The five hour criterium

Imagine riding in a criterium race for five hours.  Well, Saturday, I came pretty close to doing that.  I participated in “The Ride: Recycled.”  Six other guys and I (along with some supporters who came and went) rode around this .84 mile circuit for five hours.

The five hour criterium course

The five hour criterium course

The purpose for the ride was to raise money for a building project on the campus of Bob Jones University.  The event was organized by student, Eric Ritchardson.  His parents came down from Michigan to help support the ride by being there to hand us food and give encouragement as we repeatedly passd them.

By the time I was done, I had passed them 112 times!  It was my hope to make the 100 mile mark before the five hours passed.  Unfortunately, I ended up with only 94.

We were supposed to start out as a group for a couple of hours and then go for our personal goals.  However, right off the bat, Eric and another rider went off the front.  I chased after them and sat on their wheels waiting for the rest of the group to come up to us.

They never did.  I figured if that we weren’t going to start out as a group, I would get going to work toward a 20 mph average.  I knew I needed to build up my average so I would have something to work with when the going got tougher later on.

You would think that it would be a relatively easy course.  However, over that five hour period I climbed over 70 feet per lap — 112 * 70 and you have 7,780 feet of climbing!  To make matters worse, much of the 70 feet took place on one stretch of the course that had you riding into a headwind.

Thankfully, at one point my friend Dave McQuaid came along.  He gave me several good pulls around the course and before long I was up to a 20.6 mph average.  Around 2 PM he had to leave and I still four hours to go.

For the next three hours I was able to stay above my goal of 20 mph.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake of slowing down.  I felt bad not riding with the group, so as I would come up to them I would slow to ride with them a bit.  Before the average dipped too far, I would leave them and work to bring my average back up.

Each time this happened, I found it harder to build my average back to a point where I would have something to fall back on.  Finally, in hour four I went as low as 20 mph even.  Then I started to wear down.  I realized I should have held on to that .6 with a little more tenacity.

Early in the ride I was knocking off laps consistently 2 minutes and 25 seconds.  I could complete the route in nearly 2 minutes when I gave it a try.  However, by hour five I was starting to see lap times of 2 minutes and 40 seconds or more.

When I dipped to 19.9 mph average, I gave another push to get back above 20 mph.  It was then I realized I wasn’t going to get 100 miles.  I was pretty much doing the ride either alone or pulling.  There was very little drafting for me.  I had worked very hard and I just didn’t have the juice left to hold it.

On lap 97 I stopped to take a nature break.  That lap ended up being 8 minutes long.  Then I slowed down to enjoy the last hour.

Reaching the end, I was satisfied.  Maybe if I had pushed I could have added a mile to so, but I don’t think I would have hit 100.  However, I took care of myself and had no cramps during the entire time.  I still had enough gas in the tank to make my last lap in 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

My power average for the ride was 177 watts.  I had a peak of 1192 watts.  That was probably when I was trying to catch up to a professor so I could motor pace behind his car.  It was a pretty good work out and I was able to raise several hundred dollars toward the building project.