I have 295 separate and distinct rides this year. It is the 281’st day of the year. My reason for pointing this simple fact is to illustrate, for those who aren’t aware reading my blog, I ride my bike. A lot. Moving along…
I woke up this morning sore from last night’s effort at our Tuesday Night In Lennon ride. I actually feel 50 for once.
We’ve been blessed with a lot of sunshine this fall – a lot more than is normal, but last night we were going to have to do battle with the wind – 14-mph out of the WSW with gusts over 20. It’s a rough first-half wind, but it’s fun for the push home. I pulled my Equinox into the parking lot with plenty of time for the warm-up – if you can call it a warm-up and not a main event. 7 miles in 20 minutes flat. I was questioning my decision about wearing arm warmers, but stuck with them for when the sun started dropping to the horizon.
The turnout was sparse for such a gloriously mild autumn evening. No doubt the wind was a factor. We had six bikes and seven cyclists for the B Group, about 10 for the A Group and only two C’s. We almost rolled out with the A’s but thought better of it as they rolled out. We waited 30 seconds and rolled out in a single pace-line.
Chuck set the tone early with a fantastic effort into the headwind for a mile and some change. There was no dilly-dallying to form up because nobody wanted to get stuck trying to catch up in that wind. I found a home on Doc Mike and Diane’s tandem wheel. We turned north and I was expecting the going to get rough in the cross-tailwind but, and I can’t quite figure this out, the normal echelon problems simply weren’t there. With a little undulation in the asphalt, our speed rose to 26-mph and there was no trouble staying in the draft. We cruised up to an intersection we almost always have to stop for at speed and with a perfectly placed gap in traffic, shot through the intersection at 23-mph. The tandem took another half-mile and it was my turn. I had to work, but had no problems keeping the pace in the 24-25-mph range for my mile and some change. Next was a fairly brutal slog into headwind followed by another quick mile north at 24-mph.
We hit Shipman Road with a 22.5-mph average… and $#!+ got hard, real fast. Shipman runs northeast/southwest so we’re almost always looking at a hard slog into a headwind for ten miles. We hit the hairpin corner and formed up quickly behind Chuck who was on the tail end of a monster pull. The next ten miles were a study on how to handle a headwind with a small group in a pace-line. Chuck, then Clarke, then Mike & Diane, then me, Mike I., Joey… we each took fantastic turns in the wind between 19 & 22-mph.
One of the neat side notes for that gnarly jaunt into the wind, everyone gave each other a “nice work”, “nice pull”, or “good job” after their turn. It was truly awesome to be a part of that effort – we were all in for each other.
We hit cross-tailwind at 15 miles and, sadly, it wasn’t the help I was hoping for. The tandem was first up the hill, the group behind me on their wheel and I was amazed at how much work 22-mph was with what should have been some help. We were heading due southeast, though, so I think it was more “cross” than “tail”. At 18 miles we hit true tailwind and the real fun we’d worked for started. We had some hills to contend with, but we took it easy on the tandem and let the wind help us up.
The sun was getting low and with eight miles to go, we decided to push through without a regroup in our normal spot – the whole group was together anyway. Down a nice hill, then back up, we kept it reasonable on the ascent then the tandem handed me the baton at the crest. I gave them a 20 seconds to latch back on and hit the gas. I took it up to near 30-mph before shifting to easier gears, allowing my speed to drop a little. I flicked off when I felt my legs burn under the effort and drifted back at 26-mph. I was down in the drops and stayed there, waiting for the sprint finish. The pace line broke up a little and the tandem ended up on the front again and I held their wheel. I thought about going for the intermediate sprint but thought better of it, figuring I’d let the tandem have it. And that’s when Mike came darting from the back to cross just in front of the tandem. We chuckled about that and settled in behind Mike to ride him like a rented mule for snagging the sign.
