Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hills of the West Coast Ride Report Easier, But Not Easy

Miles: 63.5 Climbing: 3900’ Route: Sam Smith Park—Enatai—Honda Hill climb—Newport Way to Issaquah—Issaquah-Preston trail to Sammamish Plateau—down SE 40th—W. Snoqualmie—Carnation Farms—Ames climb—Rt. 202—244th climb—216th to E. Lake Sammamish Pkwy—Mercer Island—Sam Smith Cima Coppi: 1st Chris Cloyd 2nd Tom Meloy 3rd Dan Fealk Soldier of the Day: N/A Attrition Rate: 11%

Just as with the teams in the Tour de France, we had 9 riders this morning, and luckily for our “team”, we managed to keep the rubber side down. Early in the ride I did have my concerns about this. We had a few new people on the ride who never really understood the protocol that we have used successfully. Today’s ride was definitely the “loosest” ride we have had in a long time, but the ride never felt like we were getting to the sloppy and unsafe stage.

I made several efforts to smooth things out, but we never really did get it together. Every group ride has its own unique feel and Karma, and our ride today just always felt a little disjointed. It was still a fantastic ride, but it definitely was not one of those “auto-pilot” rides.

Chris and Andrew seemed to be making random attacks on each other off the front; I never did figure out the strategy. As I watched them put their heads down and stomp on the pedals, I wondered if burning up the energy would take its toll. Chris rode extremely strong all day long, appearing to be indefatigable, but Andrew definitely paid a price as the ride wore on. More importantly, each time they sprinted, gaps would open instantly, and I wasn’t the only one who didn’t really understand what was happening.

Normally we work together and take turns on the front. We always announce a re-group on the climbs, but we endeavor to keep the ride together as a single unit on flat and rolling sections. Over the years, I have found that not only is it easier for me to keep track of everybody this way, but the ride goes faster overall. The more gaps that have to be closed, the greater the chance of totally cracking the riders who have had to close those gaps. Unless you drop these riders, the overall pace of the ride usually slows significantly.

We have a lot of rides where we just hammer away on the flats, the group just flows along, and we really must look like we know what we are doing. For this to be possible not only do you have to have good communication and cooperation amongst the group; all of the riders need to be reasonably close in strength. While all of our riders today were strong riders, it was obvious early in the ride that several were not quite strong enough to hang with a really hard pace. At this point, there are several options on the HOWC. If the group is large, we will sometimes split the group. If the group is smaller as with today, we usually (but not always) try to back off the pace and go as a single group. Today, we had a really great group of riders, and it just didn’t feel right to me to drop several of them. I did my best to keep things smooth, but it was a little bit of a challenge at times.

Today’s ride was “easier” than the HOWC’s of the recent past, but it was by no means an easy ride. While there were no real long climbs, we nevertheless still managed to tally almost 4000’ of climbing. The pace on the flats was at times quite hard, and the jerkiness on the front that I described above made it very tough on the people at the rear of the group.

We had enough strong riders for me to get a good sense of my form, and I am very pleased. Despite a big week on the bike last week, I felt great again today, and seemed to get stronger as the day went on.

Tracy and I are going to Maui in about a week and I’ll be renting a bike. Here I come, Haleakala!