Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hills of the West Coast Numbers don’t lie, or do they?

Miles: 61 Climbing: 2576’ Route: Tibbets—Ravensdale—Veazie—Cumberland—Enumclaw—218th climb—Lake Sawyer—Witte—Maxwell—Cedar Grove—Tibbets Participants: Emil K David L Jeff M Me

It’s hard to compare rides by the numbers. How can a rider compare a solo ride into the wind with a group ride over the same route where one rider does a lot of the work? So what if a rider went faster on the group ride than when solo? What does that prove? How would I go about comparing today’s ride intensity with the bazillion other HOWC rides I have led since 2003?

To start, today’s just felt like a ride amongst friends. The only thing that made our ride even feel like a HOWC was the fact that we did the same basic route as on June 12th. Back then, we had a gang of ten including a cadre of very strong riders who upped the ante. On the 12th we averaged a hair over 20mph:

On our way out to Enumclaw and back, we managed just over 19mph, and the ride was very laid back and it never felt like we were riding very hard. It was a nice change of pace from the normal HOWC. Even when I was on the front today I wasn’t working particularly hard, certainly not as hard as on June 12th just following Ian L’s wheel! As always, even though I felt good during the ride, I was tired after the ride, so perhaps we just rode harder than I thought we did.

We had a brisk wind this morning as we headed south and that same wind pushed us back home when we turned north. Could we have had one of those “bad luck” cycling winds on the 12th, and ridden into the wind for much of the ride? Actually, that wouldn’t have mattered much, except for Ian L, who did a massive amount of work on the front of that ride. We did throw in an extra 8 mile loop on the 12th, but it was not out of character with the rest of the ride.

Today we had the smallest HOWC gang in a very long time, but it was a great ride. Not only did we all know each other well, we were all part of Team High Performance Cycling:

On the 12th we had ten riders, but two riders did a lot of the work, and today we had four who split time on the front pretty evenly. You would think that being just four would have made today’s ride feel harder, especially compared to sitting in the draft on June 12th.

Could it be that averaging 20mph is simply a lot harder than averaging 19mph, no matter how many riders there are and who is doing the hard work on the front? Of course it could, but I can’t even quantify that. There are just too many variables that cannot be accounted for. Just think about the guys on TV who average 25mph day in day out during the Tour de France. Yes, there 190 riders, but you better believe that they don’t split the work evenly. These guys are on TV for a reason.

My power meter numbers confirm that I did indeed ride quite a bit harder on June 12th. At least some numbers don’t lie, and wattage holds you accountable as well.

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