Just a day after gloating about beating some poor guy who didn’t even know he was racing, I was brought back to reality. Out again on Mopac for an easy ride with Pat, I thought I would spin up the hills and wait for her at the top. It was another beautiful morning, and the best time to be out, because the afternoon would be uncomfortably hot.
What I had forgotten was that Saturday mornings are when the T3 team does its practice rides. They’re one of several triathlon teams in Austin, and we could see some of them heading north on Mopac when we reached the road and turned south. I didn’t think much about them as I pulled away from Pat on a slight downhill section.
I concentrated on my cadence as I hit a small hill, shifted into an easier gear, and started spinning at about 90 rpm. The effort brought the first drops of sweat to my brow, and I started to breathe in a measured, but faster, rhythm.
Swish! Two of the T3 guys glided by me, gaining speed as they went uphill. All right, this could be fun. Maybe I could hang with them on the next hill, then wait for Pat at the top.
As I watched them widen the distance between us, I realized it would take everything I had to close the gap. I wasn’t pushing yet, but I was moving a bit faster than I usually do on this part of the route. Then, two more T3s sailed past. One, a young woman, was tiny — but she led the guy who was with her without effort. I reached the base of the biggest hill on the course and kept a close eye on my cadence. By the time I reached the top, all four of them were out of sight in the distance ahead.
Pat has an arthritic hip, and was struggling today. I decided I would take it easy, and not get too far ahead of her. That worked until we reached the big downhill on the way back. I was pulled over in a cutout for a yet-to-be-built cross street, waiting for her to catch me. She went by, and urged me to get moving. I shifted into the big ring and passed her, quickly gathering speed as the grade steepened.
But the wind was from the southeast again, and it hit me in the right front. I pumped hard, trying to get above 30 mph. At the base of the hill, where I always register my fastest speed — two more T3s cruised past. These guys weren’t even breathing hard. They were down on their aero bars, coasting along, while I sat up, gasped for air, and settled into an easy effort.
At the end of the course, we were stopped at a red light when another T3 rider, a young woman, pulled up next to us in the left turn lane.
“How many of you are out this morning?” I asked.
“About 30,” she said. “We’re out here every weekend.”
“I’ve been passed by you all all morning long.”
So today, I was the rabbit. If nothing else, it keeps me humble, and realistic about my cycling abilities, while at the same time, giving others the boost of confidence I felt on Friday. Glad I could help, folks.