There are days that bode well for a fast ride on the bike, and there are those that don’t. Last night was one of the latter variety.
For the Tuesday Night Club Ride, the Tuesday before Halloween is a little tricky. First, the week before, a huge group of the A and B riders head out to Johnny V’s Smokehouse after the ride to celebrate the season – for the A Group, that’s the end of the season. For the B Group, we ride one more week and then after the time change we’ve got our annual night ride. Sometimes a few from the A Group will join us, sometimes not. Last night was windy with a fair chance of rain – it was cool, cloudy, windy and a bit nasty. Only Mike and Diane, Chuck, Jonathan, and I showed up…
There was no warm-up last night. It had been raining on the way over and I was still in the process of deciding whether or not I’d even ride when everyone pulled into the parking lot. Well, misery loves company, and the spritzing rain stopped. A check of the radar, a prayer, and I started getting ready. Only one E Group guy and a C Group guy, other than us, showed up. We invited the C Group guy to roll with us, but he shooed us on. He said he knew the route and wouldn’t want to hold us up. Just like that the five of us took off.
After our warm-up mile and a half, we turned north with a nice tailwind. I took my computer off the Trek a while back so I had no clue of our speed, I just knew I was laying down some fair watts up front. A stop at a busy intersection to let traffic clear and we were off again. I expected we’d drop speed when we turned, heading west, but we only dropped 2-mph (looking at Strava after the fact). I’d taken refuge behind the tandem, which is exactly where you want to be on a cold and windy evening – specifically for what was coming…
A sharp left turn and we were dead into the wind. The farther north we’d gone, the wetter the pavement got, but it wasn’t bad enough (thank God) to throw a rooster tail. As we headed southwest, though, it dried up again. I knew we were hammering pretty hard, considering the brutal headwind, but I had no idea we were managing to keep it north of 20-mph. Turns up front were much shorter and everyone came off the front fighting for breath. We made it through the wind, though.
Even though we started early, with the cloud cover it was starting to get dark so I made a command decision to cut our 30 mile loop short, down to 24-ish. A right, followed by a quick left and we were dead into the wind. I took it up to 21-mph but faded fast. I think I might have lasted a half-mile at best. Jonathan took over next, and he’d been taking some long pulls up front, so I was thankful when he started bleeding speed. The headwind was just brutal, even four bikes back, behind a tandem.
Next was a stretch on a busy highway with a fair shoulder for us to use, but I was a bit worried as we wouldn’t be able to echelon for the crosswind. Amazingly, it wasn’t bad at all, and we held a fair 20 to 21-mph. We took a left turn and it was time for tailwind again. With the tailwind there was no time for celebrating as the speed shot up to 30-mph with the tandem up front. As luck would have it, we had a short climb after that left and the tandem lagged a little so I sneaked around them and took the lead with the tailwind. Coming down the hill, though, they came around me like I was standing still to take their rightful place up front. There was a small gap to Jonathan and Chuck, so I filled it and took my place behind the tandem again. Mike and Diane took the rest of the tailwind to the dreaded final miles heading west.
This was another nervous section of road. We were headed dead west with a SE/SSE cross-headwind with no houses or trees for shelter from the wind, just dead-open plowed fields. Thankfully, we only had the five of us on four bikes so there was plenty of room for the echelon. I was up front, leaning my bike about 10° into the brutal wind. It was whipping me so hard I actually started laughing. I took a long stretch, a little more than a mile, but the open fields took a toll – I started out strong at 21-mph, but faded fast to settle in between 19 & 20.
Once I came off the front the pace evened out a little as we got some shelter in the form of houses and trees, and with some downhill we managed to keep a fair pace.
We came into the home stretch with a couple of miles to go and Mike and Diane took the lead. The home stretch is slightly downhill most of the way to the City Limits sign so it tends to be really fast. With the crosswind, we only lost a little. The speed crept up, little by little, until we were at 27-mph heading into the final sprint of the season. I signaled to Jonathan and Chuck that I wasn’t going to go for the sprint.
Every week, all season long, the tandem leads the group out for the single bikes to drop them in the last 30 seconds in the race to the sign. I thought, for once, it would be cool for them to take the sprint. We stayed in formation right through the sign, giving Mike and Diane their much deserved win.
From there, we sit up and spin back to the parking lot as darkness started to fall. Thankfully we all had our rear blinkies burning. We’d rolled over the line with a 20.6-mph average (33 km/h). With the amount of wind we had, over the distance we covered, and the small group, I was supremely happy with our result. I pulled into the parking lot with 20-mph on the nose (normally I shut Strava down after the sprint finish, but at the end of the season, with full gloves on, I figure why bother – we’re not setting any speed records anyway).
Helmet went in the car, shoes changed, cycling cap donned, bike in the back and I walked around to say good night and thank my friends for coming out for the ride – and just like that, everyone started to leave, the end of another great season. I got in my car, shut the door, and it started pouring. Out of nowhere, the rain came in buckets. We missed it by two minutes, max.
I pulled out of the parking lot and a quarter-mile up the road, here comes that C Group guy beating it for the parking lot like his life depended on it. Poor guy got soaked.
It was a great last fast day of the 2018 season. The wind made it impossible to get close to our normal average for the night, but we busted some butt for an exceptionally satisfying ride. Dinner at the diner with my favorite old-timer (that E Group guy) was extra tasty last night. As good as it gets.