Sun’s out, guns out, boys and girls! Shameless Nelly reference notwithstanding, somebody turned up the heat in Michigan. We went from mid to low 70’s (22-ish C) to 86 (30 C). Overnight.
I was a little late for the warm-up because I had to gas up. I figured if everyone left, I’d figure something out. Fortunately, everyone else was late, too.
I readied my bike, threw on the shoes and melon protector and we rolled out. The crosswind was no big deal, but when we got the hot cross-headwind in the beak, well, it got ugly. Still, we kept a decent pace. The SSW wind was going to be interesting for the main event – it wasn’t exactly howling, but it was strong and the air felt thick.
We rolled out thirty seconds after the A Group to a smart, relaxed start for the first mile. Then, Chuck and I took the lead after the tandems pulled off the front with a tailwind and all hell broke loose with the tailwind. Chuck and I have a funny dynamic. He’s not going to let the kid hammer him, and I’m not going to let the old man make me wince. We took it up to 30+ mph and held it there before tapping out a mile later. Things calmed down for the next couple of miles before we took some crosswind, followed by a half-mile with a tailwind before the dreaded Shipman Road.
We made the careful hairpin left and the wind hit us full in the face. Turns up front went from a mile at a stretch down to 30-50 seconds, but the pace kept up nicely, between 21 & 23-mph. With the tailwind section we’d managed to build up a 22.5-mph average but that didn’t last long. Still, by the time we turned for the hills, we’d only dropped to 21.8, a solid number with the tailwind we had coming up.
As we headed toward Parmenter, Dave and his wife on their tandem decided to start bombing the downhills (Dave has a tendency of turning club rides into “The Dave Show” when he rides with us – his wife likes riding with us, Dave, not so much) which was a little unfortunate. I could see why they went up front, the pace was lagging a bit, but it was a little crazy getting the group sorted out through the big hills. Still, we did our normal regroup in the normal spot and rolled.
I haven’t written or said much to anyone about it, but I’ve been struggling a little bit since we got back from DALMAC. I’ve been extremely sore lately. My back has been really bad, but I was also dealing with sore legs and arms… something just felt off and I couldn’t put my finger on it. With the pace all over the place I was a little nervous I’d run out of gas, but once we hit the regroup, I knew I’d be okay.
On to Vernon we went, and the intermediate sprint. Dave and his wife were upfront once we crested a little hill we normally take at about 21-mph. The downhill gets moving, normally around 30-mph so it helps to be in the right spot when the pace ratchets up – I like to be fifth or sixth bike back. There was a quick surge toward the bottom of the hill and Mike came around me and said, “C’mon, Jim”… so I did. He wanted the lead-out, and I wanted him to take it. He’s got mad power for about 25-30 seconds. The tandem ran out of gas and Mike was about to jump as the pace dropped to 25-mph. He was going to go too early, though, which would mean I’d run out of gas about 200 yards too soon. I told him to wait till a specific point before he went and he timed it just right.
He put the hammer down but I was a second late so I had to make up ten feet at 32-mph. I got into his draft and rode him till he was out of gas and went around him taking the sprint by about four or five lengths from Toby who’d been biding his time at the back and was charging, but couldn’t make up the distance at that pace. We rested through town and things got interesting when the A Group passed us shortly after we made the left for home.
Some of our group managed to latch on to the back of the A Train, but four of us didn’t bother and formed our own group to head back in the crosswind. We could see the A Group up ahead, strung out all over the lane, and I was thankful we formed our little rabble. We pushed on for home, collecting stragglers who fell off the back of the A’s in the wind and managed to push our average from a very decent 21.8 to 22.0 just a couple-hundred yards from the finish. Chuck, who paused his computer through Vernon, ended up showing a 22.3-mph average (I think we’re going with that).
We were, every one of us, drenched from the effort in the heat. We talked among ourselves on the cool-down mile back to the parking lot. It had been an exceptional Tuesday night. I was relieved to be done and to have held on without issue. I’m a little sore this morning but we’ve got major storms in the forecast for later today and possibly tomorrow. If things play out right, I could end up with two days off in a row – something I probably need.
You know how it is at the end of the season, though. There aren’t many shorts days left and there will be plenty of days for rest when the snow’s flying. For the time being, “sun’s out, guns out”.