Doing it all the hard way...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Stars beginning to fade as I lead the parade

I have been enjoying a rare run of sleeveless bicycle commutes. It is a treat to wake up and check the outside temperature and confirm it is within a couple of degrees of sixty.  It makes everything so simple.  Bibs, liner, jersey, socks, shoes, go.  

Just so we are all on the same page, go means I’m on the road a bit before 5:30 AM.

Since we excel at normalizing everything it has taken my past two commutes to realize the sunrise is getting later and a headlight will be required soon. Very soon.

Slapping a headlight on my helmet doesn’t create an emotion.  Having to admit that the door is starting to close on summer, however, makes me sad. 

 Pausing for a bite before we fly down Buck Mountain
The end of summer has historically been an exciting time for me.  In my youth it signaled the return to school and resuming of athletic competition.  In those days it was Cross Country and Track.  The chance to get some payoff for the hard training I did in the summer was exciting.  In my middle age that competition has been Cyclocross and my heart still gets atwitter with anticipation.  

There is plenty of summer left and there is much I still want to do. 

RAMROD 2016 Ride Report - Guest Post

In 2016 McWoodie Honored the black and orange in the fabled NW classic.  
This is his report:
Let the games begin!!
Following the advice of Hank “I’ve only done RAMROD 17 times and would do it again if I could use an oar” a.k.a. The Coroner.... Mike, Steve and I had a prompt (yet slightly painful) departure at 4:15am with a goal of getting to the start line in Enumclaw around 5:30-5:50 (“before all the fast guys have left” said Hank).  En route to Enumclaw, I shared two RAMROD rules with RAMROD virgin Steve: “don’t have your nose in the wind for more than a minute, and be sure to be in a large group after the last food stop.”  More on this later…

True to Hank’s words, we rolled through the starting line at 5:45am along with two fast looking Audi riders.  Looks did not deceive, and it turns out the Audi team has their own version of Big John.  The larger of the two guys proceeded to take 5 minute 25mph pulls and the second guy would occasionally come around him to take his own pull.  It took them about 45 minutes to get smart and finally accept the offers from us to do some work and the 5 of us worked well together, flying past many groups who had rolled earlier.  A good sized train eventually formed behind us, but we kept rotating through with just the 5 of us to keep things safe (at least for us).  Right before the Eatonville food stop we were joined by a guy named Josh who was riding strong and joined our rotation. 

At Eatonville, the Audi guys found 7-8 of their teammates and it looked it might be a little while before they got the group momentum to roll, so after saying “thanks”, Steve, Mike, Josh and I got back on the road.  On the first small climb out of Eatonville, Josh and I started to pull away from Mike and Steve.  I let Josh go off ahead and drifted back to Mike and Steve, where Mike proceeded to implore me to go off ahead.  Accepting the reality that we may actually all be happier that way, I bridged back up to Josh and we got to chatting.  I learned he had quite the road racing season this year, though he’d never ridden RAMROD.  Hmmm, this could get interesting.  Riding towards the park entrance, we wound up in a paceline with 6 other guys.  Which then became 5… then 4… then 3…  and by the time we rolled into the food stop at mile 56 it was just me and Josh again, though we weren’t going all that hard.....  
 Tell me when it just starts to tickle.......
We grabbed food and drink.  Just as Josh and I were getting ready to leave, Mike and Steve rolled in on the heels of a nice train of the Audi guys.  We chatted for a bit (they seemed to be doing well) and I headed off towards the park with Josh to start the climb up to Paradise.  We set a pretty steady pace.  Occasionally Josh was going harder than I wanted to (I didn’t want to leave Zone 2) so I would drift back onto his wheel for a bit before coming back for some side-by-side conversation.  It seemed like we were at the top in no time.  
The descent into Box Canyon was fun and fast.  I really felt the Dolomites descending form and was taking the sweeping turns at close to full speed and pedaling hard on the straight aways to build max speed.  Seemed like I barely touched my brakes.  Rolling into the food stop, I felt a slight cramp twinge and thought “that’s weird, never gotten cramps before on a descent – maybe I shouldn’t have been having quite so much fun”, so made sure to do a little stretching while wolfing down chocolate croissants and fruit – and pounded a teaspoon of salt that was there for the potatoes.  Couldn’t hurt.  Threw an extra banana in my pocket for good measure too.

