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The PERFECT TNIL: Riding Off Into the Sunset

September 2020
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Tuesday Night In Lennon was some kind of special last night.

To start, the warm-up was entirely out of hand. With a perfect 75 F (23 C) and a light breeze out of the southwest, I knew it was going to be fast, but I wasn’t quite ready for this. One of the guys, Craig, has two speeds: complete stop and “all go, no slow”. We turned in a 20-mph warm-up – 7 miles in 21 minutes, flat. Who does a warm-up at 20-mph? Oddly, that unnecessarily fast warm-up felt quite good…

We let the A Group, which was substantially larger than the B Group, go and get a minute on us before we rolled out of the parking lot.  We were slowed by a car coming up the road that was just enough to keep the group together out of the gate which meant a measured acceleration to cruising speed.  I was second bike back and ended up with the first tailwind pull, a mile-and-a-quarter up the road.  The pace had been expertly wound up to 22-mph and we took it from there.  A quick stop at an intersection for traffic to clear and we rolled out – and found someone had dropped their water bottle on the other side of the road.  Jason stopped to pick it up and we waited for him, crushing our average (it dropped from 22 down to 20), but that’s kind of how we roll.  

Somehow, I ended up at the front again, so I took another mile.  I felt quite good, but I had it in the back of my mind that I could have just screwed myself taking that much time at the front.  

The next 23 miles were some of the smoothest, most enjoyable miles I’d ever ridden on a Tuesday Night.  Into the headwind down the notorious Shipman Road, crosswind, hills, cross-tailwind – it didn’t matter.  Everyone lined up right and we all did our share to get the group up the road.  We made it through the hills with the group intact, all but one, who was only fifteen seconds behind.  We waited and collected him for the big push home.  

The tandem and Joe took us up the hill to the descent into Vernon.  Clarke and I were second bike and as we crested that climb, he and I took control of the pace and dropped the hammer.  We took the pace from 20-mph at the crest of the hill and slowly built it to 32 (52 km/h).  I held on up there as long as I could before my power started dropping and flicked off.  I latched on at the back and watched as a small group went up the road for the City Limits sprint.  

Until this year, I’d tried to position myself to be in the sprint every week.  This year, however, I decided I’d concentrate more on the lead-out and give everyone else a crack at the sprints.  I’ve found I like the lead-out almost as much as the sprint.

From that point we had about 7-1/2 miles to go and it was right back to smooth and steady – a perfect rotation at the front (other than one minor misstep by a new kid who just started riding with us last week).  The southerly breeze had dropped to a point we were barely stacking against it in the draft.  We kept our pace between 23 & 26-mph (37 & 42 km/h), pushing down the road like a finely-tuned machine.

I was third bike, behind the tandem, with a mile to go.  The guy up front flicked off and Mike and Diane took over.  They started cranking it up with just seven tenths to the finish and I was right on their wheel, down in the drops to stay in their draft.  26-mph, 27… 28 started creeping to 29.  

I was in perfect position to launch off the front if they just held out, but with less than a drag race to go they petered out and started bleeding speed.  Jason came by just in the nick of time and I went from the tandem’s wheel to Jason’s as he cleared my front wheel.  29-mph… 30… I thought about simply hanging on and giving him the sign, but just for a split-second.  In the drops, butt planted on my saddle, I hit the gas and worked around Jason.  32-mph… 33… I was pushing with everything I had to hold him off – the City Limits sign just ahead.  Pulling on the bars to leverage against my driving legs I crossed the line first, half a bike ahead of Jason.  

I stopped my Garmin and uploaded the ride before starting another for the mile-long cooldown.  It was all smiles and fist-bumps as we heading to the church parking lot to pack up and roll home.  We came around the final corner to this:

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That’s about a wrap on our season.  We don’t have much time left and we’ll be knocking the time back by 15 minutes next week so we have enough daylight to finish.  Only five or six more Tuesdays until the night ride that’ll signify the end of the year.

We just found out the other day, one of the guys we ride with regularly on Sunday Funday has COVID – the first in our close-knit gaggle.  He’s not a fortunate asymptomatic, but he’s nowhere near a hospital, either.  More on that in a later post.  So far his tandem partner is safe, too – it appears as though she didn’t catch it, even riding with him on the tandem.  Fingers crossed.


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