30 July 2006

Not 100

Had I known I wouldn’t have gone. Not on this local metric century. This became obvious when I showed up to register and I just stood there with my Piglet staring at all the roadies in disbelief. These aren’t normal men; they cannot only stand up to kryptonite, I think they have it for breakfast.

My Piglet was the only piglet there. All others had names ending in vowels and if bikes could speak surely they snarled at Piglet. We didn’t belong there. I think that one of the ultra-leek, carbon-titanium-scandium beasts literally barked at Piglet.

Piglet wanted to go home. He knew better.

Let’s face it: I felt like an idiot. This, I suddenly realized, was not a walk in the park. You guys know that feeling: earth swallow me now. How can I get out of this?

I didn’t. I was dumb enough to take the start. After four kilometres – FOUR – I could not keep the pace on the controlled speed section of the tour. Let me explain.

This tour was made up of four sections. 1) The first 30 kilometers were to keep the speed of the Race Director’s car. Meaning all cyclists are to keep together riding on the main road through all the towns. There is a State Trooper on the front stopping traffic and a State Trooper on the back to let traffic pass when all cyclists go through. There is also an ambulance and a sweeper car to take care of any “problem” cyclists that can’t keep up, are injured or just give up. 2) There is a 15 kilometer “free zone” that climbs Mount Iroite. This is a free-for-all. No pace car. Nothing. The fastest wins and wins after climbing a gruelling 12 kilometer ascent (12% rise). 3) A second controlled section of about 45 kilometers where the Director’s car again maintains the pace. 4) A free-for-all final ascent of 10 kilometers up Mount Curota (15% rise).

I kept up as fast as I could in the first section but always lagging behind the group. I had never maintained an average 30 kilometer speed. It was destroying for me, but I somehow kept up. On the second section – the huge 12 kilometer ascent – I kept up for about half the course and then all passed me as though I was a vegetable on the road. I couldn’t believe it! The roadies just climbed and climbed. The sweeper car stuck with me on the entire climb at 6 kilmeters per hour – walking speed, I kid you not. I was a puddle of sweat and drank my only two bottles of Gatorade on the climb. There was a 20 minute rest at the top of the climb which included fluids and food for all the riders. When I got there the group was beginning to take off on the 3rd section so I only had time to eat a banana, take more water and ride the descent.

I could not keep up on the descent either. My 58 kilometer top speed was nothing for these monsters. Again I stayed behind. After riding on the main road for another 20 kilometers – crawling – it became obvious that I had become a nuisance. The sweeper car had to stick with me yet the State Troopers and the roadies were already 40 minutes ahead of me. The sweeper car politely rode next to me and said “I think we’re falling way behind. Maybe you should consider coming onboard so we can catch up.”

And that was the end of it. About 70 kilometers into the deal and I was done. Not because I couldn’t make it but because I couldn’t make their speed. I had expected to see some beginners like me on the tour so we could make a little “inexperienced group”, but there were none. It was just me and my Piglet.

Still I had a great time seeing how the roadies go about their thing. They are great riders on their slick bikes. And for road work there is nothing like a true road bike. Lots of lessons learned, which I’ll come back too. And most important of all: rather than feeling defeated I feel stronger and with more will than ever to continue to ride and to improve all my skills on the bike. For serious road work, no Piglet.


Freewheel said...

Was this a race? If not, why did you have to keep up?

A.R.B. said...

Hi Freewheel,

Well it was not technically a race, but rather a “tour” in the American usage of the word. Bunch of guys get together and go out for an organized spin. There are really no winners and the group stays together at the pace set by the director’s car. There is no podium but only a diploma with all the times spent on the various sections of the ride. The all out racers get a kick on the free section since there is no pace car to stop them – they essentially race on these sections, then come together again and follow the pace car.

In my case I later learned that the pace had been set rather high, but all the cyclists except me (and later a guy from Portugal due to an injury) could keep up as a group. I didn’t have to keep up and should’ve kept my pace and I would’ve finished the course, I think, but it became obvious that I had become a nuisance to the organization who had to keep a car behind watching me. Mind you, they didn’t say this and were very nice to me, but it was my obvious interpretation. I simply could not keep up.

Freewheel said...

ARB, this ride sounds like it was designed for racers. On the various rides I've done, there's always a group of guys on racing bikes who are trying to beat their best time. But there's often a group of riders like me who just enjoy being outdoors and actually look around and stuff. I even plan to snap some pictures during the century I'm riding in Sept.
Keep ridin'!

Ruby said...

You should be really happy about your performance. I'm impressed...

A.R.B. said...

Freewheel – Exactly. Most organized rides here in Spain, if not all, seem to be designed by racers for racers. They have a great time just beating their own times and I was quite impressed watching them work as hard as they did. A pleasure ride – as it was for them – is therefore quite relative. No time for pictures here or to look at the wild horses I saw on the way up Mount Iroite. Just different kinds of fun.

Ruby – Thanks for the encouragement. I really did have a great time despite my non-completion of the course. It was quite a challenge regardless and it taught me some great lessons, humility among them. I have great respect for these guys; they take their sport quite seriously and just love those pedals. (Beautiful bikes too!)

Shawn Kielty said...

I think you did a fine job of it. I'm with Ruby.