Well, it’s Tour time again. As I have done in past years, I didn’t pay much attention the first few days. But I did watch Saturday, and that stage has inspired me for the rest of the year.
When Chris Froome went around Cadel Evans on a 20 percent climb and won by a wide margin, that got me thinking. I’ll never be Chris Froome, but I can be a better me.
I’ve got some things going for me. My weight is finally starting to come down. I’m about seven pounds lighter than I was at the beginning of the year. But I’ve noticed that my average speeds are lower than they ought to be for mid-summer. I must be slacking on my rides. A friend of mine is coming back from hip replacement surgery, and has been riding like crazy to get back into biking shape. She (yes, she!) posts her Garmin stats online, and her average speed is now ahead of mine — and this on the same routes in our area.
Hmmph! That was a wakeup call. But that’s all right. Now, I have something to shoot for. Two things, actually. I’ve decided I’ll do a century later this summer, maybe in August, maybe in September, and I have to get myself ready for that.
I’ve done three centuries so far, and as a friend observed, I’ve been pretty done in after each one of them. So the goal is not just to finish the century, it’s to finish it feeling good. And that doesn’t mean riding it so easy that I still have a lot of oomph left at the finish. It means marshaling my resources so I can get through those testy last 30 miles or so without dropping to an average speed in the single digits.
My work toward that goal has already begun, and it wasn’t all by design. I’ve got a balky cassette that will be replaced this week. At first, I thought the problem was just my chain, so I got a new chain. But the new chain and old cassette don’t play well together. I am effectively limited to about eight or nine of my 18 speeds when I ride. So I’ve been spending a lot more time riding in the big ring than I usually do. (I prefer to spin with a high cadence in the small ring.) I’ve even been climbing Convict Hill, my neighborhood grade, in the big ring — something that had never occurred to me before. The first time, I struggled. Yesterday, I got to the top without much trouble, much to my surprise.
Today, out on the club ride, my job was to guide a new rider. Although he had mountain bike experience, this was his first real road ride. He’s a big guy, with huge calves from his mountain biking, and he could have pulled away from me fairly easily for much of the ride. But I was in my big ring strategy, and kept with him or ahead of him for most of the 40-mile trip. And when I got home, I didn’t flop on the bed and nap for two hours as I so often have done. I’ve been working on household chores for most of the afternoon.
I also watched today’s stage of the Tour, and saw how first-time Tour rider Thibault Pinot caught the lead rider on the last hill of the course, then gave it everything he had to hold off the peloton made up of all of this year’s top riders to win the stage. He dug deep. I’ve been doing a lot of riding, but not much digging. The digging begins. I’ll keep you posted.
An encouraging post, bikenoob! I was out riding today getting ready for a 72 mile sponsored ride next weekend, managed my big hill (1250 ft) with a variety of hill climbing tricks where just two weeks ago I walked .75 mile of it. I was feeling proud of my hard work, when my left pedal started ‘feeling’ wonky. My first thought was I’d lost the cleat part to my shoe, but it turned out to be my whole pedal fell off. With no tools* in my bag, it was a call to my husband to come rescue me. It gave him a chance to see what 27 miles in looked like. I too, have the goal to ride my first century in September. I’ll be digging out West.
*just call me the bikenoob-ette, off to research a small multi-tool that would
have kept me on my route today.
I’ve found that attempting hills in the big ring helps me get stronger. Plus it helps get them over with quickly. I try to do anything below a 6-8% grade in the big ring whenever possible.
Good luck with your century goals!