Sunday, June 12, 2011

HOWC Ride Report Metal Cowboys: It’s not about the bike…at all (it’s really not about the bike)

Miles: 68 (70 with ride end bonus treat) Climbing: 3000’ (4000’ with bonus) Route: Tibbets—Issaquah-Hobart Rd—Landsburg—Cumberland—Veazie—Enumclaw (400th)—244th—Whitney Hill Rd—218th—Moneysmith—Thomas—Covington-Sawyer Rd—216th—Witte—Maple Valley—Maxwell—Cedar Grove—Mountain Park Squak bonus climb—Tibbets Participants: 10 Attrition Rate: 1 (a shocking complete detonation within the 1st mile; it looked like he was shot out of a cannon off the back) Soldier of the Day: Ian L for his incredible work on the front/Steve H for showing up and riding hard (4:40 Flying Wheels 100 yesterday and 70m more at a 20mph average speed today. Steve spent more time on the front than a lot of us, including me) Cima Coppi: 1st Ian L 2nd Garrett C 3rd Dan F

After a little bit of a herky-jerky start, we settled into a real groove on today’s ride. Riding south from Issaquah toward Black Diamond, one is basically riding gradually uphill the entire way. Additionally, there was a headwind the whole way south. The combination of the gradual uphill and headwind made it difficult for riders to maintain a consistent effort level when they got to the front of the paceline for a pull. Once we got the pace sorted out, things went along smooth as butter. Things are now starting to gel with the new Issaquah start. It’s amazing how much different today’s ride felt than last week’s somewhat chaotic effort. We rode hard today, but smooth enough that people didn’t yo-yo back and forth off the back of the group.

As with last week’s ride, today’s route lent itself to a significant amount of pacelining. We spent much of the ride on deserted smooth rural roads as we navigated a big clockwise circle around Black Diamond. There were still ample opportunities to go for it on many climbs, and things sorted out when the road tilted upward and we called for a re-group.

You know it's a hard ride when you spend 99% of the time in the big ring. I can only distinctly remember one climb where I used the small ring, and that was on the sustained 9% 218th climb up from Green Valley Road.

Since starting the ride in 2003, I have led 200+ HOWC rides. Yes, many of the rides are a blur and many don’t even register in my memory. That’s why I started writing the HOWC ride reports in this blog! While I certainly can’t remember many of the super strong riders who have been on the ride, one thing that does stand out are the people who absolutely fly up the climbs.

I’m not talking about the guy who shows up on the ride, pours his guts out on the road and hammers one climb before splitting. I’m also not talking about people who target the climbs, staying in the draft the rest of the time to save their legs. Rather, I am talking about people who are there on the first climb, the last climb, and every climb in between. The indefatigable Ian L took monster pulls on the front of the ride, including the last 5+ miles back into Issaquah. Normally you are yelling, “Hey, let somebody else have a turn!” because the lead rider is slowing down and doesn’t realize it. Not so with Ian, and I don’t think anyone was less than extremely happy that he did a lot of the work.

In addition to being a workhorse, Ian is also the second strongest climber I have seen on the HOWC, and that makes him the second strongest climber I have ever seen, period. (Only super-cyclist Chris Ragsdale is stronger IMHO, but we would be watching Chris on TV this summer if he had discovered cycling at a younger age.)

The three strongest climbers on today’s ride were all riding metal. Ian was on his steel Rodriguez, Garrett C was on a steel Bianchi with downtube shifters, and Dan F was on a titanium Merlin his dad handed down to him. If it were all about the bike, these three riders would have ranked toward the bottom amongst our heavily carbon-laden crew. No, it’s about something else. I was pleased that all three of our Metal Cowboys were riding with Campagnolo. (Oops…wait…that’s definitely about the bike!)

Just as in golf or any other sport, you can’t buy a game. With cycling, it’s all about a rider’s fitness, aerobic capacity, largely genetically determined; age—face it-max heart rate and aerobic capacity decline with age; ability to grit their teeth and endure pain; determination; and weight, at least for climbing. Note that I’m talking about the rider’s weight, not the bike’s weight. A pound is a pound, but I’d rather have a lighter body than bike.

Dan was very impressive today, as he has been in recent weeks. Dan is a HOWC regular, and many times last year Dan and I climbed side by side. Not so this year, as he has upped his game and was in another dimension, leaving me in the dust. Must be that bike fit I did for him a few months ago. Just kidding! I complimented Dan on his form, and he mentioned that he did Ian’s Wednesday Bends ride almost every week. Yeah, I can see how trying to keep Ian in sight while hammering up six or eight steep climbs would help your fitness. Damn, I need to get motivated!

I tossed in a little bonus at the very end of the ride. I say tossed because I chose not to participate. I was too close to home and that was an easy out! While I took a right on Sunset and rode home through downtown Issaquah, some of the others headed up Squak Mountain, via the 1000’ 8% average grade Mountain Park Boulevard:

Tough any time, Mountain Park Boulevard must have put a real capper on today’s ride.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry about getting motivated and just work on surviving. As we rolled into Issaquah, Bill L, a very strong regular HOWC rider, looked over at me and said, “The young guys made us work hard today, didn’t they?” Yes indeed they did. There is no way I would ride that hard on my own. Wait a second…I can kill two birds with one stone! With the return of the summer HOWC, I’ve not only found a way to work on my form, I’ve found the motivation to do so.

Young guys! What young guys?

Epilogue: As it turned, out no one went up Mountain Park. After I turned right on Sunset, I was sure that a few were starting up, but they must have been bluffing!

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