Sunday, May 2, 2010

Beware the Hairy Legged Monsters


Yesterday was the "shop" ride out of The Bike Lane in Reston. It was an enjoyable day and ride until...

...until we turned on Lawyers Road. We're never on Lawyers Road long and tend to single file on the side of the road once we sort it out. Yesterday we were still in a double line. We were doing 20 mph. Kelley Noonan was beside me when the rider in front of her inexplicably veered sharply to the left. By braking, his rear wheel took out her front wheel and she crashed hard. I heard that another rider flew over top of her.

So stupid!

Riding is fun and riding in a group is more fun but one must be careful and ever vigilant, sometimes for hours. We're not sure of the person's name who caused this crash. We heard he was on his first group ride. Hopefully he learned that you don't make sudden moves while in close quarters in a group. Rather than offer an apology he remarked to Kelley "that was really intense!"

I had State Cup soccer matches to referee in the afternoon and didn't mind cutting the ride short. Three of us escorted Kelley back to the shop rather than complete the ride.

Today was the Potomac Pedalers Annual Picnic. It was the first one I attended. There were rides for all classifications of riders. The "A," "BB," and "B" riders were offered the longest ride of the day -- 51 miles. They departed five minutes apart from one another.

I'm thinking I could ride with the "A" riders unless they really ramped up the pace. So I chose to go conservatively and join the BBs.

We started with 20 riders but soon sorted that out to 12. The other eight must have dropped back and joined the B group which was coming. We rode a pace line basically the entire route. Every remaining rider took their turn moving to the front, doing a pull, and then moving over and drifting back to the end of the line.

At mile 20 I found myself in front and did a pull for 3/4 mile then dropped back to the end. Oh my. Was it my fault that three riders dropped during my pull? We were down to nine and stayed that way until we reached the store/rest area. There we would regroup.

We left the rest stop and started slowly. Our 12 dropped down to 10.

Mindful of yesterday's crash, I was only comfortable following one rider. We joke about the "hairy legged monsters" but shaved legs is often a sign of a competitive or simply a serious rider who knows how to keep tempo and keep his line. Or maybe not. But until you have time to figure this out on a group ride it's a good starting place.

"Captain America" was the only other rider in our group who shaved. And he knew how to ride. Contrast that to one guy I fell in behind who would pedal furiously, then coast, the pedal hard, then coast, then stand, then coast. It was very difficult following him. My steady tempo would bring me too close when he decided to coast or stand. Plus he didn't hold his line too well.

As much as a physical exercise, a ride like today's is also a mental exercise. As some point one feels like they can no longer maintain the pace of the group. And today was a perfect day to "drop" and reintegrate with the riders we dropped or even the B group coming behind us.

Thankfully, I only had to fight that battle in my mind a couple of times. And the last time I was determined not to let it win.

Our 10 stayed together until five miles to go. After a missed turn, we turned into a wall of wind. We all fought to fight the wind and to stay tucked in behind the rider in front. Our pace line stayed together until I moved to the front. I only rode for about half a mile but when I dropped off I was surprised to see that we were down to six and no longer 10.

The last two mile stretch I was gapped by the group. I couldn't stay with their pace -- the one that I set. But I never was more than 50 yards behind and worked my tail off to close the gap and catch back on. As we approached Nokesville Park I had integrated and actually was first one back to the cars.

We went out at 18.7 mph for 27 miles and then returned at 20.2 for the remaining 24 miles. Overall, the 19.4 average was the highest I have averaged on any ride.

This was a big day for me. I didn't set out to record my fastest pace and the conditions were not right for it with heavy head and cross winds. But after cancer, and with another year under my belt, I did not expect ever to ride faster than I have before. I will take a 19.4 clip over a 50 mile course at any time.

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