Tag Archives: Hour of Power

Tour of Confusion

After basically spending my week on Zwift’s Watopia, I was looking forward to getting outside for my weekly Saturday morning excursion with the guys. The only thing I was not looking forward to was the 2,500 feet of climbing we typically do over the 28 mile route. I could only hope it wouldn’t be a slugfest at the numerous sprint zones along the way.

I pulled into the shop to find Luis, Matt, and Art just arriving. There were also two other guys I had not met before; Mitch and Adam. We waited for a few minutes to see if anyone else would show. While waiting, we discussed the plans for the day.

Only Art and Luis seemed to have a strong desire to ride a certain route. So, we all decided to repeat last Saturday morning’s route with a little alteration on the other side of Paris Mountain. With that all decided it was time to execute.

Matt and I took the front and we headed out talking as we moved along on a beautiful morning. It was a little humid, but there was also a breeze and the sun was still low enough that it wasn’t using the humidity to boil our already sweating skin. It was going to be a good ride!

satmorn

The first part of the ride takes you along the base of Paris Mountain. There are no large climbs, but there are numerous rollers that can have a sting if you take them fast enough. Thankfully, I didn’t think we were setting too hard of a pace.

Then we reached the smooth tarmac of Parker Road and we headed up what is called the Evangelical Climb due to a camp along the road. I don’t think I have ever attempted this segment at full gas. It is deceptive in that it appears you could fly along it, but you gain over 130 feet over the mile distance.

It was here I noticed Mitch starting to wain. Everyone else was tapping out a tempo that suited each individual and they were all moving away from the slower rider. So, I backed off and allowed myself to get overtaken.

Mitch was riding a new Giant bicycle with road disc brakes. It was the first time I had ridden with anyone who had a full on road setup with disc brakes. I asked him if his name was Mitch. He replied in affirmative with somewhat of a surprise as if to say, “How did you know?” I told him I had heard the guys in the shop talking about his new ride.

We continued along until we came to the first direct turn since we had been dropped by the others. They weren’t there waiting for us. So, I led Mitch off of Parker onto Phillips Trail.

Phillips Trail is currently packed dirt and gravel as it awaits resurfacing. It makes it a nice diversion from the normal asphalt, but it also has some biting little rises in it. I knew it would take some time for the two of us to make it. I was hoping the guys would be waiting for us as we intersected Patrol Club Road.

They weren’t there. “Man,” I said to Mitch. “I can’t believe they didn’t wait for us!” Surely they would be at the next stop sign. So, we pushed on along the long stretch of Pilot Road to Old Buncombe Road. They just had to be there.

I looked at my phone. There was a text message. “Where did you go?” Matt was asking.

“I had to drop back with Mitch.” I replied. “Pick a stop sign and wait for us. We are just now on Buncombe.” I put the phone back in my pocket and began to pull Mitch in my draft toward the next stop sign at Poinsett Highway.

Ahead I could see some riders. That might be our missing comrades. So, I put my head down a bit and picked up the pace. However, as we got closer, I could see it was a different group.

Once again I pulled out my phone. There was a new message from Matt. It had me staring at the phone in disbelief.

“We are at Philips and Patrol. We will head to Buncombe.”

I then replied to Matt as a plan began to form in my mind.

“How did that happen? We turned right onto Phillips and I never saw you. Just keep riding and we will meet you at Tandem.”

My thought was that I could take Mitch on a short cut and cut off the loop that would take the route out to the Green Valley Country Club. I could do this by turning off of Roe Ford Road onto the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The SRT and the full route would then meet up again at the crepe and coffee shop named Tandem. This way the guys could get in their full miles and Mitch could take his time and get ready for the push back to the shop.

Then something unexpected happened. I pulled out my phone to see Matt’s reply to my message. Mitch and I were now rolling peacefully along the bike path. That peace was shattered when I noticed my message to Matt was hung.

The Message app had not sent it. I closed and reopened the app and all my messages were gone! ALL of them. So, I rebooted the phone and by the time I got the new message composed and sent, Mitch and I were almost in TR proper.

Then came Matt’s reply. “Ha. We are now at Old Parker and Buncombe. We will meet you at Pilot and Old Buncombe. We never turned on Phillips.” Well, that wasn’t going to work.

I tried to salvage my idea. “Sorry. My text messaging crashed. We are on the SRT headed to Travelers Rest. Keep riding along the normal route at a good speed. We will go to Tandem and then backtrack on the route. We will meet you then.”

Mitch and I passed Tandem and then headed along the route as I mentioned. I decided to keep the guys up-to-date with where we were so we could make a proper junction. Then I got another text from Matt.

“We are at Tandem.”

What?

“So you guys did not continue on the normal route? Mitch is having trouble staying up. He would not be able to maintain the pace. We are headed back to you on Sweetgum and McElhaney.”

Finally, we were all back together and we decided to take the direct route to the base of Paris Mountain. A couple of the guys had time constraints and we had already gotten too far behind the clock. Not everyone was happy with it, but we had to do what we had to do.

