped was how she was riding…. she was all over the place in the pace line, off to either side rather than in the draft. This is a pet peeve of mine, but more on that in another post.
We kept it to a fair 21-22 mph and it was a wonderfully paced ride. Nothing too difficult but hard enough. Coming into Shiatown we pulled off to the side of the road to wait for Gary who had struggled through the hills and fell off the back.
From there, we’ve got a nice little quarter-mile descent followed by a steep-ish climb that settles down into another half-mile of up but at a milder grade. After we crest that, it’s a slight downhill for almost a mile and a half where we keep it pegged, normally, between 26 and 30 mph. Last night we were dealing with a bit of a headwind so the speed was a bit more subdued, if harder to hold at the front – and I was up there. This is always a tricky spot for me. In that mile and a half we’ve got our first sprint heading into Vernon. Normally I like to be about four back – this gives me a great draft but I’m not so far back that I have to weed through a bunch of other guys going for it as well. Where I don’t want to be is up front. I took my mile turn and headed back for a quick recovery. I did a couple of trick breathing exercises to clear the CO2 and waited for my spot… My timing was perfect and I shot around the front at 32 mph. When I was sure I had a good gap I checked over my shoulder and sat up for the last 40 feet or so.
Gary had fallen off the back again and Chuck went back for him (that’s the guy on the left in my header photo). Gary was alright with riding alone and sent Chuck back to us… just two miles up the road he joined back up with us huffing like he’d been pulling a dragon behind him.
Fast forward, passing over some boring miles to the final sprint of the season……
I was caught out front yet again, because I can be stupid that way sometimes, leading into the last two miles. Again, I didn’t want to take a sissy pull up front to rest so I settled in for a mile to try the same thing I’d done just ten miles earlier. Out of nowhere I see Chuck’s wheel on my left shoulder and he’s charging hard. I figure he’s going to make an early move so after three-quarters of a mile up front I had to jump onto his wheel. He created a substantial gap at 26 mph and just twenty seconds into his charge he arm-flicked out. He set me up (that what I think anyway, we still had a quarter-mile left to the sprint). Rather than try charging on alone I waited for the group because I was fairly smoked. I’d spent a lot of tough time up front and if I tried to stay off the front I’d have been swallowed up by the pace line well short of the finish. The group caught me and I assumed my position about four guys back and tried to recover my breathing. The launch was just around the corner. Ten seconds… Five… Three – Two – One…
I jumped out of my saddle and gave it everything I had but the second Chuck was watching for me in his little helmet mounted mirror – he was only a half-second late starting his charge. We flew by everybody else and I was putting every ounce of push I had left in my burning legs into getting the pedals around. Chuck matched me perfectly… I tried to dodge around him to the left but I just didn’t have enough to make it around him. He was too strong and I crossed the line just behind him. It was a fantastic finish to the season.
As we made our way to the parking lot it was all high-fives and fist bumps, laughs and tales from another fantastic club season…. This has been my most enjoyable season to date. It just keeps getting better, so I can’t wait to see what next year holds. One thing is for certain though, if I’m going to enjoy it there won’t be any time for vacations. I want to be even stronger next year – and that’s a good enough goal.