I pulled my Venge out of the trunk of my Equinox, put on my shoes, helmet and sunglasses. I was sweating from the effort…
The warm-up was comical. Jonathan, Brad and I, cruising down the road at 20-mph. No wind, 89-90° (32 C) depending on whose car you want to believe… and we started a little early. Turning up the home stretch I noticed the time, 5:21 pm. We had 39 minutes to ride three miles before the ride started. I couldn’t take that long unless I was on a kid’s tricycle… even then it’d be a feat in intestinal fortitude. I asked Jonathan if he had somewhere special to be. We slowed down and stretched it out another couple of miles and were still done 20 minutes early.
The A Group rolled shortly after 6 pm and we followed, just a minute behind. With a minimal breeze out of the northeast (light enough we didn’t have to worry about crosswind as the draft was concerned) we quickly accelerated out of the parking lot to cruising speed, around 23-mph. I was up front with Jonathan next and, with a slight downhill, took the speed up to 25. We had to wait at a busy crossroads but only for a second, short enough for a track stand, before rolling out again. We maintained a steady 22 to 25-mph all the way to the hills – it was so smooth I actually thought to mention my surprise to Jonathan as we were rolling down the road. But I found myself out of place and up front for the first hills – not where I wanted to be…
I hate taking the first hill because I tend to blow myself up by the crest of the second roller and have a tough time latching on the back. Not this time, though. We kept a steady pace between 19 and 21-mph over the first, then accelerated through the false flat before the second, smaller hill. We arm-flicked off the front at 20-1/2 and pushed to latch on as the group surged up the last little roller at 22-mph. We were down the back side, a slight descent at 30-mph with a clear lane to the hairpin left and the next hill. This is where those who haven’t properly pushed themselves away from the dinner table pay for it.
It’s not a particularly tough hill but within a mile of the last three climbs, it can be a little punchy toward the top and we took it at 20-mph. If you look at the profile below, it’s the hill just above the 15-mile point. The next mile-ish is slightly uphill but we ramped the speed up to 23-mph before a nice descent after a stop sign intersection that was clear of traffic – we rolled right through it and down the hill.
I was up front for the next hill, freakin’ out of position again, and I’d held some of the momentum from the descent and started up the hill at 25-mph, pushing with everything I had to the top having only dropped to 20.4 (we tied my PR on that hill with a slight headwind, no less). I was pretty crushed and needed the full descent after to catch my breath. We cycled through two more up front and the tandem ended up with the big hill into Shiatown. Dave and his wife, Val laid down the most impressive tandem climb I’ve ever seen on that hill. I had zero desire to try to get around them on the way up. We hit that sucker at 25 and only dropped to just below 20-mph at the top – I tied a PR on that hill, too – again, into the breeze.
We regrouped in the shade after a left turn (where the pace drops precipitously below) and caught our breath waiting for a couple of guys who had struggled up the hill. When the last guy rounded the corner, we asked if he wanted a second and rolled out when he answered no. The next climb is one of those gravity defying climbs. The first bit is unquestionably uphill but we always manage to kill the next slight climb at better than 20-mph. I still don’t know how we climb it so fast. The descent is the good stuff, though. We hammer the pace all the way into Vernon. It’s @$$holes and elbows as the ground flattens. Hands go into the drops, backs flatten, and calf muscles strain under the pressure to get the pedals round and keep the pace north of 27-mph. We round a corner at top speed and see the City Limits sign ahead… and then the pounce. Those who lead out sit up as those who want to contest the sprint hammer by, usually north of 32-mph. I let them go so I could keep some powder dry for the homestretch into the breeze.
We’d been sitting on a 22.8 average at the regroup, but we take it easy to let the group catch back up after the sprint so we lost some of that average. We were down around 22.5 with some crosswind, then headwind to deal with. Down a shallow decline we worked our speed up to 27-mph before settling in for the last few miles before the ramp-up to the final sprint.
I was fourth bike back and figured I might get lucky and sprint from the second bike back or lead out from the front at the sprint point – which simply would mean I’d sprint it. As riders peeled off the front I prepared myself. A few top-secret breathing exercises, hands in the drops, head low… and the guy in front of me popped early. Way early. Too far back for me to try contesting for the sprint. I was lead out.
I put the hammer down and took it from 23-mph to 28 until I popped, just before the normal sprint launch point. I sat up as everyone else went by, spent. I hit the stop button just over the City Limits sign with a 22.7-mph average. Some in the group had as much as 23 flat. In that heat, 22.7 is fantastic. After turning in a couple of decent, if slower efforts, last night’s average is right where we want to be in July. Normally we’re into September before we can start thinking about an average that good.
I went to sleep last night with a smile still stretched across my face.