 Climb McWoodie, Climb!  
I climb so well they gave me this stupid shirt....
Soon after leaving the food stop, the trouble began.  We were at mile 88 and I started to feel cramps simultaneously in both adductors and called out to Josh who was pulling to stop for a second.  I did a bit of stretching and pondered what the remaining 65 miles were going to be like.  We started riding again, dropping the pace, but within 5 minutes I cramped again.  Not sure what was going to be in store for me for the rest of the day, I told him to go on ahead.  Ate the extra banana and did some more stretching, then set out at a pretty easy pace.  At this point, I was in clear violation of Rule #1: “no nose in the wind for more than a minute”, finding myself riding solo all the way out of the park and up towards Cayuse pass.  I was able to gradually lift the pace and went back to a Zone 2 effort up the climb.  All on my own, I eventually started to catch and pass riders, but was trying to keep things easy to keep the cramping at bay.  
 Squashing Cramps is a lot like Squishing Gramps
I caught back up to Josh at about mile 104 (right at the water stop).  He was starting to feel the distance and I left him to ride at his own pace to the top of Cayuse feeling glad we had talked earlier about “sometimes it’s harder to ride slower with others”.  I waited for him at Cayuse for about 5-10 min.  When he still had not arrived when a strong looking group started to descend, I elected to join them.  Two cars being too cautious about passing cyclists took a little fun out of the descent (I wound up passing one of them on a straighter section), but the speed was fast with no use of the brakes until hitting the deli stop at Crystal Mountain.
The usual deli-stop feeding frenzy ensued.  Josh rejoined and we sat in the shade with the other group eating for a while.  We seemed to be out ahead of a lot of people.  I kept looking around for others to roll in so we could have a nice big train into the headwinds along 410, but few were arriving.  After a bit too much sitting around, Josh and I decided it was time to get moving even if it meant going out on our own (a clear Rule #2 violation).  

Fortunately, the headwinds on 410 weren’t too bad and we had a good pace going.  We caught a solo rider who joined us and rode with him until Josh got a flat.  We stopped to change the flat (the other guy kept going), and about half way through the process, magically as if out of the woods, a woman materialized with a floor pump and offers of food and water.  Gotta love the supportive spouses of RAMROD riders.   Just as the flat was fixed, a big train of riders came past so we jumped on our bikes and jumped on the train.  Although the train was going a little slower than we were on our own, we were doing a ton less work which was definitely welcome at this point.

We turned off of 410 towards Mud Mountain road.  Josh got another well-timed flat as the large group seemed to be gearing up towards a sketchy Cat 6 sprint to the finish.  So, we stopped and patched that (as my new spare tube had a puncture -argh!), then ripped down Mud Mountain road and rolled into the finish.  Cold drinks, ice cream, a rinse off with a hose, and a lounge chair in the shade were perfect.  Mike and Steve rolled in about 1:45 later.  As mandated by tradition, we grabbed dinner at Hank’s favorite Enumclaw Mexican restaurant and headed home at 6pm with zero traffic.
My numbers: Elapsed time: 9:05.  Rolling time: 7:51.  Average speed 19.5mph.  Number of rules violated: 2.  Max Avg Power (20 min): 244W (low end of Zone 3).  Distance 153 miles. Elevation gain 9.259.  Garmin thinks it was a 5297 calorie day.  Time to start eating, again…

Thanks to McWoodie for sharing.  He shared an earlier ride here.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pavement Ends Fun Begins

As expected my Dolomite build up was especially road-centric.  Although there were some gravel rides and a good bit of mountain biking the majority of my miles were road miles.  With the first rule of riding during the first six months of 2016 being “Don’t get hurt before Italy” I was deliberately cautious both on and off road.

