Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bike Racer Comming Through

"Bicycle racers are a superior race of human beings." --even retired ones

After 8 months off bikes, I was invited by a friend to the country side south of London for a 'bit of a cycle.' Having not ever been to the English country side, I immediately jumped at the chance for no other reason than it was sunny, and it would be a good way to see a part of Britain that I normally would never get to see. So armed with a borrowed bike, a Joss with 8 gears, heavy 32 spoke wheels and cow horns for handle bars (weighing in at a 'stable' 23 lbs), I set off with my mate and his friends for what turned into 90 miles of fun in Sussex.

All I can say is that club level 'racers' in Brittain are pussies. Granted, I have been running a fair amount, but by all rights, I should have been dropped by the fast riders because despite my reletive fitness, I'm still fat, and there is no possible way I'm even remotely with any semblence of the words 'bike fit.' But, I am cocky, and perhaps more importantly, I how to truly suffer, when to make efforts and apply my cumulative years of bike perspective of what is hard and what is fast. When I was told by one of the racers they'd probably drop me on the first hill, I shrugged--not really giving a shit since it was nice day (at the time), but there was no way in hell a former stuedent of the Tilford-Schneider-Topeka school of riding (e.g. "The Cult") was going to get dropped by a bunch of nancy Surry boys, even if my bike weighed at least six pounds more. With that said, however, the ride hurt, and I'm ashamed to say it took me almost 6 hours to ride 90 miles...even though it was like riding in Arkansas with some longer hills and a cross wind.

Here's how it broke down:

I was very cogniscent that I had to judge my efforts well just to finish, and I'd need to probably eat a granola bar with my morning coffee, but since it wasn't too hot, I was able to get by on half a big bottle. The ride started like every other Sunday club ride in the world. Fast, annoyingly fast but not fast or hard enough to damage. I was still able to drink coffee for the first 20 miles. Then the 'attacks' started comming because the American wasn't getting dropped with simple tempo riding--it's 'cause i no how ta draft. Did I mention there was a cross wind? So after about 25 more miles of 'spirited' riding, the pace slacked off a bit as people recovered for the hills. These were the most worrysome for me because there is no cheating in the mountains, and armed only with an 8 spd set of gears, 45 in the front and an 11-21 in back, I was just a little nervous. 20 miles of rolling hills later, and after about a million surges, hard efforts, my knees were screaming, yet, I wasn't dropped.

Oh but friends, the day was about to get bad, and turn to my favor. After the last pass, there was approximately 10 miles of winding descent and rolling flats, and it was starting to rain. Most of you know my retirement riding rules, the chief one being I will not ride before 10 am (actually that one was more or less always intact except for 'Muffin Rides' and sweltering death days--which I still prefered to do in the awake hours of afternoon). Slightly less important as the 10 am rule is the rain rule. I refuse to have a wet ass if I can at all help it, and I will suffer to my last breath to avoid getting wet--I love the rain, but any more, I hate being cold and wet. So with the ominous clouds forming and enough drizzle to make the roads greasy, it's my turn to go to the front. After about 25 minutes of pulling, my mate rides up and says that the group was getting pissed off, and I either had to slow down or sit in. I love descending in the drizzle. I respond of course, "but then I might get wet."

Fortunately for the sake conviviality the clouds clear, and I can go sit in. I saved us from a torrential rain storm it later came out. I was then told that the part of the ride was going to be fast (yeah, I'm confused here too, but hey, fuck those guys right?) with the sprint into the town limits deciding who would have some pints stood up after words (again, typical ride stuff). Normally, at this point, I really would be concerned, but I was fine, and my legs were finally opening up. I had another favorable weather event too: there would be a pure cross wind (about 15mph) all the way. And, though I knew I couldn't win the sprint based on gears, I could certainly lead it out for my mate, and we could split the beer. After a final sip of my red bull, I found a comfortable spot in the echelon and bided my time as those guys tried to gutter ride me.

The funny thing about the gutter is that there's the gutter, and then there's the real gutter. Most of the readers know that I spent at least 5 years essentially training in the gutter, so that when it was time to gutter-ride, I'd be ready. Needless to say, those guys left about 2 feet of tarmac between the last guy in the echelon and me, and yes, they were riding hardish (very hard by their reckoning) to drop me. So, with about 4.5 to go, I decide that I should do a little work to whittle down the sprint to a manageable number--from 12 to say, 3 (including me). I also chose this distance because the terrain was still rolling a bit, and with the wind, it would take me a while to get on top of my biggest gear (which still isn't a sprinting gear, especially in the damp, on cow horns with no drops). I also figured, 3 was the magic number because I could put it in the proper gutter with enough room for my mate, and the inevitable extra person who claws his way onto the back.

I jump, surge really on a little rise and slam into the 'big gear' going over the top and drop it as far left as I can on the road (it's the wrong side here). And, I tell my mate to just sit on in my draft. Where he does for a while. Now, with all the talk about how hard these riders were, I figured I'd have to keep doing that move for a while to break them. Herein lies a crucial error on my part. My stunt opened 20 seconds in no time. But, I didn't think I could maintain the pace so the three of us started taking rotating with me pulling double for my mate to win the sprint. When the road sign said 2 km to go, I start winding up the pace as hard as I can go relying on the curvey road, wind and pimply bumps to do the rest. At last look, it was us three, my mate, myself and the lucky bastard who was in the right place to cling on had about 25 seconds, but the group was finally organised enough to chase. I close my eyes and start going harder; finally after almost 90 miles I get on top of my gears and through the narrowing tunnel of my vision, I can see the town limit sign. I also look down to see the score, and I'm alone and confused. I'm practially pumpking shaped right now. My draft must be miles wide, and to be honest, I wasn't THAT far into the gutter or even going THAT hard.

But not being one to question a good thing, I punch it a little just to make sure and look back only to 11 little mushroom clouds at various points along the finish.

Long story short, I take the 'sprint' on a bike that isn't mine after 8 months of not riding (and frankly more like a year or more since I did any real bicycle training). When the pieces were finally collected, I was regarded with both deference and fear (keep in mind, I'm not fit, and frankly only residually hard--and the cumulated effort of the day hurt--alot). But, oddly enough, no one save my mate said "good ride" to me, and they were all a little confrontational (completely unwarranted because frankly I could give a shit about a sprint on a club ride--even with 'the racers' and was more enthralled with riding through some very beautiful country side...again, think Arkansas, only more pastoral with English cottages, hillside villages and manor houses/farms).

I did allow my self a small amount of ego, so when someone finally mentioned to me that the lead into town when I was pulling/'atacking' was really fast and harder than they'd ever gone, I said, "yeah, sorry 'bout that, I had to poo."

Ahh, perspective is really relative isn't it? The funniest part of the story, is I'm heading back there tommorrow for some more riding, but my mate said it wouldn't be a group ride--seems the club doesn't like racing afterall.

oh well, I'm out. For you tech geek numbers people, My max HR was 187, my min was 42 (taken when I strapped the thing on after coffee at the house) and the average was 131. Weird. My knees, for the record are still screaming.

I'm out, thanks for reading.