Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hills of the West Coast Ride Report Six-pack on the 4th of July

Miles: 62-64 Climbing: 5900-6400’ Route: Sam Smith Park—Mercer Island—Honda Hill—Newport Way to Issaquah—Olympus climb on Squak—Issaquah-Hobart Rd.—Tiger Mountain from north climb—Tiger Mountain from south climb—May Valley—112th-Licorice climb—May Valley—Newcastle Golf club climb—Lakemont climb—down 164th—Somerset climb—Mercer Island—Sam Smith Attrition Rate: 14% Cima Coppi: 1st Chris Ragsdale 2nd Tom Meloy 3rd Pat Flanagan Soldier(s) of the Day: all of us for holding it together with Chris in the group

What a difference a week makes. A week ago at the Chelan Century I didn’t have my best day on the bike, nor did I on the last HOWC, but today I felt great for the whole (very hard) ride. I’ll be doing some self-analysis of my McNeil Canyon albatross in my next blog post…

It’s nice to know that Chris Ragsdale is indeed human. When he rolled up this morning, he was (gasp)…breathing a little hard. After he explained that he rode from home in 25 minutes instead of the normal 45, I understood. But still, we had confirmation that Chris is not a total extra-terrestrial.

We had a strong and experienced group of seven. Once again, we climbed Squak, Tiger, and Cougar Mountains twice each for a Six Pack. This seemed appropriate on the 4th, when a large (double entendre intended) part of American is likely enjoying a different kind of six pack. Paul left us somewhere around Tiger Mountain, telling someone that he was fading, which is surprising because he had been riding well. Incidentally, we had two newbies, and both of them rode solidly.

For the first part of the ride, I was impressed with how our group handled the hard pacelines dictated by Chris’s 25+mph effort on the front. Things go a lot more safely and smoothly when people know what they are doing, and we didn’t have much of the typical surging common in a hard paceline. I was also reminded of how big of a difference it makes when a rider is second vs. farther back in the group. No wonder Lance Armstrong always seems to be the 5th or sixth rider back from his teammate on the front of the group. As in the past, I am left to wonder why so many people put such a focus on how they ride an event (for example, the STP) from year to year. How can you compare your time from a year when you ride solo with a year where you have a locomotive like Chris in your group?

Later in the ride, I found myself increasingly second wheel…with no one behind me. At times, I was pulling 400-600 watts and clawing to stay on Chris’s rear wheel. I must mention a simple yet classy gesture on the part of Brian Unger. Brian was on an uncharacteristic bad day, and he was second wheel as Chris pulled us south on Issaquah-Hobart Road from Squak Mountain to Tiger Mountain. Brian told me he was going to get dropped. Most riders in this situation often seem to look down at their bike as if to imply, “Oh, I am put into difficulty by a mechanical with zee bike.” The rider behind wonders what is going on, and before you can say, “Get out of the line,” a 15’ gap opens, and the line falls apart. Brian let me know that he was moving left, I had only a 5’ gap to close, and I got onto Chris’s wheel. We were just crossing May Valley, and soon it was then just Chris and me, and it’s likely that this was the first time I stayed in the big ring up the hill to Tiger Mountain Drive.

I was not unhappy that Chris rode “piano” up Tiger Mountain from the north, enabling me to ride by his side as he told me about his tactics and those of another rider during the recent 24 Hour National Championship, which he won…again.

We dropped down Tiger back to Issaquah-Hobart, did a U-turn, and rolled back up the hill from the south. Our discussion continued, and I asked Chris what kind of riding he had planned for the four weeks leading up to his attempt on the world 24 hour and 1000km records. Chris told me that next weekend, he and two other local strong riders were going to preview his “course,” and they were going to do a four-hour century. I assumed that Chris would want to do all of the work, and that the other two riders were coming along for company. Chris replied, “No, we are going to do kind of a team time trial.” Not knowing a thing about such things as the record time for a solo 100 miles, I somewhat naively asked him if he thought he could do four hours solo. He modestly replied that he thought he probably could. Uh yeah, I thought, that’s probably a certainty with threshold power of over 400 watts.

I asked Chris if he thought he might take a break from the 24 hour stuff and go for the 100 mile record. While he feels like his strength clearly is the long stuff, he was aware that the open road record was 3:36, and he knows who holds it…

Sorry for all of this stuff about Chris Ragsdale, but he does do some pretty cool stuff on the bike, and it's kind of like playing a round of golf with a nice and humble version of Tiger Woods.

I always really like it when Chris shows up. I like to talk cycling and he can walk the talk. As I told him today, whenever he is on the ride, everyone is guaranteed a serious workout, no ifs, ands, or buts. No doubt about it—I have no choice but to ride very hard, and that’s what I am looking for on Sundays.

Holidays, especially when they fall on a Sunday, are such great days to ride. We rolled up to the light at Factoria Boulevard, just before the Honda Hill, and underneath the 405-90 interchange. Not one car was visible in any direction, a first during the million times I have come through here. No comment on the weather today, other than we snuck the ride in before the crappy stuff descended yet again. Just think how much fun we’d be having on the HOWC with perfect weather.

Whew, I am seriously tired, but it is a good tired! I spent a lot of time in the red zone for some big training effect. I’m way more tired than I was last Saturday after the Chelan Century, but that’s another story…

I hope to see you on the road.


Kristen said...

Thanks for the great ride Tom. It was a pleasure riding with such a strong, experienced group. Everyone was very courteous and Brian had some great tips for me even while he seemed to be having an off day. WOW! Chris is an incredible athlete; I was looking forward to the hills for a bit of a break after trying to stay in line with the group on the flats.
Thanks again. Oh and the skewers I use are KCNC

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