My original plan was to make today’s ride an easy outing, hanging back “wheel sucking” and chatting my way through the ride, but yesterday’s easy spin back from the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure acted as a recover ride and brought new life to my tired legs.
The initial run up to the airport was a breeze, and with no crazy headwinds (a very welcomed change of pace), the ensuing mad dash at the airport was extremely competitive and fun. In fact pretty much all of riders maintained the tight pace line all the way up to the departure terminal. Heck I even took charge and pulled the group up to the ramp, something I rarely ever do when we hit the airport stretch.
The main group stayed together down the terminal ramp and through the old airport turnoff. This is where the speedsters really take off, but surprisingly not today. It seemed like everyone was well rested and ready to ride hard. Once we got past the dreaded washboards (the Fort Myers airport was rebuilt on the opposite/south side of the landing strips, the old/north side is little trafficked and still accessible, but the pavement still maintains it’s old speed bumps/washboards) and brought our speed back up, a gap started to form in the very long pace line. Being near the back of the pack after another pull (yes two fast pulls at the airport….surprise, surprise), I didn’t notice the gap had formed until I was closer to the front of the split group.
The gap luckily closed when a red light caught us all when leaving the airport and heading into the Gateway area, but as soon as we were back up to speed again, the gap reopened. Feeling good and not wanting to ride back in a “slower” group. Two of us decided to pick the groups pace up to bridge the gap and rejoin the the two groups.
Bill, my cohort in this plan, increased the pace from 22 MPH to 24 MPH. The entire group stayed tight, giving us the impression that they also wanted to catch up. Bill peeled off the front leaving me to pull. I methodically brought the group up to 27 MPH, and the gap was closing, but closing slowly. I maintained that pace until my legs started screaming and then handed the pulling duty to the rider behind me. As I slowed up a bit to let the riders pass me and take my place at the end of the pace line, I realized that the group was decelerating.
While working my way up through the pace line and recovering in the slipstream, our speed had dropped to 22-23 MPH. Naturally, all the distance recovered from Bill and my pulls had been lost, but the lead group was still reachable…if others helped.
Bill took the lead again and brought us up to 24-25 MPH, sure enough, the gap started to slowly close. After a half mile or so, he handed the pulling to me. I quickly brought the speed up to the 28-29 MPH range, knowing full well that I’d sacrifice a few riders while in the chase.
My legs started protesting again when the gap had closed to under 50 yards. I peeled off the front of the group for some more recovery, knowing that the goal had been reached, but to my surprise, the entire group slowed it down again to 22 MPH. In fact they slowed down so quickly that I was actually coasting back at a faster forward speed than they were traveling! Talk about frustrating. The prize was at hand, but no one wanted to give that final push.
By now our group had whittled down to about 5 riders, as our hard pulls caused most of the riders to drop. Once again the gap opened up, but it wasn’t as big this time as there were fewer “unwilling riders” in the pace line to slow us down.
Bill took the lead again and pulled us back up to 24-25 MPH. We were quickly closing the gap now as the traffic light at Alico road had stopped the lead group. Bill handed the pulling duty off to me once again just as the light turned green. The light at Alico road is notoriously quick, so I went into an all out sprint to catch them once and for all.
I burnt out just 20 or so yards away from the light, relinquishing the pulling to the rider behind me. I shouted, “take the light even if it starts changing” to the rider, and sure enough, the light turned yellow and he brought the entire group to a screeching halt. Luckily the second light caught the lead group (there is a stop light only a block or two away from the Alico intersection at the entry to Gulf Coast Town Center), so there was at least one more chance to catch them.
Both lights turned green and the chase was back on. By now, our group was down to four. Bill took the lead once again pushing as hard as he could to close the gap. He didn’t last long up front as our recovery time was far too short now with only four of us in the group. I took over and pushed as hard as my lactic acid filled legs would allow. We were so close that one rider in the lead group started to drop back, knowing that the catch was going to be made, but sure enough, as soon as I handed off the pulling, we dropped down to 22 MPH.
The other two rider were pretty much burnt out, and frankly neither Bill nor I had another 28 MPH pull left in us without some kind of recovery, so, the valiant effort was all for naught as the now five man group slowed down to a 24 MPH pace.
Bill ended up dropping from the group at the I75 overpass. The remaining three of us pushed on at about a 23 MPH pace. While passing the Estero High School on Williams Road, the rider who joined us from the lead group decided to drop the hammer one last time. Having recovered a bit from the slower pace, I quickly gave chase, and then just went for it, stomping madly on my pedals one last time on the home stretch. With my legs absolutely screaming, I looked back to find that I was about 4 blocks out in front of the other three riders. No one gave chase.
I ended up coasting into Coconut Point alone with a very big smile on my face and not the least bit upset that my harebrained goal of catching the lead group had failed. After all we never let our intentions be known to the rest of the group. Our race within a race actually was quite fun…in fact it was a hell of a ride.
Route: Trek group ride
Ride Time: 1:46:57
Stopped Time: 23:23
Distance: 36.38 miles
Average: 20.41 mph
Fastest Speed: 29.83 mph
Ascent: 194 feet
Descent: 181 feet