I think this is a pretty well accepted fact in cycling circles. You generally push yourself harder when you ride with others, especially if those other riders are as strong or stronger than you are. This is clearly one reason why I wanted to join a cycling club this year. I have been riding predominantly by myself since before my ride across the country. Don’t get me wrong, I honestly do enjoy riding by myself but I also enjoy riding with others.
This morning I rode with the Blue Sky Velo club for the second week in a row. I was a tad concerned that I might be ‘flat’ since I spent most of Friday plowing and/or shoveling snow. My body was stiffer than usual and my muscles a bit sore from lifting shovels full of heavy, wet snow. The storm dumped between 14″-16″ with drifts around our barns and outbuildings hip and waist deep. Luckily we can use our tractor and its bucket to move most of the snow. Sidewalks and areas nearer the buildings had to be done by hand though. While I was hefting the snow and throwing it off into piles out of the way I kept telling myself what a great workout it was and I didn’t have to leave home and go to a gym or pony up a membership fee to get the benefits! By the end of the afternoon, I was over it. You might say that it was just too much of a good thing!
Anyway, I knew that once at the velodrome, regardless of my performance, I would be glad I went. Last week there were about a dozen of us and by the time we all started to roll out onto the track there were 10 cyclist in formation. I recognized several of the riders from last week but there were a couple of new faces. Brad, a road racer, showed up today because there was too much snow on the streets to ride outside. Erica, Ellen and I were the only women again. All three of us are pretty strong and fit right in with the guys in pace lines and drills. As a matter of fact, after doing a 40-lap pace line drill where the front rider drops down and sprints to catch the tail of the group we all dropped down to the sprinters lane. Initially there were all 10 of us going round and round doing 1-lap pulls each. After going all-out for about 6 laps I noticed that riders were bailing and moving out of the sprint line and “floating” up to the blue line and backing off. I stayed in with the sprinters. As we continued to sprint the rider directly in front of my pulled out and left me having to close the gap — not an easy task as we were already at a full sprint. Right as I did that, the rider that was now in front of me pulled out as well. So, again, I was left with having to close the gap in order to stay in the sprinting group. This took a little more time and I had to dig a little deeper. But, I caught on again and stayed in. The next time it happened though, it was just more than I could overcome and I too had to drop out of the sprint. By this time though, there were only four of us left sprinting. Me and three guys. I felt good about my ability to hang with them for as long as I did.
And, during the 40-lap “take-a-lap” drill that led up to the sprint, my first attempt of sprinting off the front and catching the tail of the pace line was fast enough for another personal best. The second lap of my chase was 9.460. I believe that time is better than Ellen’s current “Best 1-Lap” time posted on the white board. I’m not sure how those laps are timed, but now I know that at least I am capable of putting in a really fast lap if I have to. Ellen’s fastest lap of the day was 10.5. I had a half dozen laps under 10 seconds. I rode around 260 laps – not quite as many as last week, but I think most of my laps were ridden harder than last week.
During one of the rest breaks I struck of a conversation with the only other “road racer” in the group (most everyone appears to be cyclocross riders!). I inquired as to how many women they had racing — and he took a moment, raised his hand and put his pointer finger and thumb together in the form of a big goose egg. ZERO! Well, I corrected him, by raising my pointer finger to the ceiling…. ONE! Guess I won’t be getting any mentoring or being shown the ropes at the races by the other women on my team as I had hoped. Maybe women from the other team will fill that role for me. Otherwise, I’ll just have to figure things out for myself and learn from my (many) mistakes along the way. On a positive note, there isn’t going to be a lot of pressure from my team to perform well and I imagine their expectations will be pretty low. My goal will be to ‘wow’ them and maybe even attract other women in the club to try road racing. I guess I might also have to check into cyclocross since it has such a huge club following — can’t be all bad, eh?
It was fun to ride with the group again. I am enjoying everyone very much. As I was getting ready to leave, one of the riders, Paul, came up and said that he heard that the team clothing order had already been placed and that I had missed out. He offered to let me borrow one of his team jerseys. So sweet.