I took advantage of the first day of Spring Break and the first really nice weather day in Austin in some time, to get in some real bike mileage this morning. I went out to Mopac, planning to do a few loops. Since I have the week off, I plan to be riding every day (well, almost — golf tomorrow) and beef up my mileage and endurance.
On my second loop of the eight-mile route, I saw a biker pull out onto the road about a half-mile ahead of me. Aha, I thought — here’s a chance to see if I have what it takes to catch him. I picked up the pace a little.
It was going to reach a high in the mid-80s(F) today, but at the time of the ride, it was still in the 50s. I was nicely warmed up, but didn’t plan to push too hard to catch the rabbit — just a bit more than my usual pace. When I rounded the turn at Route 1826 for the return leg, the other biker was out of sight. But I soon saw him emerge from a swale in the road. It looked like my chances of catching him were pretty good.
Several hills mark this stretch of the route. Not big hills, but enough to make you work. The other biker was not pumping very hard, but keeping a steady, even pace. I was closing the gap.
Toward the end of the eastbound leg, there’s a nice downhill that lets me exceed speeds of 30 mph. Not so today, with a southeast wind blowing in my face. I got up only to 30, but was still gaining. I expected to catch him on the level ground at the bottom of the hill.
It was then that I realized — the other biker was female! (That’s fine — one of the strongest riders in my bike club, who regularly leaves most of the guys behind, is a female.) And since she was obviously younger than me, she was probably stronger than me, if she’d had any kind of experience on a bike. Heck, I was pleased to be able to catch anybody.
“On your left,” I called, as I closed on her. She barely gave her bike a flick over to let me by. I passed, still gaining speed, and gradually eased over into the center of the paved shoulder. The road was approaching a sweeping left that would turn us north, and up another series of moderate hills. I kept up the same pace I’d been riding, and attacked the first hill.
My legs must be getting stronger. I actually gained speed going uphill, at least for a bit. I felt good — what a great day to be out on a bike ride! Then I heard a telltale click.
It was a bike changing gears, and it wasn’t mine. I looked back, and there she was — inches behind my rear wheel! She’d grabbed a draft right after I passed her. That gave her a chance to recharge her batteries.
I saw her wheel pull up on my left side. We crested a hill, and started down. She pulled in behind me again. At the base of the hill, I downshifted and applied more power. Again the click just off my ear. And then, that nice silver Merlin with the rider in the purple and white jersey slid by me.
I figured I’d use her tactic, and grab her wheel. But I was losing ground climbing the hill, and she was pulling away. By the time we reached the top, she was out of reach.
I’ve been smoked by old guys, smoked by young gals, smoked by mountain bikes, and now I was smoked by someone who really knew what she was doing. Good for her, and good for me — I learned something today. I learned that I’m not as young as I feel, and I learned that I still have a way to go conditioning-wise (as if I didn’t know that already).
I finished another loop of the Mopac route, then headed home. Good average speed today — almost 16 mph. It’s going to be nice for the rest of the week. I hope I have several repeats of today’s ride. But this time, I’ll grab the other rider’s wheel and save my strength for when it counts.