I had been getting my ass kicked all day. It was supposed to be 80 easy miles along the coast. I was supposed to have easily taken every town sign. But here I was, struggling to stay on the wheel of some twentysomething-triathlete-hero grinding 25mph along the flats, losing every town sign.
There were two new faces in the TCO peloton that morning, Tim and Gabe. Both looked extremely fit and Gabe was on an expensive looking tri-bike. I paid them almost no attention until Gabe got on the front, settled into his aero bars and cranked the pace up to 25mph. And then held it for ten (or a million) miles. I was hammering to stay on his wheel making myself as small as possible to hide in his draft, thinking, “Holy S#!%, can he do this all day?”
I asked him later how long he could keep that speed up and he said, “Maybe 60 miles.” I laughed on the outside and cried on the inside. I was totally screwed. They were nabbing town signs left and right. Tim has this awesome ability to leap from the group to take the sign while I was still hammering to try and keep Gabe’s wheel.
My only hope was that I would be stronger at mile 60+. It’s my experience that tri-guys train for triathlons and even an Olympic Tri is just 25 miles. So, I hid out in the pack and let Gabe hammer on at “ludicrous-speed”.
I made a deal with Mark for the two Carlsbad signs, I would lead him out for the first one and then I would take the second (there is an official sign followed by a decorative monument – they each count as a point). We executed our plan perfectly and took the two signs. Afterwards, I looked back and saw that we had a gap, with Tim trying to get across. It occurred to me that we could just stay away for the last 12 miles or so and take the rest of the signs. I mentioned it to Mark and his comment was, “That sounds like too much work.” Heck, if I’m not working on a bike, what am I riding for, right?
I put my head down and cranked it up to 22mph cause that’s all I can hold. Tim caught us at a light south of Carlsbad and we started working as a rotation of three. Now my plan was in danger cause I believed Tim to be strong enough to jump from our group to nab each of the remaining 5 points. Mark was thinking the same thing and made sure that Tim pulled us hard to the base of a short hill. Mark and I launched up the hill and managed to pop Tim! So he’s not invincible!
I got back on the front and gave it all I had. Instinctively, I knew that Mark would not attack me for points as long as I was hammering, cause if he did I would drop him right after his sprint.
Looking back, I no longer saw Tim. I realized that we were away and I could ease up if I wanted to. But I was on my bike about 5 miles from Pizza Port, so why not go as absolutely hard as I could. Pretending I was in a race, I went even faster. My legs ached and I thought about how you gotta ignore the pain and then I pushed a little harder. Our plan worked and we stayed away, nabbing the remaining 5 points.
And let me tell you – the jalapeno/pepperoni pizza and IPA never tasted so good…