Posted Saturday November 30, 2013on:
With Little Aths on hold this week for the big kids’ regionals, I had a chance to get out and ride with Neil. After last week’s ride I’d said on IM that I felt strong, but that I felt like I was selling myself short to be out on those roads and not eating stem the whole way. So when Neil asked what I wanted to get done for the day, the answer was obvious — more than 120k, more than 2,000 vertical. I knew it’d be a different ride. The fuel rules were the same — no energy drinks (although I half-cheated and used sugarless electrolyte tablets in my first two bottles), and supermarket bars only (i.e. nothing sport-specific).
The first sign that the ride would be a step up from last week when we figured we’d have time to cover the distance and grab a coffee if we met 45 min later than I met Andrew last week. When we did meet up, Neil said he’d invited an old friend along who needed to get some ks in – we were going past his place anyway. Sounds good. I was introduced to Craig as ‘the bloke who road Leadville last year’. Really? How’d you go?
‘Yeah, I was happy with my time.’
‘Did you get the belt buckle?’
‘Yeah, and the cowboy boots.’
Then Neil prompted him to drop the modesty, ‘Where’d you place?’
‘Oh, I came second in my age group, but you can’t start at the front with the pros if you’re an age group racer, and that’s a big disadvantage. I had to pass over a thousand people—’
‘Who beat you?’
Tinker Fucking Juarez.
Ok, so Craig can ride. In fact, it turns out I know Craig’s name from his exploits, probably via Jeff and John. He was 45-49 age group World Solo 24-Hour MTB Champion three times a few years ago.
The whole day was much quicker than last week. No stopping, and much more stomping. A fair tempo was set out along Mt Pleasant (I picked up a couple of PBs on the sub-segments, but not all the way from Anionette). Krueses Rd was hard. I zig-zagged.
We rode Alma as TT. It’s a sweet road to drill yourself on, and I was happy to keep sight of Craig and Neil for the first few twists and turns. Ultimately they disappeared, and I figured they were hidden in a dip up ahead. Nup. Way off.
Dave suggested we check out School Rd, so we did. It was worth the recommendation, a long, hot-mix stripe that runs up along the spine of the ridge, with a 23% kick part-way along.
We missed Flat Rock Rd last week, but today we made it our second TT. I killed my segment time by stopping for a nature break 100m in which is a shame, because I left a lot on that road. Neil and Craig did their thing and I just pushed as hard as I could. When Neil circled back behind me it was just at the right time. ‘Push! Head up! Push!’ I responded despite already burning legs and deep, hard breathing ‘Push! 200m! Push!’ He was yelling now, yelling over the inner voice that says Pace yourself. Moderato. Don’t crack. Fuck don’t crack. ‘PUUSH! GO! HARDER!’ Panic breathing now. A little ragged rasp somewhere down in my chest I wished blow out, and then we crested the hill.
The big boys lifted their foot from the gas, but I wanted to drill it hard up to the intersection. I didn’t know and had already botched the segment, the road would ended for me a the end of the road.
And, for the most part, that was the ride. Sure, there were hills and rollers on the way home but most of everything had been left back on Flat Rock Rd. I made damn sure I didn’t fall off the back as I have so many times before, heavy and hollow on the end of the leash, up Banule Rd.
It was a hard day in the saddle, but the good kind. The kind that comes not just from pushing yourself, but being pushed by faster mates who help you to wring yourself just that bit tighter. I said tighter! Better.
And what better place for it.
128.7km, 2,206m, 5:06hrs
(a full 30 min faster than last week over the same distance and elevation)