WNW wind, 18 knots. My buddy, Kurt titled his warm-up lap “This is gonna hurt”.
We rolled out with the A Group into the teeth of the wind, single file, 20-ish riders deep. Every one of us down in the drops to stay hidden. The A-Train led out at 23-mph into that headwind.
Eight of us disengaged as we turned the corner to head north. A perfect number for a double echelon so we actually fit on the road (!). I won’t lie, it was tough sledding for the first half of the ride. There were times we were struggling to hold 18-mph. The wind was soul-crushing. It was like getting smacked in the head trying to keep a decent pace. Brutal is a good fit.
But after 14 miles of that nonsense, tailwind. And that’s where this tale picks up…
Before said tailwind…
We picked up four A guys who’d been spit off the back of their group at the intersection where we transitioned from headwind to tailwind (it’s a hairpin left). We were up a hill with the wind pushing us and it took a few seconds to get situated but once we crested, we hit it. And the ride got fun in a hurry.
The photo above was taken at 27-mph with a 20-mph crosswind by a friend… I’ve taken some tough photos, but this one takes the cake!
The cruise into the first sprint was among our fastest ever (though not by much) and I stuck to not participating (besides, when you’re already going 33-mph, how much do you have to sprint?) and we held our line crossing the City Limits sign. To tell the truth, I knew what was coming and I didn’t want to stupidly burn any matches I didn’t need to. In town we cool down a little bit and collect ourselves before hammering out the last eight miles.
Surprisingly, we had an excellent pace heading north with a 20-mph crosswind and I had no problem keeping with the group and taking my turns up front, though they were short. We were north of 25-mph down a shallow decline, then 20-22 up the next minor incline (<1% if I had to guess). We were set up for the final five mile push home… with a 20-mph tailwind the whole way. We turned the corner and the lead guys gave everyone a chance to latch on….
And all hell broke loose. We went from 15-mph at the turn to 27-mph in two-tenths of a mile, and the speed only built. Within a half-mile we were pushing 31-mph. We hit 35-mph going down a slight decline and you could see signs of people starting to crack. I took over once we crossed a clear intersection at speed and took the group up a hill we normally do at 18-mph, northwards of 25. I was down in the drops givin’ her everything I had before flicking off at the false flat (where I knew I’d be able to latch on). After the hill the pace went nuts. We topped 36-1/2 mph on flat ground. Faster than I’d ever been without the aid of a serious hill. The four A guys and two of us B’s were taking the rounds up front but it was starting to hurt as we neared the finish line for the night. I noticed our group of nine was down to five and I was at the end of my rope. I popped with a quarter-mile to go and let Chuck and Joel catch up so I could cross the finish line with them. We still maintained 25-27 all the way to the line (and Chuck narrowly avoided a crash with Joel who was absolutely popped in the process).
We completed the 4.6 mile stretch in 9m:08s – the fastest four miles I’d ever ridden, with an extra 0.6-mile cherry on top.
We had just under a 20-mph average when we hit tailwind. We finished 21.6-mph and some of the most enjoyable, toughest miles I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in on Tuesday night. It wasn’t our fastest Tuesday night, but it was absolutely one of the toughest.
Chuck summed it up best: “That was just like getting hit in the head with a hammer… it sure feels good when it stops.”
UPDATE: It’s hard to tell from the photos unless you know what you’re looking for, but I almost forgot… I did that ride on this:
That’s a 21 year old Trek with standard round tube carbon fiber construction. Heh.