I just had a great weekend that reminded me why I like to ride.
I took the workweek off from riding with a dinged up knee, I did an easy 90 minute spin with Kyle on Friday AM to ease back into it. It was a kind of a local muffin ride type of thing. We're hoping to get more people out for it (hint, if you're on the east side of town and looking for a 6:15 Friday pre-race spin drop me or Jon Seibold at Family Bikes a line). Jon was a little sick, and some other folks who do it had commitments so it was just two of us, which was fine. The post-ride coffee at Caribou was particularly good tasting for some reason. Kyle asked me what is up with espresso so I got him one. He drank his first shot of espresso and didn't vomit, so I guess he must have loved it.
On Saturday I hit Patapsco with a pretty big crew, and we rode around a lot. The initial prediction was for 2-2.5 hours, so I only brought two Gu packets, and one water bottle. I was slow to begin with, the punctured knee didn't help things. I'm also in weird place in terms of my skill development. I've realized how much I don't know on the mountain bike, so I'm riding technical stuff *much* slower than I was riding it before. That's good because I recognize where there's danger. But it makes me as slow as molasses until I get my line figured out, and I'm not carrying enough speed to clear any obstacles past the technical sections. As usual my climbing also sucks, so I was the slow guy on the ride in most sections. The group was really patient with me, perhaps because I rewarded them by nearly coming off this 6' high ramp / drop stunt thing that's up in the back woods. That was good for a laugh, but it upped the ante for all the skinny fast guys, who then felt compelled to ride it. I'm looking forward to hitting it next time and trying to do it without any dabs. But all good things have to come to an end sooner or later, and I completely ran out of fuel about 2.5 hours in and became miserably slow. John H led me and another guy in, while Jon Seibold and friends did the Extended Play version, getting back quicker but adding a few extra miles. Coming up the last hill, I was in the outer suburbs of bonk-city, it may have been Bonkville or possibly Bonkton Town. It wasn't a total bonk where you lose track of where you are, which side of the bike goes downward and so forth; it was just cramps all around for the last half hour, mild disorientation and severe difficulty keeping my focus on the trail. (Magical Secret: Tune the internal dialogue to keep shouting abuse at the conscious mind: "Pay Attention to the Trail, Fuckhead, or it WILL Hurt!; Watch that rock, Moron! Carry speed or your front end will go under you dope!") We got to the parking lot at the right time because another 15 minutes of riding and I was going to be catatonic. This sounds bad, but it isn't; I screwed up a number of things on Saturday, including nutrition, and managed to get away with it. Part of it was luck and good, undemanding ride companions, but the other part of it was that I've got enough skills and base fitness now to get away with the occasional minor slipup. That I could push my luck a little was a confidence builder for sure. Of course I'm still cursing myself out (Internal Voice: "Dumbass...") because a lot of that suffering was unnecessary.
Sunday's menu featured a solo ride into D.C. which made me remember why I drive partway into town when I bike commute. There doesn't appear to be a good route from Crofton/Bowie into town, so I found myself big ringing it up Greenbelt Road/193 at full tilt, trying to get to roads with shoulders that provide at least a modicum of safety for riders. That route also took me well north, and by the time a couple wrong turns were added in along with some planned tooling around downtown DC, I was at 45 miles when I got to the Java Shack, and thence to the race. I was a mess, since the effects of the prior day's near-bonk were still with me, but I was resolved to get in a ride and enjoy the race. I hung out with the team at the Boulevard Wood Grill, ate a little bit, drank a couple beers, cheered the pros, and did very little of any use. No shock to me, the two big European (but American-owned) teams (Slipstream, High Road) had a little bit of problem in the heat, appearing to fade late, with the trademark bright red faces and profuse sweat that the Euro pro teams seem to specialize in when they pop over to the 'States for a couple crits. If you only ride in temperate weather, you never get acclimatized to mid-80's weather and truly scorching heat when you're on treeless pavement - though one never knows if the DS'es were telling their riders to back off and let the local boys fight it out for the win... road cycling has some curious customs and manners. The race flow was straightforward; Magnus Backstedt attacked a number of times very early until one stuck, and he sat there off the front with Damiani, a little terrier of a guy, for a few laps until most of the major teams stuck a guy in the move. They got away with about a dozen guys, with most of the major teams represented. That group worked like hell until they lapped the field, then everybody sat in and rode like dogs until about 10 laps were left, at which point the pace suddenly shot up and everybody had to fight like hell to hold on. In addition to the weather and pace taking a toll on the Euro stage/classics racers, some other predictions I made were fairly good. Colavita was indeed hot as I predicted, although Luca Damiani (not a great crit racer, though a strong 'crosser) took the win by virtue of pulling off the best sprint in the bunch of 12 or so to lap the field. Healthnet/Maxxis looked pretty strong near the end (as predicted), putting four guys on the front in an attempt to set up for the win, and they controlled it for the last two laps but apparently misjudged the turn on the last lap, with Karl Menzies finishing third. Dominique Rollen, who was the sole Toyota rep (and who completely took me by surprise), rode a very good race and sprinted for second at the end. Team Type 1 also had a strong performance. Magnus was awarded the Most Aggressive Rider award, to huge cheers -- he's the guy that made the huge break happen. You can catch the results at Velo News, story by Ryan Newill, my teammate who also writes the excellent Service Course blog. (See, I told you he's good). Special props to Battley Harley Davidson, which had several riders finish, including Russ Langley with a great result (top 10 of the lapped field?) and Brian Butts, who yet again made it all the way to the end, this year with a very good result. It's no shocker the Harley guys make life hell (in a good way) when they show up at Hains. I also ran into this guy, who seemed to be enjoying the racing in spite of the fact there are no trees, rocks, dropoffs, stout steel bikes, or guys with alternative facial hair, save Rock Racing.
After the race, we retired to another Coppi's house in Arlington, for a cookout and family-style get together that put the sublime finishing touch on a great cycling weekend. I didn't race, didn't do anything spectacular or of particular note, no yellow jersey or inventing the quick release skewer. I just rode my bike, hung out with friends and family, and had a great time, all centered around two wheels. The weekend doesn't have to be filled with unusual events to be amazing.
So how was your weekend?