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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Outpacing Cycling's Elite

If you're a fan of outright endurance over speed, you'll love this podcast. Gregg and I joined up with our local cycling group for their weekly 50 miler ride and we were put to the test. Now, these dudes and dudettes aren't newbies or slackers. To their credit, each one is very fast on the bike, possibly every one of them faster than me or Gregg. Not only that, but the ATM cycling team was enforce, all matching in their maroon jersies.

The group numbered almost 20 riders, all on very nice bikes and all very obviously very fast. There were three things about me that they didn't know (and probably didn't care about): 1. I was not interested in going fast. This was "below 150 HR ride" for me. 2. I'd ridden this course with these dudes before, long ago, and I knew that they stopped for rather long periods at least once. I don't like to stop. Period. 3. I'm a triathlete and I've been training forever to not have to stop. Triathlons are long periods of time-trial style riding and there are no breaks, even in the shelter of a peleton. I don't need to stop.

Oh, and in case there's any doubt about my insanity... I was riding my 1985 fixed gear. And I already ran 3 miles that morning and was planning on running another 3 later in the day.

So we start off and everything's cool. These guys just putt along for the first 9 miles or so, which is fine. It's good to warm up those muscles. Besides, my HR was already 134 and that's ok. Eventually, they start picking up the pace. I manage two pulls at the front before I'm so far over the max of my target HR that I give up the ghost. These dudes were MOVING. I think we were cruising along at 24/25 at that point.

I drop off the back and don't feel embarrassed. I know these guys are fast and riding faster than I wanted to. That and I'm very limited on my top speed riding a fixie. Gregg kept up with them for a short distance longer and then he fell off as well. He said that he wouldn't be able to keep up that kind of pace and make it the whole ride. Totally understandable.

I consoled Gregg by telling him I'm just cruising along at 150 BPM and it's overall a better base training method than what the others were doing. Besides, they stop at a gas station at the turnaround point and sit there for a long time. We'll surely catch them then.

So, now we get to the meat of the story - the part that illustrates the difference between pure cyclists and triathletes. Pure cyclists ride with lots of time in pacelines and at insane speeds, spending a vast amount of time taking turns sheltering each other from the wind. They also rarely carry more than two waterbottles. Anything more is considered bulky and not efficient and rightly so. Just take a look at what pro cyclists have on their bikes in a race vs. what a triathlete has on his/her bike in a photo in Triathlete Magazine. In contrast with the pro cyclist, the Ironman's bike has fuel all over it, often literally taped to the frame.

So there Gregg and I are, alone, riding along with me calling out my HR numbers for the both of us, and with our Camelbaks loaded with fluid and Bento Boxes holding fuel. We're also riding side by side, as many triathletes do, taking the wind head on as the pack of cyclists that dropped us are undoubtedly riding in a paceline and making much better time than us. I don't like to ride in a paceline. I like to ride full on into the wind because I'm not out there to cover the distance as fast as possible. I'm out there to work my body and every bit of resistance is good.

We roll into Caldwell, TX and pass the peleton. They're chilling at the gas station, bikes piled up in the parking lot. I told Gregg that he could stop and break with them, but I'm going to keep going. "It'll drive them CRAZY if we don't stop and we're out in front of them." Gregg stayed with me.

So we're riding back, going with the wind, and keeping it under 150. Gregg isn't as much of a student of the "below 150 for base" school as I am, so he's pulling ahead of me, but keeping me in sight. He pulls over to pee, so I catch him and we chat a bit. I tell him that we will be incredibly lucky to get much farther before the peleton runs us down. We ride, no peleton. We go farther, still no peleton. I tell him that we'll be lucky to make it to Twisters, a local gas station, before they catch us. That's at about mile 42 of the ride. I keep looking over my shoulder to watch for the immenent pack and their crushing speed.

With Twisters about a mile away on the horizon, I see the peleton. They are riding with the wind and staggered apart. The fastest guys have broken off the front and are hammering hard. I yell to Gregg "Here they come!" and he shouted back in confirmation that he'd seen them as well. We'd make it to Twisters before them, but no farther. I told Gregg that I'm not stopping. I want to see how far I can get before they catch me. Gregg sticks with the crazy man on the fixie.

We turn at Twisters and get on the home stretch of highway. I turn back to look and the peleton had disappeared! They had stopped at Twisters! Gregg and I finish out the ride with me nervously looking over my shoulder, but they never appeared again.

Triathletes take a lot of ribbing from cycling purists that we're slower than they are and we have "too much crap" on the bike. While this may be true, we can rightfully claim that they ride sheltered most of the time and often don't have the mental toughness to ride as long as us, fueling atop the bike along the way. A cyclist may "drop" a triathlete like a sack of potatos, but the triathlete is nearly sadistic in the amount of abuse he/she will take before getting off the bike or, God forbid, resting in the draft of another cyclist.

I hope this story gives some support to those tri-geeks out there who've been chastized by others for riding differently on our odd-looking bikes. No cyclist is better than another. We train differently for different reasons. You never know if the guy you passed sucks or if he's going to run 10 miles after getting off the bike and is just pacing himself. Here's the stats from the ride -

53 miles
Upper 80's with strong winds
Bike - 1985 Kuwahara fixed gear, 48x18 ratio
Avg HR - 145
Avg MPH - 17.3
Zero stops.
Fuel on the bike - 70 oz of water with salt added, 20 oz of gatorade with salt added, 2 cliff shots, one bite of Cliff Bar.

Oh yeah, ran 3 miles before, and another 3 miles that evening. TRIATHLON!


Anonymous Tiree said...

Hi from Scotland

Can't get the latest podcast to download in Itunes or from the Blog site. Probably a little glitch that'll soon be sorted but thought I'd let you know. Tiree

12:31 AM

Blogger Flatman said...

Very cool know they hate you now for calling them out... :)

7:30 AM

Blogger texafornia said...

I'm sure they'll survive. Like I said, they're faster than us. Except at gas stations.

8:12 PM

Blogger greyhound said...

I love driving the roadies crazy. Last Saturday, I was passed multiple times by the same riders who pulled in at the rest stops, and then they looked on in horror when I was outward bound on a run while they were pulling in to the finish.

My coach, who is ordinarily a sweet and decorous young presbyterian girl, put it this way: "Pacelines are for f-ing babies."

2:51 PM

Anonymous speedvegan said...

very well said, Brett. awesome story.

9:30 AM

Anonymous brett said...

This is obviously a story that strikes a note with many cyclists, whether you agree with me or not.

I have an update - I was in the LBS picking up new tubes and talked with the really nice ATM cyclist that noticed I was riding a fixie on that day. He said "Hey, what happened to you? You hung with us for a while and then we didn't see you again." I told him that we passed them at a gas station and made it back before they did and he was impressed.

Point of the matter is that it's quite possible that the other bikers didn't even notice us ahead of them, which makes the whole "chase" more of a mental issue than a reality. Does it matter, though?

He was really excited to see that I survived as well as I did and was suggesting that we come out again. I put forth the idea that we need to start having long distance no-draft time trials on that course. He said "Yeah! That'd be great! You mean like 40k or something?" I said no, more like 50 miles. ;)

7:49 PM

Anonymous usmcmarathonman said...

Brett - if you've put it out there elsewhere in the podcast or the blog, I apologize for making you repeat yourself, but what percentage of your max HR is 150? What percentage of your LT? (I know these differ depending on the sport) Are you into the "red zone" above 150?

Good on ya for hanging it out there in the wind on your fixie. I just shake my head in admiration when I read/listen to your exploits.

6:02 AM


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