Tag Archives: Art Sulger

Tour De France Fatigue Syndrome

I was in a bad mood as I prepared to meet with my Thursday evening riding buddies. Several things had happened over the few hours before the ride that had me operating with some negative vibes. It might be that I infected the other guys or it could just be that we are all suffering from Tour De France Fatigue Syndrome.  Whatever the case, it made for some interesting group dynamics!

Quite a few of the POA Cycling Team riders where there.  Luis, Matt, John, Billy, and myself were wearing the red and graphite kits. Tyler Crotts was there with a wheel set and power tap that belonged to someone else. Art, Gary, and Bob rounded out the group.  We were soon joined by Julian who had never ridden with us, but did more than keep up!

I was still in my funk and was either off up front or off the back for a good portion of the first 15 minutes or so. Then we started up Meece Bridge Road.  Maybe I just needed a good sprint to get me out of my bad mood.

I led out the train with the idea of moving over to let some guys come through and then attacking closer to the finish. Before my plan could be put into practice, Matt and John came up behind me yelling about a flat and that we needed to slow our pace.  Turns out Tyler had a flat.  We slowed and ended up at the finish without a sprint.

We waited and waited until we finally saw them in the distance moving up the road.  Turns out Tyler didn’t have any spares or tools with him. Thankfully for him, Luis and Art did.  They caught back up to us, but it set us back by a good seven minutes.

We would have to skip the quarry road and head toward Paris Mountain a bit earlier than normal.  The pace was pretty high.  It was putting a hurt on some of the guys.  Then on Little Texas Road it all came to a head.

I’m not sure exactly what happened ahead, but I believe Art slowed dramatically as we started a climb. Julian got moved to the right as he came up on him.  I was right on his wheel and rode right up the right side of his bike jamming my front wheel against the heel of his shoe.

Everyone was on edge. We sorted things out from that instance and continued to pick the pace up again.  Up ahead of me I heard some commotion and looked up to see John having an animated conversation with Tyler.  Then I saw John knock Tyler’s water bottle out of Tyler’s hand.

Well, if I have things straight, I believe Tyler was making some point about the pace and John was giving him a hard time about it.  Tyler brake-checked him and that didn’t make John very happy.  All the rest of us were steering clear.  I’m sure Julian was wondering what he had gotten himself into!

Next up was the mountain. Julian took off and left us in the dust. I knew it wasn’t going to be a good night, so I just decided to go up steady.  Before long it was just Matt, John, and myself.  For the whole second half of the climb, I could glance back between my legs and see two wheels following me… Matt and John.

I knew they were just toying with me. They could have easily come around and left me panting.  When we got to The Wall, I stood to do what I could.  John looked over at me and told me that he wasn’t going to do anything to me after sitting on my wheel all that time.

Matt continued on beside me and started urging me to put out to reach the top.  I wanted to tell him he didn’t have to do that since I knew I was way outside of a good time, but I didn’t have the breath to tell him!  It just made me feel all the worse that he was able to yell so clearly so late in the climb.

Bob and I came down easily afterward and came up to the rest of the guys talking in the parking area of the gas station at the base of Altamont Road.  They were discussing the “John vs. Tyler” incident.  By the time we all pulled out of the parking lot, things had been pretty much worked out.

The rest of the ride was uneventful.  We hung out a bit in the lot after we all got in.  The laughter and kidding had returned and the tenseness was not so noticeable.  The evening had been saved.

I got to thinking that we might have all been on edge because we have been staying up late watching the Tour De France.  I know I am tired from following the whole saga.  It has been a great Tour, but it is wearing me down.  Don’t think I could survive another week of it.  Just imagine how the riders feel!

It was like an evening time one day classic

Last night I managed to get out on a group ride. Wednesday was a short spin for me, but that was the first time back on the bike since Sunday afternoon. It has been even longer since I had ridden in a group.

This was just an unofficial ride with some friends. Eight of us headed off toward the base of Paris Mountain and over near Travelers Rest. We would turn around out there and then head up Paris and then back home.

