I got an email from a member (Sterneco) of one of my cycling groups on (shameless plug for a website I actually use and enjoy alert) MyCyclingLog. He reminded me about about some training rides for the upcoming Tour of Tanglewood. It's kind of a cool thing where a group of local bike shops take turns sponsoring a training ride for the big charity event in mid September based out of their shop and, if Saturday was anything to go buy, is both a great opportunity for shops to give back and get customers into their store. This week's ride started as Ken's Bike Shop and took me on a 45K lollipop route (stats here). By my estimation there were over 100 riders of varying abilities at this event. Everyone from hard core to casual day trippers. Totally cool experience.
As the ride started I was a little unsure how hard core everything would be so I decided to hang back. I pulled out as part of the final 1/3 of a very very large pack. As I'm getting going along Polo road, less than 1K into the ride, I'm realizing gaps are already starting to form and I'm not in the best group for me. So, I start moving up and crossing gaps. Moving into a faster group. Then the next fastest group and so on. I think I went through 5 or 6 differentials. Some folks crossed the gaps with me and found the group that best suited them, others just watched me go.
Eventually, I worked my way up to the tip of the spear, taking advantage of every hill and every descent (the one benefit of having extra mass). I settled in about 6th wheel. Fifth wheel was a guy riding a full on timetrial bike that apparently had not been tuned since he got the thing. The gears were clicking and clacking, grinding and rubbing the majority of the ride. Riders on the front (at least three of which I later learned from Sterenco/Steven, raced on a semi-regular basis) pulled off and slotted in 4th wheel. Right in front of this guy.
At the time I was feelng a little conflicted. One the one hand, I wasn't getting the chance to move up and put in a pull. One the other, I was pretty close to my limit and having to pull might very well have resulted in my being spit out the back. Eventually things mixed and I became 3rd wheel. As the woman pulled off, Mr. TT did not simply keep pace, he flew off the front. And since I was second wheel I started to follow but quickly made a few tactical desicions.
This guy was traveling way faster than we were moments ago. We were traveling up hill. If I hit the gas I was going to blow up. If I just kept to the same speed or a bit faster Mr. TT would slowly pull away or he would look back and realize he wasn't actually pulling, sit up and come back to us. Also, to be honest, I was a little peeved at the guy. Why was he sitting in earlier and then screaming off the front like that? I was not willing to follow this guy, plus I don't think I could have kept up with him even if I wanted to (Ettiquette and ability colliding apparently).
As it worked out, he did not sit up. He kept pulling away. Then the big boys/girls decided to chase. They, being much better than myself, came around me and quickly shut down the gap. I was dropped like I didn't exist. That acceleration resulted not only in him being caught and dropped very shortly after being caught and one other faded off the back as a result of that little acceleration.
After a brief recovery, I got into TT mode and slowly worked my way back. AS I was riding I watched as first one rider got back on, then Mr TT. i was getting closer. I got within ~100m but finally had to sit up. As luck would have it, right around the corner was the rest stop. Sweet.
It was here that I meet Steven. Very cool guy. Laid back, and had a bit of a laconic, insightful style about him. He reminded me of Dave Zabriske actually. He was very funny and easy to chat with . Had a really good time going back and forth on how the ride was going (see above for me :) ) I even got a chance to chat to Mr. TT.
Of course by this time my slight pettiness has faded and I was merely happy to have made it to the rest point, so I was retelling him what was happening behind him while I was sucking his dust, from the perspective of someone who was unable to keep up (completely true and without malice).
After the rest stop, most of the group I was riding with went for another loop or two around he lollipop. But, knowing I was cooked after Friday, I got into a group heading back to Ken's and did quite well. No real pressure on any of the small hills and actually came to the front on one. Just doing my own thing and trying to get to the top with a good speed and good aerobic reserve.
Ended with another 30+ kph ride. 30+ is becoming a bit more regular I'm pleased to say.