Upon my return I cleaned and reassembled my road bike and hung it in the garage.  I excitedly returned to my Tallboy and gravel bike and turned up the sound so to speak.  I ripped down the Winthrop Trail on the Tallboy and attacked the dirt sections of Wolf Creek on the B2 Bomber like I was invincible.  
Hottie daring me to try and keep up
Getting off the paved roads releases my inner child.  Suddenly I’m twelve years old and I’m flying.  I get a shot of adrenaline now and then when I lose traction for a millisecond or get some unexpected air and it feels good.  
 Just try and keep up.....
Letting the Tallboy fly I was once again speechless that the bike seems to simultaneously make the trail easier while making me a better rider.  The terrain that bike can handle is amazing.  I have some pretty sweet bikes but this one is the most impressive to me.  I throw more at it than all the other bikes combined and it doesn’t even blink.
On a post Italy gravel ride the following day I climbed Rendezvous Pass on a whim and turned up a road near the top that I thought might climb a hundred meters to the top of the closest knob.  After a loose and steep start the grade lessened to single digits in steepness and the road kept going northwest.  It seemed to arch north and run into the ridge so I kept going expecting it to double back and go to the top of something.  Then when I rounded a corner I see the road turn west then north again intersecting the now even higher ridge line. 
The “What’s around the next bend?” repeated a few more times which only served to heighten my curiosity.

The road kept going and I looked at my computer to check the time.  I was climbing steadily but I didn’t know where the road was headed. Would it end at a summit or pour down into the Cub Creek drainage? It was close to my turn around time but I was more than two hours out and I didn’t want to leave this road as unfinished business.  I pushed harder to go faster as my eyes darted between my ride time and looking ahead to see what the road did. 

The air smelled of pine and some merciful clouds kept the temperatures moderate.  The trail was a mix of duff and gravel with a couple of muddy crossings that necessitated use of my Cyclocross navigation skills. 
Finally about a minute or two past my turn around time just as I was resigning myself to leaving this an unanswered question the road just ended.  No hiking trail or lookout or any significant landmark that would justify the end of the road.  It just ended.  The typical burned rocks of a redneck fire ring was the only confirmation that this was any kind of destination.

I stopped and it was silent aside from my heavy breathing and pounding heart.  I took a couple pictures, ate and drank then pointed my machine toward home.

The descent was fun and reminded me what a capable machine the Boone is. The Tallboy rules all single track but the Boone can roll on the roads that make cars cry.

When Hottie and I top off our long weekend with a road ride it seems a very distant cousin to the fun we had off road.

Back in the RED

Sasha Riding Hard
I hope to parlay my fitness and hard won slimness into some success this Cyclocross season.  Race fitness means base plus intensity. Intensity means intervals and lots of them.  My base has been built and it just needs some maintenance to survive into the fall.

I had deliberately added weekly intervals in my build up to Italy and it helped tremendously.  The irony was that after all of the Z5 training my plan in Italy was to stay Z1-Z3.  It worked. The Z5 stuff made my legs stronger and when the grade went to double digits you need strength.

On a recent evening commute home I returned to my interval routine which I cleverly refer to as Commutervals.  It had been nearly a month since I had hit Z5 and clearly the zone was rusty from lack of use. 

After executing the plan for Italy in my mind this was just another plan that, if followed, would yield success.  The plan for Italy involved a big investment of time to log the miles. 

Intervals are different.

Zone five hurts.  It really hurts.  It is the key to racing success but the coin of the realm is pain. It took forever to get to Z5 and when I hit it, it hit back.  When I finished my lungs were burning and I was light headed.  My legs ached and my right calf started to twinge like a cramp was coming.

It felt good to be back in the red.

Italy Wrap up and Lessons Learned

From a personal standpoint the trip was a big success. In large part because my preparation took into account the lessons I learned from all of my past experiences including our 2012 France trip. Additionally fear was an effective and sobering motivator.  Biting off more than one can chew is a tried and true technique.

We all took this trip seriously and pushed hard individually and as a group to get ready for it. The universal encouragement was good on both sides of the equation. Although fit, we all had creaks and groans that told the dual stories of our dedication and our age. 
Training was essential to success and I am so grateful to Hottie for not only allowing me the time to train but for encouraging me to do so. My training reached a point where a three and a half hour ride was no longer considered a long ride.  My four to six hour rides laid a foundation to allow my body to complete the ridiculous days we enjoyed in Italy. 
 Hottie and (An)Drew
Six hundred and fifty kilometers means little but the fact I climbed 18,000 meters does put the trip into perspective.   For you that still trade in old money that is just under sixty thousand feet of climbing in seven rides (two of which would have been longer but were cut short by rain).

In addition to the physical training knowing the daily routine and preparing accordingly helped me get into the new rhythm quickly.  Items such as having a travel fan to dry things out and a bringing my own clothesline and stuff sacks for my wanbags meant there was less to worry about day in and day out.  
The story goes that in order to save his legs Bernard Hinault made people carry him upstairs in a chair during one of his Tour de France campaigns.  This may be fact or it may be legend but it does illustrate the simple fact that anything that can reduce your physical or mental stress during one of these undertakings is a good thing.  

