Monday, May 11, 2015

Cap2Cap – Ride report

I finally got a chance to get in a decent ride this past weekend! 

The Capital to Capital Multi-use trail (Cap2Cap for short) has been a project dreamed up by Richmond cyclists about 10 years ago. Running from downtown iRichmond VA to Yorktown VA,  It’s going to become a reality later this year, just in time for the UCI World Cycling Championships. Every year for the last 10, there has been a fundraising ride held to sponsor the trail’s construction. My Bride and I have ridden it for the past 2 years, together, and weren’t planning to ride it this year as we had another event scheduled on top of it. That event was delayed and it left me the chance to go ride it, again. MB didn’t come with me as she had a friend’s memorial service to manage. (I had her permission to go, so don’t start on me.)

We interrupt this ride report to bring you the following Tour de Cure update:

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m riding in the Northern VA Tour de Cure on June 7th. I’m still working towards my goal to raise $2,000 for this year’s event; doing so would mean that all your help over the past 4 years has allowed me to raise $7800! If you haven’t contributed yet, time is getting short! I have less than 4 weeks and I’m woefully shy of my goal currently sitting at only $877! (Not only that, the entire ride is way short of their goal, too. We really need your help!)

Please, take a few minutes and click the link below. Even a donation of $5 would help. Actually, if everyone who reads this blog gave $5, I’d have hit the goal already. I’d be much obliged!

Back to the Cap2Cap

I signed up to ride the Sands Andersen (sponsor plug) 50 mile event, a loop that began at the trailhead in Rockett’s Landing and followed mostly lightly driven roads on the east side of the city of Richmond. The course appeared to be the same one from the prior year and I was very glad to see that as I remembered it being nearly flat and the roads all well-marked and in good shape.

When I got to Rockett’s Landing, I was amazed at how much construction had
Nice urbanish look, no?
taken place in the area. It’s now a community with row houses and apartments, very nicely appointed buildings with views of the James River. (I’m guessing the prices are nicely appointed, as well.)

Because of all the growth, parking was at a premium. I ended up on a street about a half mile from the starting area. After off-loading my bike, I filled my pockets with some snacks, loaded in my water bottles, turned on my Garmin and rolled slowly over to the starting area with about 10 minutes to spare.

Big Turnouts make for Sketchy Starts

I slowly crept through the crowd until I was about 1/3 of the way back from the starting group. My experience in these mass starts, with a bunch of people who aren’t all that devoted to riding, is to look for safe harbor. Invariably, someone goes down in a heap and takes a few others with them due to shaky bike handling skills; I didn’t want to wind up that guy, sprawled across the pavement trying to get out of my pedals while people try desperately not to run me down. (Don’t ask me how I know what this looks like.) And with what appeared to be a crowd of around 800 riders, the likelihood was very strong for an incident.

I stopped near the curb and almost immediately, three women rolled up and stopped next to me, chatting happily together. Two of them had on jerseys from Luna, the energy bar people. Both had really nice road bikes and looked very fit.
Not my actual riding buddies but I could be wrong.

After eavesdropping for a few minutes, I gathered they were part of the LunaChicks cycling team, a group sponsored by the energy bar. (This group is a MTB team, as the one woman later told me; if MTB does that much for one’s road cycling skills, I may have to see about getting a MTB.) At some point, the three were trying to take a selfie showing the start of the ride. I volunteered to get them all in the shot and took it for them. I also took a couple of my own, just to prove I was there.
Why do people take these?

And we’re off!

The PA system blared with some guy with a very excited voice counting us down to the start and we slowly rolled out. I say slowly because I didn’t get above walking speed for about 2 blocks. Once we got out to a larger street, things started to thin out and we could pedal up to a reasonable speed. My intention was to make my 15 mph over the course and finish in 3:45 or so with a couple of stops to refill bottles and pee. (This isn’t a race, it’s a ride, so stopping for a quick snack, drink, whatever is the right way to do it. Especially when you haven’t ridden that many miles for the year.)

