The Thursday Night Lake Shannon Loop; Fast, Fast, Fast…
If you’ve read any of my posts, you likely know about our epically fast Tuesday night ride. At 28 flat(ish) miles we can pull 22’s all day long. We’ve got a handful of 23’s and even a 24-mph average. There are some hills, but at just 400+ feet of up, it’s a great track for speed.
The Lake Shannon Loop is not that. It’s anything but flat. You start out with a climb that hits 10% in the first mile and a quarter, then there are four 5%’ers, several 4’s, a few 3’s and a partridge in a pear tree. For this loop, if you’re pushing a 20-mph average, you’re working hard.
We rolled out under some pretty ugly skies last night, but the temp was mild and the wind as fair, out of the northwest (we’re heading south here, maybe three miles in and the wind is pushing at our right shoulder):
We pounded out the non-climby stuff at 24 to 27-mph and the climbs fast enough they hurt. I spent way too long up front for my first few pulls before wising up and shortening my turns. I didn’t want to pay for it later – I could tell it was going to be a fast one right out of the gate.
The Lake Shannon loop itself, the actual loop around the lake, is one fantastic bit of road for cycling. It’s seven miles of down, a little bit of up, and a lot of curves where you’re fast enough you’ve really gotta lean to get the bike around the corner. It’s one of those stretches that makes cycling feel incredibly cool. Sadly, there’s no time for photos because if you lose even a little bit of ground, you’ll be in a world of hurt trying to latch back on.
It was down in the drops, @$$holes and elbows, giving it everything we had, though the line stayed smooth and efficient. We came out of the lake loop and we’re presented with a climb that absolutely destroys me, every single freaking time. It starts out gradually but ramps up to better than 8%. I, stupidly, plowed way too much air up front before dropping back just before the climb. As the road pitched up, the group came around and left me grunting as they pulled away. I simply didn’t have the gas to stay with them. No chance.
Thankfully, about a half-mile after that, there’s a regroup point and I hammered after the group once the ground leveled out a little bit, closing ground as I regained my faculties.
And that’s when things got fun. There are a couple of decent climbs after that, but I knew I would be able to hang. They’re tough, but not horrible – and I wasn’t about to repeat the mistake I’d made a mile earlier. We rolled out with a lively pace, heading south with a tailwind again. The clouds had parted and the sun was shining brilliantly. The temp also started to climb.
We hit the turnaround at just over 20 miles and we started up one of the remaining climbs. Normally, 12-mph is halfway decent 5% grade as we’ve got a long stretch that we like to hammer hard just over the crest. Last night we did it at 18-mph. Into the wind. Thankfully, I was back in the pack and was hanging on Chuck’s wheel. Chuck is Mr. Smooth on a bike – if there’s a guy you want to hold a wheel on, it’s Chuck. He doesn’t pull any hop out of the saddle surprises and he holds a good line. I just concentrated on his rear wheel on the way up and just kept pedaling.
Once over the hill, the pace leveled off at around 24-mph and we pushed for home. The headwind wasn’t easy, but as long as the turns up front were short and hard, it could be battled.
The home stretch was a blur. The pace was all over the place but only in response to smaller hills. We came around the final turn at speed with the final climb just ahead. Mike had the pace at around 22 and I knew I was going to be in trouble. I was running on empty and the 9%’er was looking ugly. I have to be honest, I didn’t care. The group headed up the hill and I lagged. We were in the last half-mile and I was popped. I struggled up the grade, then hit the pedals hard coming down the back to close distance.
I pulled across the City Limits sign with a 21.1-mph average (33.8 kmh). Mike pointed out later, commenting on Strava, that I’d clocked 11 new achievements on a route that has 16 segments on it… I’d been a little bummed that I popped on the two hills until he pointed that out… including a PR on that last climb. Popped, I PR’ed a climb.
Later on in the parking lot, everyone was laughs and hi-fives. Doc Mike had clocked a 21.5-mph average for the loop. As far as I know, that was a new record as well. I can tell you, looking back, it was more fun than a fella can have with his clothes on.
Special hat tip to Joel for taking the photos used in this post. Impressive, brother. I was trying to hard to keep my tongue from getting tangled in my spokes.