Gravel Metric Training Ride #3: 55 Miles

(Introductory Note: I’ve been quite busy of late, and have not been paying attention to the blog.  My apologies.  Also, I neglected to get any pictures from Saturday, so this is text only.)

Saturday was the Axletree Gravel Metric Training Ride #3.  It was anticipated to be 55 miles of awesomeness.  I mounted up the Moots, threw on my new Axletree Kit, and headed out.

The rollout from town was nice and easy, and as soon as we turned left on Gurler Road, we were hit by a pretty majestic tailwind straight out of the west.  Notwithstanding the pre-ride warning, a rider had squarely nailed a pothole coming out of town and flatted within a mile of the shop, so the pack stopped just off Gurler and waited for a regroup.  (If there was any bonus to the flat, it meant that everyone who was with that rider got to stand around for a few minutes and stare at his new, beautiful, custom Gaulzetti).

After the regroup, we punched south on Lynch with a pretty good crosswind.  There were a few riders at the front that were just kind of lingering, so I pushed past them and tried to do the ‘rodeo’ gesture to suggest that we rotate through some pulls.  That didn’t happen…people would just sit where they were.  After a few more turns, we were down to a smaller group of about 7-8.  There was Lenny, Aaron, BPaul, one other NCC guy, a guy I didn’t know, a girl named Kae (Kai?), and a guy in a TBC kit.  Lenny and Aaron went to the front, TBC guy hooked on, and they were off.

The remaining 4 of us (BPaul, Kae, NCC guy and myself) started working together pretty well.  We were rotating through a paceline, and working hard.  For the most part, everyone was pulling…and when someone missed a pull, one of us would jump over and pull through.

We hung a left to go south, and the lead group was perhaps a 1/2 mile ahead of us.  Kae pointed forward in the “let’s go” gesture, and suggested that we bridge across to them.  At that point, I contemplated my options and decided that I didn’t have the bridge in my legs–or at the very least, I realized that if I bridged, I wouldn’t be able to hold the pace once I moved across.  Accordingly, I decided not to bridge, and the remainder of the foursome held back as well.  Besides, I was mid-mouthful of gel.  Holding back at that moment proved to be an important and wise strategic decision–maintaining a steady effort was critical to the day’s outcome.

Until mile 35, it was constant turns directly into the wind, then heavy crosswind, then directly into the wind.  It was gravel and paved roads, but a constant, nagging wind.  I don’t know exactly what the wind was–I’d guess 15-20mph.  I rode well, and maintained a steady effort.  I shot a gel around mile 15 and mile 30, and those were critical to my continuing success throughout the day.  Interestingly, about a week ago, I walked for several hours in flip-flops, carrying a heavy backpack.  Since then, I’ve been dealing with a bit of peroneal tendonitis.  Early in the ride, it felt ok…as the ride progressed it started really hurting (and my calf muscle on that side started burning), and then, it got markedly and suddenly better.  (The day after the ride, I was having difficulty just walking, but things seem better today).

Around mile 35 was where we turned North onto the B-Roads.  BPaul was in front at that point, and notwithstanding the mud, ruts, holes and generally adverse conditions, he was killing it.  Our foursome shattered as he went spinning off and I chased after.  We regrouped only when Paul flatted shortly after the creek crossing.  While we were changing the flat, two riders caught our foursome and passed…and that gave us one mission.  Catch and destroy.

As soon as we were rolling again, BPaul and I pushed out at our best sustained effort, going North into a steady crosswind out of the northwest.  We ran down the two chaps who had passed us, overtook them, and they briefly tried to latch on.  Their effort failing, we continued north (and overshot a turn).  A brief reroute later, we were on Gurler headed Eastbound, with a strong tailwind.  We were running between 24 and 34mph depending on terrain, and it felt glorious.  I pulled past BPaul at one point to take the lead, and he said, “I’m just going to ride this tailwind back.  If you’ve got it, go for it–don’t hold back.”  To which I replied, “I AM going for it.”  I was canned out…there was no secret reserve that I was holding back.  We were both riding at our peak effort, and were comfortably neck and neck.  (Of course, BPaul is suffering from newborn-induced sleep deprivation, so perhaps it wasn’t entirely fair…)

The last 1.5 miles into town on Gurler, I see BPaul lean over and hunker down, fingers going to the shifters.  I knew what to expect.  He pushed off the front and I dug deep and tried to hang.  It was a fantastic end to a challenging ride.  Not that it was a race, but we finished 4th and 5th.  (Not that it was a race.  But we finished 4th and 5th.  But it wasn’t a race).

For the G’Metric, my nutrition plans are relatively similar, although I’ll add a bar in there somewhere.  I drank 2 bottles in the 55 mile ride; unless it’s beastly hot, I’ll probably take 3 for the Metric.

My other big takeaway was realizing that I want to ride the Metric around people I know.  Kae aside, I was surprised at how poorly people were working together.  I don’t know if it was ego, or poor planning, or just inexperience riding gravel in heavy winds…but people were not rotating, were not pulling, and were not being neighborly.  Whether you’re in the ride to just ride it, or in to race, riding with others is better than riding against others, at least in my opinion.

It was a great day to see all of the Axletree colors flying, and to see just how great the new kits look.  And it was a great, challenging ride under perfect weather conditions.

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