I’ve been focusing a great deal on ‘real life’ issues of late, and haven’t been spending as much time blogging. When I get free time to devote to bikes, I’ve been devoting it to riding, instead of writing. I haven’t taken the time to chronicle the Ten Thousand yet, but will soon.
For now, I wanted to write about the two best rides I’ve had all year.
The first was a week ago yesterday. An unsuspecting Saturday morning ride, rolling out of North Central Cyclery at 8am. Rather surprisingly, there were only four riders (including me) who showed up. The winds were very light, and we rolled out-of-town planning the route as we went.
We decided to ride as a pace ride. Everyone took one minute pulls, and rotated through. We held the speed up pretty high, and worked together. The weather was perfect, there was no traffic, the roads were ideal, and the route was one we hadn’t ridden in a while. We were all working hard, but working hard with close friends who we knew and trusted. You could ride right on the wheel of the guy in front of you, and be confident that he wasn’t going to lead you into a hole. It was a constant, hard effort, and the recovery between pulls was essential.
In the end we did close to 50 miles in just over two hours…inclusive of stop signs, turns, and roll-in/roll-out. It was a perfect ride–could not have been better. Everyone was on the same pace; there was no waiting, no bunching, no surges. Everyone pulled their weight. Everyone had a blast. It was the perfect group ride.
The following Wednesday was the next best ride. We had a good, fast group for the Wednesday Night Worlds (again from North Central Cyclery), and we rolled out with some pretty substantial winds blowing. I was feeling good, and hung with the front group more than I am usually able to. Coming back towards town and approaching the Alp D’Kalb, I was in a perfect position, at the back of a 6 person breakaway, with Brendan and BPaul immediately in front of me (BPaul, Brendan, me).
As we closed on the Alp, BPaul put up his right hand, holding five fingers. He did a silent countdown to one finger, and then launched. Brendan launched behind him, and I launched behind Brendan. We went out so hard and fast that the rest of the group never had a chance to latch on. BPaul did an insanely fast pull and then moved over, and then Brendan pulled to the base of the Alp. I then pulled through and claimed the climb. It was perfect tactics, perfect positioning, and perfect riding.
We turned onto Fairview and the pace picked up yet again. As we were heading into the last mile before the ride goes neutral, it was Lenny, Brendan and I at the front. I was in great position and did a pull at the front, then rotated through and got in line as Brendan and Lenny prepared to rotate through. As I came through the rotation a second time, Brendan attacked hard, and I held his wheel. Just as we were approaching the end, I moved left and pushed as hard as I could, past Brendan. We were just a little short of the yellow ‘stop ahead’ sign, but someone called “Car UP!”, and I looked forward through my hypoxic tunnel to see an oncoming car in the other lane. Discretion being the better part of valor, and as I was positioned at the left side of the lane (closest to the car), I called the sprint and dropped my pace so I could move over behind the other guys without guttering them, and without being too close to the oncoming car. Again, it was a perfect setup, executed perfectly, with perfect results.
Not every ride is perfect, nor are my tactics always ideal. Yesterday, I had a perfect opportunity to lead out a friend on another uphill sprint, and I launched early, leaving him hanging far too soon. But when a ride is perfect, it is such an awesome feeling. There are parts of rides where you get dropped…or where you’re pulling and pulling and pulling at the front and no one will pull through, where you question why it is that you’re suffering so much “for fun.” And then you have one perfect sprint–or you see a friend find a higher gear for the first time in a long time–and it’s all worth it. It’s not always about personal glory…in fact, there are times when setting someone else up and leading them out is more rewarding than taking a sprint yourself.
Our ‘fast’ group rides are not like some fast rides. We’re not cutting wheels and using constant race tactics–and we have “open” and “neutral” sections that are designated (typically for safety). When they’re neutral, we work together. When they’re open, we work for the sprint. When they’re done right, they’re perfect.