Distance: 35.6 mi.
Avg. speed: 20.5
July mileage total: 302 mi.
Weather: 81-70º, 37-64% humidity, wind WNW8-SSW4, sunny-twilight
Song stuck in head: Sean Penn Blues - Lloyd Cole & the Commotions
Made it to the MRC Wednesday night ride with the conditions being about as perfect as you'd want. Also came into the ride with nearly two days of rest (last ride was Monday morning). Fourteen other cyclists showed up and shortly after 6pm, we headed out.
Pattie D, who is "tapering" for the Ford Ironman Lake Placid, was counting on the ride being at a "moderate" pace which of course for me probably meant I might be able to keep the best riders in sight for most of the ride.
We slowly picked up the pace for the first 10 miles leading into Littleton Station, average speed climbing from 19 to 23 mph along the way.
Quite a few of our midst did not go single file when the call of "car back" came out. And we were riding at peak rush hour on rolling roads that gave poor visibility up ahead for cars trying to pass us. The part that really bothered me beyond the obvious safety aspect was that at least a third of us were wearing our MRC uniforms and if somebody complained, the MRC would take the heat. I'm not sure if the issue for these riders was discomfort in the paceline or simple lack of consideration or self-preservation. There's also the possibility of eliciting road rage from a frustrated driver.
After turning left at Littleton Station, we started up Oak Hill. I was about 6 behind the lead rider, Smudger, as we got going. I was happy to be clipping along at 17 mph up the first rise, pretty tight to Gary S's wheel but didn't expect that to last very long.
But I was wrong, although I thought that at any moment, my legs would give out and I would have to shift to my easiest gearing, I kept up with this lead group. Certainly, I got "help" by being able to draft, but we were weren't going THAT fast that it would make a huge difference. Our little group started to spread out a bit towards the top but I was right there with them all the way. Unfortunately, I did not take a time reading at the bottom so I have no idea what the actual climb time was.
At the top, we briefly stopped to allow for a regroup then continued on into Harvard Center, down steep, windy Old Littleton Road. As we turned onto Depot Road to head up Prospect Hill, I started to prepare myself for the possibility that I used it all up on Oak Hill. When we made the turn to actually head up Prospect, I found myself in the lead position - gulp!
I did a good job of keeping the pace above 20 mph along the less steep initial climb but started to slow to 17 mph as it got tougher. Fully expecting to be passed, I was surprised when no one did. Up I went, not looking behind: in case someone WAS right behind me, I didn't want to foul them up by crossing wheels with them. Soon enough, Smudger and a couple of others passed me.
I was feeling pretty good so just after the short, false summit of Prospect, got out of the saddle and hammered my way past all of them to the top. This left me pretty winded but now we were on the way down, so it didn't matter. Another regroup occurred just after the turn onto Still River Road - I'm pretty sure I saw one of my consulting clients pedaling the other way after we got going again.
One more big climb to do: West Bare Hill/Scott/Bear Hill. I was now mid-pack but keeping pace with small group of 4 other riders throughout this section, again feeling much stronger than expected. I bounded ahead of our group a couple of times only to be reeled back in very soon after.
After that, a very twisty descent down to Eldridge Road where we took up Taylor Road for an extended mile and a half hammer. Smudger and at least one other got a great jump on the rest of us and at one point, I thought we only had one more small rise to crest and sprinted out ahead to try to catch up but I was wrong: there was yet another rise after that and I didn't have the gas to keep up the pace. I fell to the back of the group.
S. Acton Road brought another high paced section, I was content to sit in with the pack the whole way. We pedaled easy down Red Acre Road back to the parking lot where we started.
Looking back at my log, by the numbers, this ride was only slightly faster than one other Wednesday night ride (less than a minute) but the numbers do not reveal the fact that we regroup at least twice per ride (sometimes 3 times) AND that tonight, I rode better than I ever had with the MRC crew.