Monday, September 13, 2010

Smartly pushing the pace

This was a great weekend of cycling.  Not only did I have two great rides but I had friends who performed very well in their various races this weekend in events ranging from mountain biking in Annadel to a 3-day stage race in Folsom.  Everyone seemed to have a blast and that’s what cycling is all about. 

What made my rides this weekend so special?  Well, it was a combination of pushing the pace and riding smart.  I was planning to ride "Sonoma County's Finest" Bike Tour with Brian and a few members of his Blue Line Cycling Team.  This was the inaugural ride benefitting the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Service, which I think is a great cause.  These people do so much to help others cope with terrible circumstances.

Saturday morning dawns crystal clear and you just know it’s going to be a great day for a nice relaxing bike tour through the Wine County.  Alas, that is not what happened.  You see, I ended up riding with just Brian and his coach Fran.  At this point I need to mention that Fran is a Cat 3 rider and Brian, who I used to be able to hang with, has become an animal on the bike.  At this point I decide to ride smart and hang with them as long as I can.

At 8:30 we’re off.  The pace was solid and lifted from the beginning.  The course was what we call Sonoma County flat.  This means it was a lot of rollers and the occasional small hill.  As Fran settled into a rhythm, I settled in behind him.  Then Brian take the front for a while as I simply drafted to save energy and continued to hang on.

We reached the first rest stop, at the 20 mile mark, in basically one hour.  That is fast for me.  At the rest stop I told them that if I drop to keep going.  They are still training and I am not.  Besides, I knew the way the home. 

As we left the rest stop the pace started lifting again and we were cruising  at 20+ mph at this point.  Fran got things going with a very long pull.  Then Brian held the front with me on his wheel.  Then he pulled over and I was on the front.  Decision time.  They knew I was slower and had basically said it was ok to draft to the end.  However, I felt I needed to take the front at least once.

Brian came off the front at the perfect time.  We were on a short rise that was followed by about 2 miles of flat.  So, I used this section of road to take a decent pull then got back into my draft position.  This is where I stayed for the next 10 miles until I dropped back on a small climb.  By the time I got to the top they were gone.

From there, I settled into my own slightly-lifted pace and finished the ride.  I am very happy with my efforts for how long I stayed with them and that I was never passed once I was on my own.  In looking at the post-ride data on the Garmin, I can see that we averaged 20 mph from mile 10 to mile 35 (they managed it to the end).  I have never held that speed for that long (my average for long rides is typically around 17 mph) so of course I am pretty excited about it.

Sunday was supposed to be an easy recovery ride.  However, some of us were riding to the start and a flat tire from a fellow rider at the very beginning put us behind meant we had to kick it.  This is not what I needed but I managed to dig deep and take some big pulls on the front at 20+ mph once again.  Was I still being smart?  I pushed hard to get us there on time then back off the pace dramatically.   So in essence, I did a 10 mile interval followed by 30 miles of recovery and it worked out just fine.

There you have it.  Two great rides where I pushed the pace but in a smart way.  Apparently, it’s not just my legs getting stronger and that’s a very good thing.


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