Sort of in the spirit of Doug Ansel's piece from a couple of days ago, here's an account of a local t-shirt ride . . . which . . . because it IS a local t-shirt ride, involves establishing bragging rights for the next year in the area. The ride is Steam N Wheels. It's only 48 miles, and it's not that hilly--but depending on what the wind decides to do, it can be a really gruesome experience.
This year's cast of characters: Luke Allen. 16 y.o MTB talent whose FTP hit puberty in the last 6 months or so. Me. almost 50 y.o. guy. Richard Linebaugh--my age, and an inspiration for ALWAYS wanting to ride hard. The 1 hour racing guys, all in their 50s and diesels. OKC Velo Guy, Paul Bonds: strongest guy on the road,. Some other guys who made the first split.
(photos are from Shawn Miller's flicker stream --permezzo pending, so I'll link to them . . .)
If you clicked, this pick comes near the half-way point of the ride. After subjecting the bunch to a micro-burst work-out in a cross-wind, I had a bunch I was happy with: OKC Velo guy's on the front, making all of us, except Luke (2nd guy in Biketown jersey), hurt a lot. At this point in the ride I knew two or three things: 1. First goal of eliminating all of the riders from the OTHER Abilene shop had been achieved. 2. I knew that Luke and the OKC Velo guy were the strongest remaining riders. 3. I also knew that dealing with the 1 hour racing guys required some finesse-as in, the final split of last year's race was 3 of those guys plus me. From a little yelled exchange on the road, I figured out that 1-hour racing's plan involved marking me. The strongest of their guys from the year before rides for another team now and wasn't here, but the principle was the same--there had to be a way to neutralize them and get Luke and Paul up the road. 4. I knew that I was hurting from the jumps early on.
Maybe a mile from where this pic was taken on Texas FM 603, the road bends to the west, and goes up a really slight hill. Our bunch had slowed up just a little bit after cresting a little roller before the bend. I knew we'd have a cross tailwind for just a bit, so I jumped and guttered folks so that the 1 hour guys would have to use some power before they wanted to. This was almost a mistake cuz I nearly got dropped going up the hill.
Our bunch slowed going up the rise for just a few seconds and I rolled back into it. I had just enough time to think, "crap, I'm going to have to attack here" and Bonds jumped a little bit. Luke went with him . . . and wonder of wonders, the main 1-hour guy, Lance Bowers, got on to them.
"Yes," thought I. The gap might have been 15 yards, might have been 20. It grew to 40 when I stopped pedalling--and then we started down the hill to the second, more rolling half of the course. I knew that if I tried to get up to them it would have to be a devastating "ain't no point in even trying to go with that one" jump, and I knew I didn't have that.
Now, keep in mind that making the gap stick up front means a lot of work--and there's no question that Paul and Luke were the strongest. But that doesn't mean that help from behind means nothing either. My job from that point in the race became gate-keeper. A couple of guys, including Richard, tried to jump across, and I'd roll right up to their rear wheel. Richard and I have known each other for years, so I told him that I wasn't going to chase.
"What's your theory for not chasing?"
"My guy's up the road with the other strongest guy, and Lance is with 'em, so the other 1-hour guys don't have to chase."
Richard just looked at me--but he sat on until I started riding again.
One guy (sorry, don't know him, and didn't get a chance to meet him) jumped away, got a gap, and proceeded to get stuck in no-man's land for the better part of an hour. It was a great ride, a heroic ride--and a ride that won't show up in the results, because he blew up AND flatted.
I told the two other guys in our bunch who were trying to chase that the two strongest guys in the race were up the road--but that if we just rode steady we'd bring the other two back before the finish. At first they didn't listen, so I rode third wheel, apologizing for not chasing until the gap to Luke and Paul was gone:
(btw, Luke's USA shorts are the real deal . . .)
but with those two completely up the road, it became time to reel Lance B and the other guy in:
And sure enough, Richard and I, plus the other guys--especially the guy at the back here, who kept saying he was done, and then rolling through for one more turn, brought both of them back well before the finish. (And even though I like Lance B a lot, I blew by him as fast as I possibly could so that there was no question of his getting back on).
Just a pointless t-shirt ride . . .