TNIL: Too Hot in the Hot Tub Edition (Pace, Not Temperature – It Was Gloriously Mild but the Wind Decimated the Group… Or… Was It the Pace?)
The warm-up should have told the tale of the main event – not necessarily difficult, and actually quite speedy as warm-ups go and it was just Chucker, Jonathan and me. Three B guys and we managed an easy 19-mph average on the warm-up. Even into the 15-mph crossing headwind we were pretty speedy. The trick was all in the direction of the seven mile loop we do for the warm-up. Southwest, then west, then north, then due east… we were never dead into the southeastern wind. Or heading directly south. That would matter later.
My wife showed up for the main event but misplaced her car keys, causing us to miss the roll out of the group. It was almost too late when she told me to go, that she’d find her keys and meet us on the road after she found them. One thing’s for sure, my wife can’t be on time for anything and the group doesn’t wait. I rolled out and had to hammer it to get caught up. The A’s and B’s, though there was enough of each group, rolled out together. Now, a southeasterly wind is very rare in Michigan. Northeast, quite normal. Anything out of the west, normal. Southeasterly winds destroy our groups. Smash them into little, tiny, bonking pieces. I knew before ever leaving the parking lot this was going to get messy. I was out of the saddle and sprinting at 26-mph right out of the gate to catch the group. Last year, I’d have been dropped before I started. I caught the group within a quarter-mile… and quietly thanked God for a productive winter.
Things got messy in a hurry after the first mile and some change. Heading due north with a crossing tailwind we were at 30+mph (48 km/h, briefly rubbing up against 50). I should have been smoked within a mile or two, but not this year. I stayed with the group and the pace moderated to 27-ish before heading east at 25 (40 km/h). Another mile north at 27 and it was time to pay.
Shipman road is a rare southwesterly/northeasterly road. Most roads are a simple one mile grid, north/south, east/west. Shipman, with a southeasterly crosswind, crushes a big, reasonably paced group into little, tiny fragments, mile after grueling mile. Last night we were north of 25-mph with a group of A riders hammering like they were paying penance or something. I still did my turns up front but they were short – and those turns were becoming disturbingly more frequent… I hazarded a glance behind me and it was just Jonathan and me left with about a half-dozen A guys. That was all that was left of two-dozen and we were only eleven miles into the ride. I told Jonathan I was going to wait for the tandems and eased off the gas as the small group of A guys motored on.
In hindsight, as fast as I am this spring, I should have tried to stay with the lead group but I was thinking about the crossing headwind section coming up after the hills, plus the fact that we were rotating way too fast with only three bikes in each side of the double-pace-line. That was going to be too much for me. I do think if we’d singled up I may have had a chance.
The tandems caught us at a crazy intersection and we continued on, heading south. Then a mile and some change west and the real ugly punched us in the mouth.
We had the hills, dead into a brutal 15 to 20-mph headwind. There were points we were down to 15-mph. We lost Jonathan at some point, and a couple of others, so it ended up being the two tandems, Dale, Chucker and me. Rotation was pretty quick at the front and we were thankfully single-file. We picked up my wife at about the 18-1/2 mile mark… she was going to ride west to meet us but realized she was going to have a mess heading back so she wisely waited for us.
Heading north was a relief, with a little help from the wind, but the home stretch was gonna suck. And it did. The group splintered up a little bit and I wound up waiting for my wife and Mike & Diane on one of the tandems. I easily could have stayed with Chuck, Dale and the other tandem (for all the “brutal” adverbs, I was feeling quite strong and spectacular), but I wanted my wife to know I wanted to be there for her.
We ended the ride with just under a 21-mph average and took it to the parking lot easy for the last mile. Unfortunately, we had to wait on a few stragglers. Jonathan bonked bigtime. A few others were dropped in the first three miles, and several others rolled in shortly after we got back – the road was littered with dropped riders. The weather was nice enough after that many of us stuck around to talk, be social and wait on everyone to get back before heading our separate ways. The whole drive home, all I could think about was how lucky I was to be a part of such an excellent bunch of friends. It sure is some kind of awesome.
I slept like a baby last night.