We were all looking forward to the top.

We were all looking forward to the top.

At the base of Altamont Road, Luis decided to roll on in a different direction to get some more miles. He would later return to the mountain and cross over it to the shop and his waiting truck. The rest of us headed up the 2.2 miles climb.

I was rolling talking with Matt and noticed on the water tower section that I was still riding in my 53 though I was all the way up on my 32 cog. I decided to ride the rest of the way in the big ring. It would give me a challenge.

The slower pace in the first part of the climb had me feeling a little spritely for the last third or so. Another rider who was just descending the mountain when we turned up it had joined us and he was just on Matt’s wheel as I looked back to see a gap had formed. I couldn’t help it. I just had to keep him behind me.

From that point on I rode pretty much at around 350 to 400 watts with that rider slowly pulling himself towards me. Then right before the wall as he was about to make contact, I stood and pushed to the top. I could see his shadow disappear from behind me and I cross the line with a few seconds to spare.

As he crested I called out, “Good job!” And he replied with, “Thanks for the extra motivation!” as he kept rolling. I stopped to wait for my crew.

Matt came up. Then Art followed. Art said he was just going to roll on. He was supposed to meet his wife and extend his ride.

Then Adam came and went. Matt then said that he would need to roll. Mitch had not yet arrived.

I headed down to find him. I did as he was suffering through the dreaded section I call the “Box of Death” (named after a box at the top of the section where I typically begin to feel the full brunt of an effort up Altamont). He was standing along side the road.

I encouraged him to mount up again and turn the pedals just enough to keep the bike moving. There was no need to kill himself on the climb. I’d stay with him.

During conversation along the route, I had learned that this was his first real ride on the Giant and that he had only ridden the shop ride twice. Both other attempts had been the traditional Hour of Power route. Something dawned on me.

“So,” I slowly said. “This is your first climb of Paris Mountain?”

Wow, poor Mitch and his Giant were getting a baptism by fire! All the more reason I wanted to help him to keep the pedals turning. I was offering words of encouragement and finding an excuse here or there to stop.

Mitch crests the top of Paris Mountain for the first time!

Mitch crests the top of Paris Mountain for the first time!

Finally, we made it.

The way back to the shop was uneventful. Where Mitch had to struggle on the climb, he seemed very comfortable descending on his machine. Before we knew it, we were standing drinking a cup of coffee and enjoying his accomplishment.

“I’m sorry I held you guys up,” Mitch said. “No.” I replied. “I’m glad you came. Otherwise all we would have done was what we always do.” I let him know I was happy to experience his adventure with him.

And I meant it.

HOP: John James’ Wild Thursday Night Ride Route

This video breaks a record. It is the longest video I’ve published to YouTube. However, the video does not capture the entire metric century that I rode that day. It does get the best part which is the Saturday morning Sunshine Cycle Shop group ride that leaves each week shortly before 8 AM.

Even if you don’t sit and watch the whole thing, you can skip through to watch portions of the ride in order to get an idea of the awesome riding we have here in the Greenville, SC area. This route is generally rolling with one climb of Paris Mountain’s Altamont Road thrown in near the end.

I call this one “John James’ Wild Thursday Night Ride Route” because it is a route we used for an “unofficial” shop ride. It wasn’t announced publicly and mainly the racer types showed up. It was fast! If you got dropped… Well, you knew the way home. The one regrouping spot was at the top of Paris.

Of course, the Saturday morning rides are not that way. It is more of a social ride with plenty of opportunities to regroup. I believe this year they may be changing up the routes each Saturday, so if you show up don’t necessarily expect to do this route. Don’t worry, I don’t think there are any bad ones.

Here is another little excerpt I took out of the video for Neal Herring. We were going up a little grade and Zac Webb attacked. I jumped on his wheel and then Neal lifted his pace to catch us and then come around. Knowing I had the two camera’s on the bicycle, he asked me if I captured that move. I sure did and here it is, just for Neal.

Hope to see you out there soon!

Strava Segment Installment: Nature Trail at Herdklotz Park

Sometime ago I started creating videos of Strava segments. The main reason was that I was enamored with the technology that allowed me to overlay my ride data with the video of the event. It gives the person watching the images a better idea of the effort it takes to ride the bicycle.

Feedback has been positive and so I will occassionally get motivated to sit down a create a new one. Here is one from this weekend. It is a favorite segment for those of us who have for years ridden the Sunshine Cycle Shop’s Hour of Power Saturday morning rides. It is a Strava KOM that I would love to have, but one I’ve never managed to land.

In case you are curious, on this attempt I finished in 1:58. That is 13 seconds slower than my best time and 18 seconds slower than John James and his KOM of 1:40 seconds. Consider that as you watch the video to realize how much more effort I would need to put out to capture the prize!

Thanks for watching! Also, for best viewing, make sure you switch the Youtube resolution to HD.

