It is still dark when the alarm goes off at 6am. I tiptoe downstairs and get my bike set up while the espresso machine warms up. Head for a shower after a doubleshot and try to decide how much cold weather gear to put on. Forecast is calling for a high of 58F, grey skies and chance of showers. I peer out the little window in the bathroom and the weatherman looks right, for once. Ok, obviously we’re doing undershirt, legs and sleeves. Vest is probably a good idea. Should I use the full jacket instead? No, that’s too hot and difficult to take off while riding. What about my beanie? Nope, that’s really only for descending Palomar in the snow ? Full-fingered gloves didn’t occur to me and I don’t own shoe covers.
Slurp a bowl of oatmeal, boot up my GPS and head for Spring Meadow to meet the Descenders. As I drop into the valley, I can see the sky to the east and it looks ominous. It starts to sprinkle a little as we wait for the team to join up.
I’m cold at first and wished I had my full-fingered gloves, but as soon as the road tips up Highland Valley, I’m nice and toasty. I decide to not let my HR get above 94% of max; it’s way too early to go that far into the red. I tap out a nice rhythm on 8-10% grades with some short sections as steep as 15%. At the top it’s Voris and me with Mike, Guido and Rob not far behind.
We drop into Bandy Canyon and start a paceline on the flats. Discussion turns to the impending climb out the other side, Hwy 78 to Ramona. Voris has done this ride dozens of times and declares that 25 minutes is the difference between the men and the boys on this climb. Mentally, I prepare for 30 minutes of hard climbing and lock myself onto Voris’ wheel.
I make Voris break all the wind. My only goal is to get whatever time he gets. I get that death stare on his rear wheel and think about keeping my cadence as high as possible to preserve power. A truck goes by, horn blaring and hugging the right shoulder. Thanks buddy. Every time Voris kicks up the pace, I come off his wheel. I fight my way back each time, using higher cadence rather than powering a higher gear. The road finally begins to tip over and I tell Voris we’re just a minute or two short of the 25 minute goal. He pours himself into his bike and I almost come off again. We’re flying and I can’t believe it. We cross the line at 24:46. That was a nice job for me and a huge achievement for him.
It’s starts to rain a little more as we cross through Ramona on our way to Dye Rd. Dye Road is a 3-mile stretch of really flat road without much traffic. It’s a favorite paceline course for the Descenders. I’ve taken it into my mind that I’m going to attack every time we ride Dye and try and stay away to the end. I did it once, but without Voris chasing me very hard. The last time I jumped on Dye Rd, I got caught just after the first turn.
Rob and Mike slow down taking the corner onto Dye and off I go. Once I get the gap, I try to settle into a pace with my HR at 92-94% of max. After a while I look down and see Voris’ wheel on mine so I sit up. He comes around me saying something about it being hard to catch me. I recover for a minute or two in his draft and take off again. He’s closes the gap to me fairly quickly and sits in my draft. I begin to prep for an attack off the front. I know it’s going to require explosive power to pop him and frankly this is a weak area for me. I think back to all I’ve learned from Mark about cadence and sprinting and prepare to go off the front. Voris beats me to the punch. As soon as I see him go, I’m going full speed. My brain wants me to shift up, but I refuse, heeding Mark’s advice. I pretend I’m practicing speed drills and can hear Mark saying “Go faster, faster, faster!” I manage to cling to Voris’ wheel and he shuts his attack down saying that his legs are empty. No wonder, leading all of Hwy 78 was a gargantuan effort. I go one last time and finally manage to stay away until the end of Dye Rd.
It’s been sprinkling on us for some time and we decide to head for home instead of dropping back down HVR. It’d just be too wet and dangerous on the steep and twisty descent. What a great day. Almost 50 miles with some really challenging climbs and sportiness. Legs are aching by the time I get home and a warm shower sure felt good.
I kind of like it when it rains.