Sunday, March 27, 2011
South of Olympia looks kind of Belgium
Yeah; it rains here...
In the cycling world this is the time of year when all eyes are on the spring classics. Paris-Roubaix may be called the Hell of the North, but the true aficionados know that the hardmen of the Peloton look to the Belgium classics as the real tests.
The Ronde van Vlaanderen, known to us English speakers, as the Tour of Flanders, is the ultimate test. Combining distance, cobbles, numerous insanely steep hills (of cobblestones) and frequently cursed weather make for a race that honors not just the winners; but each finisher.
Evo was trying to channel their spirit as he pretended not to notice the hard rain on the drive down for the race that left from the Washington hamlet of Rochester. Hottie and Tux were demonstrating patience and kindness by leaving home in the darkness without complaint.
We found the race site. This was also a place on the edge of the earth. We parked, I signed the waiver, dropped off spare wheels and started getting ready. We took a quick look at the first hill. Despite setting the bike on the trainer, events conspired to prevent Evo from warming up at all. I was worried because my back had been tight for a couple days and my ambitious weight secession on Thursday didn’t help matters at all. It turns out I had good reason to be worried.
We rolled out at 9:25 on wet roads with light drizzle falling. The trick was to stay close enough to the wheel in front of you that the rooster tail of water hit your bike before getting high enough to get in your face. The first mile was neutralized and Evo called this his warm up. Evo was so wrong.
The course started with an all too short flat followed by a long hill that kicked up near the top before a twisty wet descent. Then we had ten miles of winding rollers before a second climb that led to some long zig zag roads that had less severe rollers before the finishing flat. Our race was two laps, which added up to forty-one miles.
On the first climb, my back was hurting, but I was still in the pack. At the top I relaxed for a moment drifted back. Soon we were on the descent which was fast, wet and twisty. We strung out single file and I was near the back. As we strung out, there were several gaps. At the bottom of the hill there was a ninety-degree right turn and the opportunists attacked. The gaps required those in the back fight to catch on. My back was barking and I wasn’t able to get back on.
Seven miles in and I had been dropped. As the WSBA reminds us, once you are dropped you’re not racing anymore, you are on a bike ride. If you catch your group again, you are racing, otherwise, have a good ride.
I soloed for 34 more miles. About thirty miles in, my back started to loosen up and I was able to get out of the saddle and put out some power. It felt good, but it was not much of a consolation. They run these races five minutes apart and we were the first of six “flights” to start. I had been passed by one of the flights at the beginning of the second lap and I kept plugging to avoid being caught by any more. Despite my tight back I kept a good pace and finished the day with an average speed over twenty miles an hour. My legs seemed good, but with a tight back I couldn’t match the big watt accelerations. I stayed in front of the other four races.
At one point I took a squeeze of gel from my little flask. To close the flask, your generally push the cap into your hip to shut the pop up (like a water bottle) lid. I pushed it into my low back right over the jersey pocket where it would be going in a moment. It felt like a kidney punch and I recoiled from the pain. “THAT was stupid,” I said out loud although I was so very alone on the road.
The rain let up, and after I finished there were a few minutes of sunshine. The break was short-lived and soon a deluge of true Belgium proportions dumped rain. The afternoon racers were in for a tough day at the office.
After Hottie finished shooting the finishers from the other flights, we packed up, picked up my spare wheels and headed north. My back was still tight, but my legs weren’t too bad. We stopped for lunch, but I had no appetite. I stretched a few times before bed.
When Sunday dawned wet, I decided making chocolate chip banana pancakes seemed to be a better idea than riding with my team.
Oh yes, PANCAKES !!
I went for an easy ride with Hottie today. My back feels better. My legs feel like I took a day off yesterday. If I can get this back thing figured out, who knows what might happen…