So guess what happens when you try and find 7 or 8 hours a week to actually spend some more time your bike? Something else has to give. Writing in this little news journal being one of those somethings.
Three things instigated the real push for a few more miles. One, I’d committed to joining a group of folks on a two week cycling mission to the Pyrenees, an area where the only thing flat would be the occasional tyre…..a far cry from the tarmac outside my door. The second is that I’d clicked ‘pay now’ on the Whistler Gran Fondo website some months ago and simply HAD to scrap the rubbish out myself so I could do the ride. The third was simply that it had been a long time since I had anything beyond ‘Joe Everyman’ fitness. Ever since I stopped serious racing, I’ve always thought its a good idea to ramp it up a bit so that you can coast on it for a bit. Trouble is, as you get older the coasting bit feels like there’s a wheel rubbing and you don’t get to coast for long…better than nothing though.
As a pre -GF and Tourmalet prep, I also signed up for the Axel Merckx ride in Penticton. Rolling countryside, a few lumps and at 160km likely the longest ride I’d do this year. This being the first bit of July, the month May seemed about the time to get the lead out….I mean start going for real rides…pretending you still could at least.
Turns out an even older cyclist than me, in fact he was one of the stars locally when I were a lad, George Streadwick, had signed up for the two Fondos (Fondi?) as well. Although he too had been drawn heavily into the world of sailboat racing in the last ten years, he’d also managed to keep the pounds down. So on a dreary Sunday the two of us joined in on our Club’s ride part way up the Squamish Hwy. This is part of the route used in the Whistler ride as well.
Gotta admit I didn’t feel all that spiffing as the ride progressed and it appeared Geo didn’t either. I think the biggest frustration is looking down at your cassette while climbing and thinking, “gee….that’s the same cog I used to use” but then realizing it used to be on the big ring on the front…and not a compact.
George and I ended up doing some more two-up rides well up that coastal road and gradually cracked more of the ice of the solidified fitness, nothing great but better.
The road trip to the AM ride in Penticton went well. I had a goal of just doing the 100 miles in 5 hours, 20 mph average or 32 kph. Nothing stellar but at least the old training pace. Turns out George had signed up for the Medio version. I’d call it the girly one but as Axel’s well known papa, the Great Eddy was doing that one too….what can I say?
3,2,1 go and I started too fast…and it started up a little crank breaker hill. Not a bad idea actually as it sorted the 2000+ riders out much quicker. But dang, I forgot my nitro glycerine. What was it that Fred Sanford use to say? “lisbeth….its the big one!”
Anyway all got sorted and I ended up being at my mark within 20 seconds. George called a few hours after it was over and reported that he’d won his age Cat (66….a week younger than Eddy) and had dropped Eddy on the last hill. Just to clarify, there was NO pretence of greatness here. Very tongue in cheek as the amount of respect anyone from our racing era has for Merckx’ achievements is massive. It just sounded so funny.
Couple of weeks later I crated the bike and was off to the heart of Pryenean cycling. A two week stay in Bagneres de Bigorre put us near the foot of the Tourmalet and a number of other famed TdF hills. Nothing flat in that area as even the valleys follow rivers so you’re either going up or down them.
My epic day there was not because of cycling achievements but because of my stupidity. I’d just finished grunting up the famed Tourmalet (see below)
and had descended to the valley floor and had begun the ascent of the Col d’Aspin when I spied a rushing torrent of sparkling mountain water cascading its way down the hill beside the road. A quick pitstop for a bottle fill then on my way to yet another summit to conquer. A little further up the grade the same river met the roadway again only this time there was a huddle of bovines enjoying the water rushing by their feet.
The effects weren’t felt until the next evening but suffice to say everything I’d eaten in what seemed a week headed for the exits…several times.
Ended coming back home with a bit more hilly fitness nevertheless….and a bit less weight. It added up to a bit more comfort on the slopes. A very tedious process though…this getting fit on hills. (Don’t be discouraged if it seems to take you forever, keep at it.)
Ended up doing a hilly ride that Richard Wooles had organized with some of Canada’s best riders, the ever congenial and gracious Svein Tuft being the top attendee, as well as Zach Bell, Will Routley and a liberal sprinkling of other pros and some of the top girls including my favourite, the aforementioned Jasmine Glaesser. Kind of a social cruise, hammers were left in the toolbox.
Some Canada’s best riders in a rare get together at the lookout on Cypress mountain. That’ll be me lurking behind the helmeted Jasmine Glaesser right of center.
Whilst I could still maintain some talk rolling up the Cypress hill the good guys were yakking so much I don’t know when they were breathing. I couldn’t help but notice Jasmine though. Even on such a ride, when it would split, she’d instantly jump across…competitive lass that.
That was a few days before the Whistler ride that I certainly had apprehensions about. Not so much about my ability at that point, more like my safety. Hoping to get under four hours, we got underway on the appointed day in a crowd of nearly 6000. (They said 7000 but there were over a thousand non-starters). It was a pretty sketchy episode with some five riders hitting the pavement around me at various points. Only had to put my foot down once to avoid hitting anyone. George and I managed to stay together for many miles which was surprising because of the chaos that reigned so often in the group. Splits were happening all the time. Finally lost contact with him on one of the longer climbs.
The weather couldn’t have been better and as the start was so early, it kept much of the course in the shade. Happily, it reduced the need for liquid substantially. In fact I managed the ride on well under two bottles….should have finished my Snickers bar though…bit of glycogen shortage in the last 15 km.
Rolled across the finish line and into the then hot parking lot within my personally allotted time, three minutes to the good actually. George came in under 10 minutes later for a 9th overall in his age group (out of hundreds) so another well done for someone who was creeping six months ago.
I was a little miffed when I went to the refreshment tent and found the only thing to drink was chocolate milk….not the first thing I’d think to give hot, thirsty, tired cyclists. No juice, coke, electrolytes. Only other thing was plastic flavoured water from a hose arrangement near that tent. On the plus side for the event, it was very well marshaled…never an issue with a car or directions….best Id ever seen.
We hung around for a couple of hours and then jumped in das auto and headed back down the highway home. We saw hundreds and hundreds of folks of that road still pedaling their way to the finish in the now 29 degree weather. Some still had several hours to go. I often think that these people are the ones that really have the gumption and drive to complete what to them is a VERY arduous undertaking. Ex-racer types, myself notwithstanding, sometimes think we’re pretty tough just because we go faster. Truth is, I think these folks are tougher simply because it hurts in a bad way when you do stuff like this and you’re not fit…and for a lot longer.
Congratulations to all those that finished it!
Now hopefully I can hold some fitness until I can get a track bike together for the indoor season.