I always look forward to the challenging yet fun Sunday morning Trek group rides. It’s always exciting to test your physical and mental limits against the speed demons of the A group, but today’s ride was going to push those limits far deeper into the red than normal as there was a very nasty 18 MPH NE wind with gusts into the mid 20’s.
Our intrepid ride leader Tony Catalina insisted that today’s ride was not to be a race. Maintaining a tight group was going to be key to tackle the wind, particularly on the airport leg, as the 10 mile loop was completely against the wind. Truth be told, the entire first half of the ride turned out to be against the wind.
The group, about 50 strong, eagerly tore into the wind in a very tight dual pace line, maintaining a 20-21 MPH clip. Most riders were in energy conservation mode preferring to wheel suck instead of pulling the group. Can’t say I blame them, especially since it was my game plan too. I’ve been stuck up front on a few occasions pulling the A group only to be left behind them once I dropped off the front.
We maintained a tight, quickly moving peloton for the first 11 miles. As we turned into the airport loop, the group started to rubberband a bit as the A riders reluctantly started to pull away. There really wasn’t much of a gap forming as the wind was pretty much whipping everyones butt. I was maintaining my positon near the front of the second group when I noticed Señor J dropping back. I slowed to ask if he was in any trouble, to which he mentioned his calf was cramping badly. We both slowed for him to shake it out and opted for the “short cut” which cuts out the actual terminal loop (a little less than 3 miles) saving him the climb. Actually a fair number of riders opted for the same short cut too.
We headed towards the old airport continuing our headlong assault of the wind. It was a little odd leading the A group, but we knew we’d soon be caught. Sure enough, just 4 miles in, a quick moving pace line powered past us. Our group was nowhere as precise looking more like a slinky than a pace line. The group was quickly fragmenting into many smaller groups as few wanted to take the wind head on.
The group I had nestled into was slowly falling back, so I just bit the bullet took the lead, dropped into my aero bars and went deep into the red for about a mile, putting a good dent into the gap between my group and the one ahead of us. My thighs were on fire as I signaled to peel off the front only to find I actually pulled away from my group and was riding alone. Not having much left in the tank, my only option was to slow and wait for a group behind me to catch up. I was in dire need to wheel suck for a bit and recuperate. Fortunately, one rider made an effort to catch up giving me a badly needed break from the wind.
Batteries recharged, I thanked him for the break and told him to to latch on as I attempted to catch the group ahead of me. We eventually caught the group (with a little help from a very well timed red light), integrated ourselves into it and enjoyed a fast wind-favored return ride home.
Today’s ride was extremely challenging as wind gusts made it feel as if you were riding with your brakes on. Personally my biggest problem was finding myself up front far to often, pulling the group and never getting an adequate chance to recuperate. Surviving a windy ride requires the support of all the riders. Everyone needs to share the load up front to keep the group rolling smoothly and quickly. Some riders are stronger than other riders. However, every contribution, small or large, adds to the complete effort and provides additional rest for the stronger riders that they would not have had without your effort.
With that little gripe/observation aside, it was still one hell of a fun ride! Best of all no flats!!!
Route: Trek Airport Group Ride
Ride Time: 1:46:32
Stopped Time: 8:23
Distance: 34.88 miles
Average: 19.64 mph
Fastest Speed: 25.26 mph
Ascent: 545 feet
Descent: 633 feet