About five miles up the road, the LunaChicks came slowly past me, riding a nice tight paceline except now there were four of them. I eased in behind the last one in line and held my line right behind her. They were riding about 17 mph and appeared to be just cruising along with little strain. After a few minutes, I apologized for crashing their group but I felt like I had the right to do so since I’d been the one that took their picture at the start. They laughed and invited me to stay. I told them I’d be glad to let them take the wind for the old guy but would also be glad to do my share of the work.

Their names turned out to be Sue, Stephanie (sisters), Renee, and Sarah. They were all younger than me (and in far better shape) and were just very pleasant people to be riding with.

There’s something about a paceline that is fine, fine, fine!

If you’ve ever watched cycling on TV (and I realize that’s pretty unlikely; the Tour de France is about the only one you’ll see unless you’re a crazed cycling fan and subscribe to some obtuse channel that shows this sport) you’ve probably heard an announcer say, at some point,

“By riding close together, the riders are able to share energy. The person riding in the slip stream can save as much as 30% of their energy to maintain the same speed.”

I know the first time I heard that statistic I thought it had to be BS; there couldn’t
This is how it's done!
possibly be that much of an advantage. Then, I rode in my first paceline. Holy Cow! The difference is truly amazing. I remember being surprised that it was ONLY 30% as it seemed I didn’t have to pedal very much at all. I don’t know why more of us amateurs / MAMILs* / OMILs* don’t learn to do it more often. (see footnotes below)

In any case, we rode a tight paceline for nearly the rest of the ride. We stopped at the first and third “feed zones” for a quick stretch and bottle refill. We occasionally splintered on descents and on one climb, but we would always regroup and start up, again.

Sue seemed to be the ringleader of the group. She led the line at least half the time and her pace was steady as a clock. If someone would drop off, she’d be the one to fall back and pace them back up. When Renee dropped a chain during the one difficult climb on the ride, Sue went back to make sure she was okay and got back with us.

(I really felt badly about that. I had been right behind Renee when her chain slipped off and she pulled over to put it back on. I don’t recall if I offered to help or just kept going because my tongue was hanging out just trying to make it up the hill. Chivalry from me died on that hill, I’m ashamed to say. Sorry ladies! I’ve just gotten too old to pretend that I’m not, anymore. Just the same, I should have stopped.)

Stephanie seemed equally determined to be at the front and she would pedal past Sue and take the lead for the other half of the time. She also had a strong pace for me to follow.

Renee was a friend of a friend of the sisters and they were watching out for her; the friend that she was supposed to be riding with had suffered an injury the week before and couldn’t ride. I’m not sure she knew what she was getting herself into but she wasn’t going to be denied a good ride with the LunaChicks! She pounded out a strong pace, too.

Sarah, like me, was an unexpected addition to the paceline apparently having just joined it not long before they passed me. She is in training for a Half-Ironman Triathlon (that’s a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a half-marathon, people) with only 30 days to prepare for it. As a result, she was very focused on a solid pace, too. At the same time, she has a laugh that is hearty and frequent so, she doesn’t appear to have that killer instinct on a bike; not until she’s pedaling away from you, going up a hill.

It was a great day!

The weather turned out to be perfect with a high at 80 degrees, no wind to speak of, and cloud cover for about half the ride.

The course was very well marked, the roads were in fairly good shape considering the winter we had, and the feed zones were staffed by very friendly volunteers.

When we rolled back into Rockett’s Landing, we had averaged a little over 15 mph including stops. (I had our moving speed just over 16.5; considering we crept along for the first half mile, that was a pretty good pace.)

We dropped our bikes at the bike valet, and went to collect our lunch and beer, included in the ride. I was thrilled to see Hardywood
beers being served and celebrated with a Bourbon Cru. The BBQ from Mosaic was passable; frankly the potato salad was the best part but hunger is the best seasoning so I wasn’t complaining.

After cooling off, chatting about the ride, and taking after ride pictures – we headed off on our separate ways. I’m not sure I’ll ever ride with them again, but Sue, Stephanie, Renee, and Sarah – Count me in for a paceline any time!

I felt like I could have ridden another 20 miles easy, having had the wind taken off my face for most of the day.

The next morning, however, my legs told things differently…..

*MAMIL – Middle aged man in Lycra

*OMIL – Old man in Lycra