John James was out of the blocks fast. Matt Tebbetts, Matt Turner, and I were hanging on. Before long, we were away from the other riders.

Understand, this is not a No Man Left Behind kind of ride. It varies in purpose. Sometimes in the past it has been a conserve and then see if each member of the group can get his personal best up Paris. At other times it is simply a hammerfest to see how many riders are left at the end.

This ride was one of the later. Turns out John was working to keep his average power for the ride over 250 watts. Several times I looked down and saw numbers of 300 to 400. On one section where John and I were pulling up the road together I saw sustained wattage of over 500.

The four of us went looping through some roads between Furman and TR. On the way back, we turned onto the Swamp Rabbit trail and did some rough riding in honor of the classic going on over in Belgium. That was a lot of fun.

As we flew along the road we had John, Matt Tebbetts, and I in POA Cycling kits. Matt Turner was the odd man out with Les Amis colors. John slid back to me once and said, “I feel like we are away off the front in some one day classic.” If so, Mr. Turner was in trouble. Actually, he was riding very well and had put a hurting on me during a couple of pulls.

As we neared the base of Paris for the climb up, we saw Mike, Art, and Blair going toward Altamont on the Frontage Road. By the time we got there, they had already turned up for the climb. Too soon it was going to be our time to follow them.

I knew there would be no personal best for me tonight. My hope was that I could just make it to the top without the other riders creating to big of a gap on me. As soon as we turned up I knew that was going to be tough.

Before long it was just a line of red going up the climb as Tebbetts, John, and I got around Mike and Blair. Art was no where to be seen. I didn’t expect that we would catch him before the top.

Tebbetts kept talking about how he would see us at the top. I was jokingly accusing him of sandbagging. I know he wasn’t. The issue is that he just can’t stand not being with the leading group. He was going to work to stay there regardless of how he felt.

John and I were starting to get put into trouble as Matt just kept tapping out a steady cadence. Then John eased up a little to recover some energy. Then he moved to the front and created a gap between the other two of us.

When we got to the wall, I was behind the other two guys. I could see both guys ahead of me. John was going to get to the top first. Matt had a pretty good gap on me as well. Perhaps if he slowed I could catch him before the top.

I shifted to a slightly harder gear and slogged along after them. Matt beat me to the top, but I had gained on him enough to cross the line close to his rear wheel. Still, it was a bad night with a time of 13 minutes.

After waiting for Turner to join us at the top, we started down the other side. Now the group was larger with Mike, Blair, and Art joining us for the ride down. Blair and John took to lead. The rest of us followed.

Blair then went way off the front. I could tell that most of the riders decided that we were not going to allow him to make it to the bottom first. Turner moved up and started pulling us through the rolling sections. By the time we reached the downhill portion, he had brought us even with Blair.

There were several attacks before the final turns, but then it was just Blair on the front with me right on his wheel. I sat there and let his draft suck me down the road. No need to work here. It was just a matter of waiting for the right moment to go around him.

We made a right turn and then started into the final left sweeping turn. I slipped out of his draft and put the hammer down. My bike went by him with ease. It is amazing what the draft can do for you. I came through the final right turn onto the straight with lots of speed.

I’m sure I was hitting close to 50 mph at that point. My WKO+ says I registered 71.8 mph as my max speed. Obviously, the satellites got mixed up on that one! Looking back at my Garmin I see that it registered a top speed of 50.18.  Hmmm, I wonder what makes the big discrepancy?

There was one little sprint to close out the night. Once again I got in Blair’s draft and nipped him at the line. Then John came flying pass me saying as he passed, “I’m not trying to be a pill, I’m just trying to keep my power average high for the ride.” I took a breath and jumped on his wheel.

We finished together and had amazingly similar power averages. He uses a Powertap and I use a Quarq CinQo coupled with the Garmin 705. He is about 5 pounds lighter than I am, but was putting out more at some points. Had we switched power systems, I believe the results would have been the same.

That was a big effort. It was easily harder than any Donaldson Center ride I have been on this year. Come to think of it, that was probably the most effort I have put out in an hour and a half for a long, long time. You know what? It was a blast!