It was cold again this morning on the way to meet the Descenders for their weekly Saturday ride. This time I had my full-fingered gloves on and it made all the difference.
We were supposed to preview the Boulevard race course today, but the chilly weather had us staying closer to home. The high temp in Boulevard today was supposed to be just 37F or something. Brrr!
Voris, Mike, Guido and I started by climbing Highland Valley Road, following Stage 8 of this seasons Tour of California. I got off to a good start on HVR’s steep turns and made it to the Bandy Canyon turnoff feeling like maybe I’d pushed it too hard. Burned lungs on the first climb is a bad sign.
We dove into Bandy Canyon and started pacelining on the wonderfully flat valley floor. Soon enough, we were climbing out of Bandy to Ramona on Highway 78. According to Voris, if you can complete the climb in 25 minutes you are “good”. That would be tough with the headwind we were fighting. The four of us set up a clean rotation, sharing the wind on the lower slopes of the climb. We climbed and climbed, our rotation working smartly. At some point we lost a rider and then after a little while it was just me and Voris. I was very happy to have kept his wheel and even pulled some. Like last time, he would gap me a little with small accelerations, but I always fought back using higher cadence rather than a higher gear. I learned that trick from Mark and it works great.
Finally, the climbing was over and we were on the last mile or two before the official finish at Haverford Road. Voris indicated that he would accelerate and it was everything I had just to keep up. We passed the marker at 25:24 and I think we did well given the headwind.
We pootled through Ramona and got onto Old Julian Highway, where Guido picked up the pace before the left turn. The headwinds were fierce and we shared them like a team. Historically, I start my sportiness too early. Voris waits patiently on my wheel and then drops me a few hundred meters from the line. Just to show him I’m learning, I tried to turn the tables on him this time. I waited patiently in the group. When we got to the big switchback, Mike attacked, using a tailwind to give him advantage. Voris and I jumped and I silently prayed that Mike would run out of steam faster than me. Luckily, he did and it was just Voris and I. I let him pace me as we climbed higher and higher. I was trying to calculate the perfect time to go and couldn’t remember how the last few kilos go. I guess I’m usually too out of my mind to remember the contours. I picked what I thought was a good time and put in my attack. I got a small gap but Voris covered it quickly so I let him pace me some more. I took off again when I could see the wooden fence that signals the top of the climb. He covered easily and then countered, gapping me. I clawed my way back to his wheel and then for some odd reason tried to go off the front again. I was immediately shut down and felt like I had hit a wall. I went straight to zero power and could only watch as Voris crossed the line first. The good news is that I was watching him do it this time, usually I’m too far behind to see. So, overall, I think I did well.
We turned around and the uphill headwind became a downhill tailwind. Forty miles-per-hour was easy and if you pushed it, 50 mph was not far behind. Still a bit of a scaredy-cat on screaming-ass, twisty descents, I didn’t push it. It was a gorgeous day, clear and it was even warming up a little.
We flew back to Ramona and were soon on Dye Road. Mike and Voris were looking a little sporty so I waited a little before I attacked. No fancy tactics, when it was my turn in the paceline I went off the front. In retrospect, that’s a lousy way to attack, but I did manage to get a decent gap and held it for a turn or two. When the three of them did close it down, I sat up to recover and plan my next move. The next time I came to the front, I just went again. Smart guy. About 100m from the end Voris catches me and says that he was trying to lead Guido out. No Guido, so I went again and technically pipped him for the line. I love attacking on Dye Road and will continue to do so at every opportunity.
Voris and I split off from the other two and headed for home. I was feeling spent, ready for a shower, but we still had enough sportiness to go for the Poway (me) and Lakeside (Voris) town signs. The Lakeside sign was especially fun cause it was so fast and Voris nabbed it right at the line. Mark would have been proud.
I turned up Pomerado and pootled my way home, after catching that DeWalt rider of course. What a great day in the saddle.