The group was pretty special.  During the trip I rode a lot with El Jefe’ and KB and Marco and The Cheetah.  I also logged miles with Coz and Lutz and Jens.  I sucked Brad’s when as long as I could and descended with Einmotron, McWoodie and Whiplaesch buffered by a fast moving and gap closing monster known as El Jefe’.  Arndt rode with us a bit before politely dropping us when the road turned upward.  If I had his strength I would do the same thing. I enjoying everyone I rode with and the group didn’t have any friction or outcasts or cliques.  It was as if we were all lifelong buddies.
The biggest disappointment I had was not being able to ride alongside Horst.  There are three reasons for this.  One is that Horst is fast and I am not. The second is that the timing just didn’t work out on the day we rode into the rain.  The third and worst reason is that Horst caught a bug and was sick for most of the trip.  More than once Horst shot a long hard look at a certain man among us as the source of his virus and he may be right and he may be wrong - but regardless I am truly sad he didn’t get to ride with us as much as he and we would have liked. The plan was to have a group trip and for him to be part of the group. 

Along the lines of a group trip we are shooting to host Horst and our newfound fast German friends for some serious gravel riding in the future.  Stay tuned as that develops.

Okay back to the topic at hand which is lessons learned.  Enough with the generalizations on training.  On to specifics……

Bring the extra brake pads.  I started with a fresh set and in three days they were shot.  On those wet, gritty descents I could almost watch my pads wear down.  60,000 feet of climbing meant 60,000 feet of descending.  Yeah, I should have known better.

I don’t know how Brawny Paper Towels managed to be the exclusive toilet paper supplier to Italy and Germany but they did.  You don’t realize how coddled we are as Americans until you find yourself in a far off land praying you don’t get splinters from your TP.  Kind of a non-cycling variation to “Shut up legs!”

Gear as low as you can and even so you will crave lower.  I rode a 34:36 as my lowest gear.  El Jefe’ was on a tricked out 34:40 and I was jealous.   If he had an even lower gear he would have used it.

The top tube bag was awesome and it contributed to my success.  It was easier to eat and so I am sure I ate more on the bike. 

The blinking lights were good and it helped to be seen by cars and motos behind and ahead of me.

The charging tower was good and absolutely necessary with the plethora of electronics we each had.
My multi-pronged recovery regiment seemed to work. I used compression, recovery drink, electrolytes, water bottle leg massage, stretching and hydration and I’m not sure which aspect(s) worked and what was a waste but the net result was it worked and I will repeat it all next time.

If I were to do it again I think I would take my SEVEN and leave the coupled bike.  It would cost me more in cash but I think the lighter weight, better performance on the road and the convenience of not having to basically build a bike whilst jet-lagged and then tear it down again when ride weary might be worth the extra money. 
In the future I would take enough bibs that if I needed to go all the way to the rest day without washing I could.  With the rain and humidity the bibs took a couple days to dry and so I always had two pairs airing out in the hotel.  Bidness side out of course…….

Dr Bronners soap was a handy thing to have. I used it to wash bike clothes and get bike grease off my shirt and shorts.  It was also good for really cleaning those areas where you put chamois cream.  You never know what is in that hotel soap.

My lotions and potions were all effective:
Jack Black Sunscreen was terrific.
Morgan Blue Solid Chamois Cream is a flak jacket for your ass
Buttonhole remains the premier all-around chamois cream
Shea butter with Tea Tree Oil is a remedy for vacation-threatening skin damage
King of Shaves is the best stuff ever for shaving your face with a blade
A Nuun Tablet is a double bonus: electrolytes plus you drink more

By staying Z1-3 I can go all day; day after day.  Z4 and Z5 are like being above 27,000 feet on Everest, you are only making withdrawals and are no longer making deposits.   

“The same only bigger” was a good model.  That is to say; don’t think you have to do everything different because it is Europe and the climbs are longer, steeper and higher. We relied on our experience riding in the rain and adapting to changing weather.  I used the same clothing I have been using for months and years.  In fact my BG gloves, Assos bibs, sunglasses and Craft base layer made the trip with me in 2012 and were back in action this time.

