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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Leading things out

It's 8 PM and the Hour of Power seems a long way ago. I put in another 50 miles after the ride and have been going nonstop between then and now. Hope it is possible to remember what happened!

When I walked out the door it felt like fall! I almost went back in to get my arm warmers. The cool temperatures would last long, so I just kept pedaling thinking about the ride to come.

I was startled by a rider coming up on my left. It was Scott Taylor. He was just getting back on the bike after being off for two weeks. I figure he was trying to get his legs back for some triathlon. We split company at Holmes park and I rode on to the shop.

Once there I found just about five riders. Of course, I was a little early (for a change), so I was sure some more would show up. They did. By the time we rolled out of the lot there were about fifteen of us.

Just as we were getting ready to turn out of the lot, Bob drove up in his truck. We waited a bit for him and then the majority of the group rode off at a slow pace to wait for him. I turned to go back to keep him company. John turned back as well.

The three of us picked up the pace to catch the group and by the time we reached Pine Knoll, we caught them. Then things settled down to your normal Hour of Power ride. The first part is always the most social section of the ride.

Having not ridden since Tuesday, I wasn't sure how my legs would react. I figured I would make my own pace and if anyone wanted to go after this first sprint to Reid School Road, they could have it. I'd see how things went later.

Chris, a fourteen year-old junior rider, started to go for the marker. Art went after him and then Tony. I can't remember who all ended up at the front of that one, though I think it was Tony who crossed the top first.

The group was a good one. We didn't need to spend a lot of time regrouping, so we started off for the next battle zone. By this time, I was surprised that my legs weren't complaining about the time off. I'd see how things would go on Meece Bridge Road.

Chris was there again and Louis as well as things started ramping up. I moved up as they began to drop back and soon it was just John and I. John had been pulling for quite a bit up to that point. I decided not to contest the sprint and just roll across the line on his wheel.

We were almost there when Tony came around our left. I tried to react and actually made up a bit of ground, but crossed the line with my front wheel up to Tony's crank. He had quietly moved across the gap and got us.

There were some short attacks here or there after that, but the main thing coming up on the ride profile was the quarry road. The last several weeks, John has gone off on flyers and has taken the sprint. I was determined not to let him do it this time.

The group got all strung out as we headed toward the base of the climb. I took it easy jumping from one small group to the other as I worked my way to the front. Art had checked out and my guess was he planned to pull a John. John was behind me.

Then John came around me and I jumped on his wheel. We kept moving up past the riders strung out in front of us and then just as we were nearing the base of the climb, we caught up with Art. I slowed and stuck to his wheel while John was behind me.

Art slowed more and I decided to take matters into my own hands and went around him. I hit the base in the right cadence and planned to take my own pace up the first half and then counter anyone else that might come along.

Chris came along real early and then Louis blasted by. Chris I didn't have a handle on yet. He might make it or might not. My guess was Louis would make it to the first half, but have to recover on the second half.

Then John came around and he was there for business. I had to work to stay up with him, but we soon put Louis behind us. Then it was time to get around Chris. My wheel was gaining on John's when he slowed suddenly because his chain dropped.

It broke his momentum, but it quickly engaged and the two of us got around the younger rider. Then it was just the two of us to try for the top. John was out of the saddle and I knew at that point I was a goner.

As we neared the final slight left turn to the straightaway, John seemed to slow and my momentum carried me around him. I kept pushing it and suddenly felt that feeling in my legs that comes when they first start complaining. Perhaps I could just push through it.

"Ease up," I heard John say. "You've got it," he finished. I'm not sure why he didn't blow my doors off, but I passed the finish line with him right behind me. I was surprised to see my heart rate had barely topped 180 bpm.

We had a little fun at the next sprint zone watching Bob go off the front and put a big gap on us. As we sprint up to a fire hydrant, you can see the whole thing unfold before you. There was Bob starting to slow ever so slightly as he started up the hill. Louis took off after him.

We all started to cheer on the two riders. I thought Bob had it in the bag, but Louis turned on that power of his and was gaining fast. "Go, Bob, Go! Louis' gaining!" we yelled. Bob couldn't react and Louis passed him and kept on going until the next stop sign.

Once again we entered a section of the ride where there is a good amount of pedaling before you reach another one of the major sprint zones. It was a good time for picking up some of the conversations that had started before the heavy duty riding started.

Next up: State Park entrance. As we moved into position, I found myself up front with John. "I'm not sprinting this time," I told him. "I'm going to lead out." He told me to wait until a certain section and then start ramping up the speed slowly. Once we reached the "flats" I should try to get up to 30 mph and hold it until the downhill. At that point, the speeds would increase and I would get out of the way as we started up the climb to the entrance.

My first fear was that I would start off too fast. I almost did, but I heard John behind me telling me to ease up. Then we neared the rolling section and I started to move toward 95% output. I was pulling at the front at 30 to 33 mph. Then we dipped. I'm sure we were passing 40 mph at that point.

Just as we reached the bottom, I almost ran over some people who were along the edge of the road doing some beautification work on a trail at the base of the dam. I don't know who was more startled, them or me! Either way, my work was done. I pulled over and John launched.

It takes a lot longer to get to the top of that thing when you're not sprinting! Plus, leading out is hard work. I was pretty bushed and most of the field passed me before I reached the top. "You must have been leading out that train," Tony said as he rode by.

I don't even remember the Oakleaf climb. I believe it was Art that got to the top first. I was just trying to survive to the top so I could go down. I made it, and now there was just Nature Trail to go before coffee, bananas, and doughnuts.

Chris took off to get a head start up the climb. Another one of the newer riders also took off after him. I followed shaking my head. Couldn't we just ride this one up nice and easy like?

The newer rider dropped back quickly, but Chris was going to give it a go for the win. The guy is going to do well if he keeps it up. He has some physical gifts and seems to want to learn.

Then it was again John and myself trying to chase him down. John seemed determined not to let the whipper snapper take the climb. Thing is, I don't think we would have gotten him had he not slowed near the top. We were only about ten meters from the line when John came around him and only five by the time I got there.

What fun. I think I will start doing more lead outs in the future. It is hard, but at least on the HOP, I feel pretty confident in my ability to sprint. It would be good for me to build up some of the stamina that comes from being that lead out man.

By the way, it was a beautiful morning! It did warm up, but it was really quite comfortable. Fall is just around the corner!



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