Mike, Chuck, Charlie and I rolled out Thursday evening at 6 on the dot. I’d already completed a short warm-up in a hilly subdivision close to the high school and was rarin’ to go. Well, not really. I was a little nervous over the route. With 1,000 feet of “up” in just 26 miles, this a little more of a legit test of a rider’s ability and fitness than the usual flat routes I’m used to… and I had the Trek. With rain in the forecast, the only way to stay dry was to bring the Trek. If I’d have had the Venge, it’s a virtual guarantee we’d be hydroplaning at some point.
And so the four of us rolled out. It’s only a half-mile to the first hill and it’s a doozy, up to 9%. I was feeling like quite the fat ass as I lumbered up the hill as Chuck and Mike pulled away. They slowed at the top and I caught them on the downhill (#fatisfast). We hit a busy quarter-mile section, then down a slight 1% grade to another long half-mile climb (2-5%), but then we get to the gravy – a 2.2 mile run with a -1% grade. The hill at the bottom is payment for the fast descent. We turn onto Linden road, swinging wide before we get into the turn to carve a proper apex so we don’t overshoot into oncoming traffic… and then all that momentum grinds to a halt. The hill starts out at 11% and it’s twice as long as it looks, though it levels out to 6% toward the top. I was spinning up in my granny gear, and I didn’t care a bit how that looked. I wasn’t the last one up the hill, but I wasn’t the first, either.
In the loop around Lake Shannon is where the magic happens. For all of the problems with cycling, the traffic, the pollution, the headaches with maintaining a bike or seven, the next six miles of this route are a cyclist’s dream; lots of shade, rolling hills, and a descent that is about as fun as any in Michigan to start the section. And we put the hammer down requiring knees to be extended when leaning around corners, hands down on the drops to maximize aerodynamics, and lots of speed as we’re rounding tight corners at 30+ mph. I love that loop around the lake. As I see it, that six miles is why road cycling is so appealing. As many times as I’ve ridden it, it never gets old.
After the Lake Shannon loop, we have to pay for all of that downhill glory. We’ve got another brutal climb that Mike and Chuck scurried up… I went max-power to hold wheels but fell off about 3/4s of the way up… I knew there was a regroup about a half mile after, so I wasn’t exactly worried.
The remainder of the ride, till the last mile, is a series of fun rollers, a nice downhill run and little difficulty. That last mile is a bear, though. Around a corner and over a choppy section of road that tries its best to match the cobbles in France and then the climb… after you’ve been bounced out of every bit of momentum you carried through the turn. Remember that 9%er at the beginning? Yep, up the other way to the finish.
We pulled across the line with a 19.5-mph average (anything over 19 is very good, over 20 is excellent and our record best is just north of 22-mph from last year). After, we did a few bonus miles plus a run through a subdivision to check out a guy’s Lamborghini Aventador in his driveway before cruising back to the parking lot.
A few high-fives and congratulations and we parted ways. I fell asleep with a smile on my face and dreamt about how good it is to be me.
And that’s as it should be. Just another day in the life of an avid cycling enthusiast.