I am a lucky man.  My training took me to the ragged edge of my physical limits but I made it.  So many of our group had physical challenges during the trip ranging from fatigue to sore knees, claves, quads and arches, all the way to life-threatening saddle sores. I was not unscathed and there were days I had an ice bag on my knee.  Nevertheless I count myself as lucky to have gone and partaken of this cyclists dream trip.

Final Lesson Learned is aimed at El Chefe and Big John.  If you get the chance; take it.  Life goes on with or without your daily attention.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

DolDay 7 Back to the beginning Vizzini

Lutz snapped this one
On our final day we departed en mass and retraced our descent of the previous day to the Passo d’Sella.  The group took longer than usual to string out.  I found myself linked up with Brad and he set the perfect tempo for me.  I was going fast but not exceeding my targeted heart rate. We rode together all the way to the junction where the Selle Rhonde loop goes to the right to Passo d’Pordoi or to the left to Passo d’Sella.  It was early but it was warm and my jersey was already unzipped.
Narwals are a problem in the Dolomites
Thanks for the photo Brad
I gave Brad his leave and he graciously ramped up his effort ever so slightly and a gap appeared and grew between us.  I took the time riding solo to look around and smell the limestone.  

Another Rapha kind of day
I reflected on my preparation and success.  I realized this was what I had trained for and it would be a waste to be staring at my heart rate on my bike computer or to be locked onto someone’s rear wheel trying to hang on.  Instead I looked around and said to myself something I had said a thousand times over the past week. “I am so lucky to be here riding in freaking Italy.”

The views were fantastic and just continued to get better the higher I rode.

At the top we refilled bottles, posed for a photo and then set off to find the Alpe d’Suisse, our last climb of the trip.  

We stopped at the legendary Frankfurter Hof and had the typical lunch of the Giro d’Italia a frankfurter.
By now my body was like Mr. Fusion from "Back to the Future"  
I could eat anything and convert it to fuel.
We followed the route on our Garmin devices and after passing through a tiny village we found the climb known as Alpe d’Suisse.  It turned out this climb averaged sixteen percent and was a thousand meters high.  

We found our lowest gears and everyone wanted more.  It was a climb that made me feel like I was in a Rocky movie.  It was a slow motion slugfest. 
The climb didn’t let up and the best thing I can say about it was there was some shade.  We spread out and everyone got to enjoy their own personal purgatory.  My quads complained and my adductors screamed.  There wasn’t any alternative so I just fought my way up the climb.

Near the top I linked with Coz and The Cheetah and we passed some geriatric hikers who literally cheers us on.  We put on a mock sprint only to realize we were not at the top and as we settled back into our saddles our legs screamed louder.

We reached the top and the wan wasn’t there.  The road opened up and the views were stunning. 

The road was rolling and remained high.  We passed a handful of horse drawn wagons with tourists. This was a real “Sound of Music” scene. What a place.
A couple kilometers later we found Horst and the wan.  He admitted he didn’t want to see our faces when we topped out on that nasty climb.  We told him it wasn’t our faces he didn’t want to see but our profanity he didn’t want to hear!

We filled our pockets with food and refilled our bottles. A healthy smear of sunscreen couldn’t hurt and a dollop of Buttonhole was an excellent idea as well. 
Soon we were on our last meaningful descent and then tooling along a bike path toward our hotel.  The bike path went between a river and the highway and the coolness of the water was welcome considering the heat of the day.
The Cheetah crossing in style

River on the right
When we reached the town of our final destination our group had taken an outdoor table at a pizzeria. They had some food ready for us and we dove in.  Then a short walk across the street for some gelato.  Then we set off to our hotel that was above the town. 

Yep. More climbing.  I’m not sure of this but I believe the name “Horst” is a German word that translates into English as “More Climbing.”
As we set off our group had Coz, Jens, Lutz, El Jefe’ and myself.  It took a while but the reality of the climb set in and I unzipped and found my “this isn’t a short climb” speed.  We spread out and Coz went off the front and El Jefe’ went off the back.  El Jefe’ and I had cheered each other on for so much of this trip I opted to slow down for him. 