We were running out of light in a hurry so we didn’t wait around to watch the grass grow. I cleared a busy intersection for the tandem and the rest of the group and we rolled on at pace, keeping it a lively 24 to 27-mph (38 to 43 km/h). We hit the home stretch with the A Group solidly in the rear view. We managed to hold them off for several miles before they cranked it up and passed us (watching the flyby on Strava was awesome). They overtook our group as I tried to clear an intersection for the tandem but we had a car approaching on the left. One of our ranks jumped up to finish with the A’s but the rest of us formed up behind the tandem.
With a little more than half a mile to go, Clarke was up front and Chuck shouted for him to ramp up the speed. He complied immediately and the pace wound up from 24 to 27-mph. We were hammering for the City Limits sign and I was trying to figure out whether or not I’d sprint. With just a couple of tenths to go, I thought I’d just sit in. With a tenth to go, I changed my mind and got down in the drops, waiting for the launch point. We were really moving now and I pounced as we hit 28-1/2. I shot off the front at 34-mph (55-km/h) and took the sprint by a length.
The mile cooldown back to the parking lot in the fading daylight was glorious and full of laughter and good-natured banter.
2020 has been a shit of a year for almost everything. Not cycling, though. This year will go down as one of my favorites.
*Photos are from previous rides – I’m pretty good on the bike, but not that good to be able to snap photos in a 15-mph headwind in a pace-line… actually, that’d be dangerous enough to be advised against.
Chuck and I rolled out under perfect fall conditions. Work’s been a bear lately and I’m really pushing it if I try to roll out before 5 (the time at which I can actually ignore my phone while I ride). The weather in October is normally pretty sketchy, we’re lucky if we see the sun most days, but yesterday was one of the good one’s. Light breeze, almost 60° (15 C), and abundant sunshine. I was almost giddy as I clipped in at 4:55 and rolled out towards Chuck’s house.
Chuck wasn’t going to be ready till a quarter past so I had a little time to pad my mileage. I rolled by his street and completed two extra miles before heading back to his house. I’d spent so much time on the Trek lately, I was surprised when I looked down at my Garmin and noticed the 19.5-mph (31-km/h) average. Down in the drops in the cross-headwind, I had no problem exceeding and holding 20.
You hear or read Specialized’s pitch that “Aero is Everything” and most skeptics will think it’s hyperbole (for the average 15-mph cyclist it is), but for those who build up the fitness and stamina to really ride fast, the pitch is no joke. My ’99 Trek, for all its old school awesomeness, can’t hold a lit candle to my Venge. The Venge simply slices through the air while the Trek pushes it out of the way. It’s a massive difference easily felt at 20-mph into a headwind.
We started out a little on the slow side, which is good because we want to save the good legs for tonight, but the speed crept up as we headed west. With a turn north, and crosswind, Chuck bumped the pace up. I followed suit, and we ended up with quite the spirited ride on our hands. It’s been a while since we’d traded turns on a Monday evening like that. Relatively little time for talking, ploughing headlong into the wind… carving around corners, inside leg out for a gravity assist, half the time in the drops to slip through the wind (especially south!).
When Chuck and I get wound up, it never ceases to amaze me how well we work together, using corners to slingshot by whoever’s in front to get the fresh legs in the lead – heck, half the time we don’t even bother flicking off the front. We’ve ridden together enough to know when it’s time to trade up.
We didn’t talk much, as we normally would, but some Monday’s require a little aggression to be burnt. That’s what yesterday’s ride was for me, and it did exactly what was intended. My eldest daughter was called in for work last night and my youngest had swim practice – that left my wife and I to a rare dinner together, spent intimately talking about the days’ events, followed by Monday Night Football… and sleep. Oh, I slept like a baby last night. For that, and a spirited jaunt on my bike after work, I am grateful.
This morning, I can hear the windchime outside already. It’s going to be a breezy edition of TNIL tonight. The first 15 miles are going to be rough but the last 13 are going to be fantastic – tailwind all the way home… and another chance to burn the candle for a good night’s sleep.