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 -
Upper 80's with strong winds
Bike - 1985 Kuwahara fixed gear, 48x18 ratio
Avg HR - 145
Avg MPH - 17.3
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!