At about this time El Jefe’ found his rhythm and caught and passed myself, Lutz and Jens.  So much for thinking he was struggling. I rode with Lutz and Jens and then felt my own surge of power and set off after El Jefe’.   Soon El Jefe’ and I caught Coz and we were working together.
Uli a.k.a. Uberman!
As we climbed we passed some farmers who were harvesting hay by hand.  Above the road was a large field of cut hay and men in big hats gathering it into piles under a scorching sun. Typically when I ride past men working in a field they are in an air conditioned tractor cab and they look at me like I’m nuts.  Instead they looked at me like I had it easy.  They were right.

We arrived at the hotel and exchanged awkward man hugs.  Our riding was over and we had competed the mission we had set out to accomplish.  After cleaning up we packed our bikes and loaded them into the trailer that had spent the week here in Brixen.

DolDay 6 Selle Ronde - In the throne room of the Italian cycling gods

Words can't convey and even the pictures don't do it justice
We were all excited about today.  We had discussed making a trade back on day two.  The forecast was for rain and lots of it on day three.  We opted to shorten that day and reroute day six to cover the sacred ground of the Selle Ronde. 
Thanks to McWoodie for the photo
Horst had shared an updated Garmin file so we had the route on our devices.  We had some elevation profiles available to us before the trip so I had made little cheat sheets with the info on the climbs.  The updated route did not have this so I had to “wing it.” 
Jens had said the first climb was “only half a climb.”  It turned out that his powers of estimating are not in line with his nationality and the first climb was 900 meters.  
A few of the group had decided to skip this first part and ride in the wan to the start of the Selle Rhonde.  After climbing 900 meters those guys looked pretty smart to me.
Even early on I could sense it would be a Rapha kind of day
After the climb we were pacelining to Canazei when we were passed by some riders in light blue kits riding two abreast.  These were Astana riders.  There were eight or nine of them followed by a team car with a bunch of wheels on the roof. We didn’t recognize any of them but still it was pretty cool.  We spent six months training to prepare to do for seven days what these guys do every day ten months out of the year.
Note the numbered turn....
Soon we passed through Canazei which would be our final destination this day and began the climb to Passo d’Pordoi.  The switchbacks were numbered and El Jefe’ and I churned up and up.  When this trip was first conceived I had pulled up Google Maps and “virtually” made my way up to the top of this pass. 

 How do you ride past this without staring?
Back in 2012 I had done something similar with the Galibier in France.  In 2012 I had an image from the summit of that pass on my computer for six months before the trip.  When you actually ride in the place you have been looking at for months it is magic.
As we climbed I recognized a hotel I had seen via Google Maps.  I recognized the sign and the road.  I was really here.  I breathed it all in.  I tried to memorize the smells. 
This was the hotel I had seen on Google Maps
My legs felt strong and after the final few hairpins the road flattened out and we were on top.
At the pass is a monument to Fausto Coppi the Italian God of cycling.  
He gave hope to a beaten people after WW2 and while he was no Fabian Cancellara he was in fact much better looking than this horrible image of him atop this pass.
We found the wan and refilled bottles and ate food.  As we ate we looked around and tried to take in the beauty of the high Dolomites. This is a stunning place and we all tried to file a piece of it away in our heads to save for a rainy day.
Then we regrouped and sped down the hairpins under sunny skies.  
We climbed and descended Passo Gardena and Passo Campolongo before the final climb of the day; Passo Sella.   We were approaching 3,000 meters of climbing on the day but my legs felt strong.

These were everywhere
Below Passo d'Selle

I got out of the saddle and accelerated as I neared the top.  From the top it would be a downhill roll back to Canazei and our hotel.   Our group paused for pictures and to eat some food.  One of my blessed brothers handed me a can of coke and I dispatched it quickly.

Below us was the town of Canazei and our hotel.  
It would be an “E Ticket” descent.  As we got going the sun was sinking and the shade was cooler than I was expecting.  I knew we would soon be at the hotel and I was looking forward to a hot shower.

As we were rolling into town I sensed the impending accomplishment of meeting the challenge of this trip.  This was a hard trip and my earlier statement that one person’s heaven can be another person’s hell was still accurate.  All of us were having fun and it was exactly what we expected but you have to admit the size of the task was and is daunting. 
The mood at dinner was light as if there was a collective relief that we would finish the task at hand.  We knew the next day would be much easier as it was designed to allow time to pack the bikes in the afternoon.

Horst had done an absolutely brilliant job of selecting routes that would challenge us but not kill us.  He is a master of his craft.  Our group chemistry is exceptional.  We wonder where our German brothers have been hiding all these years.