I readied my Venge for what was likely it’s final evening in the sun for the year. This year’s upgrades were a new saddle and a set of sweet Ican Fast & Light 50 wheels (50-mm, carbon fiber, 25-mm wide, 1,470 grams for the set, very fast, amazing value) capped that bike off – it’s perfect. Mechanically, at seven years old, it’s the best I’ve ever had it.
I was on my way to the church early enough I’d get a decent warm-up in. It was chilly, just 50° (10 C) with a mild, single-digit breeze out of the east. The good thing about an east breeze is there’s technically only eight miles of straight headwind out of 28 miles and some change. The bad is that most of that is at the end. We rolled out for the warm-up at 4:57 with the main event due to start at 5:30. With limited time, we headed west for a couple of miles then turned around to head straight back. I was caught in the wrong gear on the turnaround and almost thought about staying in the back for the headwind but that seemed a twatwaffle thing to do, so I took my lumps. The headwind was surprisingly heavy. Of course, with Pickett up front next to me, we were heading up a slight incline at 20-mph into that breeze. Who does that on the warm-up?! I flicked off the front after a mile and went back to hide.
The main event started out pretty quick, A’s & B’s rolling out together. Our first tailwind mile was at around 25-mph, I was up front with Dave. The next three, heading north, were no problem with the mild crosswind at 23 to 24-mph. I took the next mile with Dave, again. We had a tailwind mile and took it between 25 & 26. No problem. Then Shipman road, and we had a quartering tailwind and some help for once (normally we’re dead into a headwind on that road). The pace was being held between 25 & 28-mph (41 to 45 km/h) and toward the end of the stretch I started running out of “want to”. After a pull up front during which I burned too many matches, I slipped off the back figuring I’d just take a shortcut. I’d have eight miles dead into a headwind, alone.
I kept my pace steady, between 21 & 24-mph and caught my breath. The group wasn’t pulling away from me as fast as I figured they would. They stopped for traffic at a crazy five-way intersection and I had a decision to make; relax and let them go, or pedal a little harder and catch up… if traffic held them long enough. I decided to give it some effort to see if I could get back on. As I closed it looked as though there were no cars holding them up – quite a few were looking back at me. They waited. That doesn’t happen too often, my friends and as I closed the gap, I have to admit, I felt like a Hundred Dollars.
The next six miles were pretty brutal in the hills but I managed to hold on. I took my lumps up front but tried to keep my turns short so I didn’t fall off the back again. I hate having to do that, but my legs were fighting me a little bit. The temp had dropped down to the low 40’s and I just don’t do well in the cold – never have. I stuck with it, though, and up the main hill before the B’s and A’s separate, I was still in contact with the tandems and a few others.
Four of the A’s continued on for the long route while two tandems, a couple of A’s, and four or five B’s waited for Clark to catch up at the regroup point. He’d fallen off in the hills (which was easy to do with a headwind). He was about a minute back and once he caught up (and his breath), we rolled out for the eight mile home stretch.
The remainder of the ride was more my pace. Single-file pace-line and in the low 20’s in the head wind, mid-20’s with a crosswind, with a nice buildup in the last mile. I was second bike behind Mike & Diane’s tandem coming in the last mile and they were absolutely taking it to the barn, dead into the headwind. I couldn’t believe how long they stayed up front but they just kept going. Approaching the sprint point, after hiding most of the ride, I decided not to go for the sprint. My legs were suckin’ anyway, and Mike & Diane earned the sign season’s final.
We hammered across the City Limits at 29-mph into the wind, just shy of 50-km/h.
And that was that. I stopped my Garmin and recued another workout for the cooldown mile back to the parking lot. I ended up with a 22.1-mph average because I fell off the back for that mile or two but the group finished with a 22.4 – fantastic for one of the last TNIL’s of the year. It was hi-fives and laughs all the way back to the parking lot.
It’s a rare day I struggle like that. We all have them, I suppose. Thankfully, I’ve got some great friends who got me through it.