Back to 2006

Tomorrow is the first Hour of Power shop ride out of Sunshine Cycle Shop. The group heads out at 8 AM for about 28 miles on rolling terrain. I’ve got a lot of history on that route and it got me to thinking of how far back in my blogging past I could find information about the ride.

It got me to thinking of when did I first start blogging about cycling? I have blogged consistently since 2004. Wow! Soon it will be a decade. I found this post from August 2, 2006 where I first started transitioning to an all cycling blog.

If you want to start your own adventure at the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power, you can learn more about it at SunshineCycle.com.

Now I’ve gone and done it – August 2, 2006

I’ve always enjoyed the energy that comes from a regular exercise routine. However, it has been hard to find a sport that I could do that would fit into my lifestyle. I don’t like “stationary” exercise. I want to be out doing something. Running is okay and I have run extensively in the past, but it just doesn’t have that element that keeps me coming back for more.

Mountain biking has been more my speed and riding gives me a workout while at the same time allowing me to incorporate the technical sides of riding and the social side of thrashing a trail with other pedal pushers. The only problem is that with a family and all the work responsibilities it has become harder and harder to load up the bike and find a trail. The trail that was once behind my house has basically be destroyed, so I would have to drive to the nearest trails.

One of my early Sunshine Cycle Shop rides. I am second in the red helmet.

One of my early Sunshine Cycle Shop rides. I am second in the red helmet.

Enter road biking. I have recently worked out a deal so I could get a Specialized Allez Elite Triple. It isn’t a fancy bike, but is a solid beginners bike. Now, my rides begin at the end of my driveway! I’ve been able to work out a system of riding Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. After my first full week of riding, I have logged over 100 miles.

Where I have gotten myself in trouble is that I have signed up for my first Metric Century ride on September 1st! That means I have only a month to prepare to ride over 62 miles. So far the longest I have ridden is 30 miles. I hope I’ll be able to do it. But really, a goal like that is what I need to keep me in the saddle and pushing for improvement. It is what turns exercise into a sport – a game where I play against myself to go farther than I thought I could.

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Little did I know as I wrote that what I was beginning! I’m glad I bought that red Allez. Parts of me wishes I could go back to those innocent, wide-eyed days on the bicycle. I guess that is one good thing about a blog… at least I can read about them.

I then went searching for the first record of a Sunshine Cycle Shop ride. I found it in September 2006. It isn’t the “blow-by-blow” style of some of the later descriptions of the ride, but I’m putting it here for nostalgia.

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A normal Saturday – September 30, 2006

Its Saturday and no rain, so…. that means that it was time for the Sunshine Cycle Saturday morning ride. Man, was it cold! Really, it wasn’t that cold – probably the high 40s or low 50s, but when you are out in summer riding gear and you get up to speed, it gets cold.

Once we got started, I warmed up everywhere except my fingers and my toes. When the sun got up over the trees, that helped a lot as well. By the time we ended the ride I was feeling pretty good.

By next Saturday, I plan to have some cool/cold weather gear. I don’t want to be cold again… nor do I want to be accused of being a Yankee! 🙂

We did about twenty-eight and a half miles like we normally do. I was relieved we didn’t do Woodhaven. That would have croaked me. The most fun I had was on a long gradual climb. I hooked up with Ed and Tony (two of the better riders) and we dropped the whole group and finished yards ahead of everyone. I managed to finish in the top two or three of most of the sprints, but the last couple of climbs, I just ran out of gas.

I didn’t make the 100 miles this week as I had hoped, but I did get more than 70. I’ll try again this week to get in some more. I think if I can get in a ride on Tuesday night, that will help.

Oh, a funny story. My nephew Paiton rides a lot with a friend named Andy. Well, this morning Andy called to see if Paiton would like to ride with him around Paris Mountain. Unfortunately for Paiton, his family didn’t hear the phone ring. So, Andy went riding without him and ended up riding with George Hincapie as they both ended up riding the same route. Andy got his autograph on his jersey and spent some time talking with him. Paiton? He was kicking himself 🙂

Don’t let Strava go to your head

Saturday I had a “free” day from training. It wasn’t a rest day, but a day without intervals. Typically, I was supposed to go out and ride. It was just a matter of figuring out what I wanted to do.

The ride got started late in the day due to an event I was in charge of earlier. After being on my feet all morning into the afternoon caused me to be a little down about the ride. Still, I didn’t hesitate. I got home, changed and rolled the bike out of the driveway.

Since I had some freedom in what I was doing, I decided to do a little Strava hunting. What better place to do so then in my old hunting grounds — the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power route. There were already several Strava segments created from the route. There was one more that I wanted to create. This ride would give me the data I needed as well as show me how I stacked up along the route.

We’re talking about a 30+ mile ride with over 2000 feet of climbing. Along the way would be several “sprint zones” that often culminated with a climb. Typically, I have made this ride in a group and as you approach the sprint zones the group rides very much as you would in a race to see who would reach the line first. The goal in the ride was to claim as many of the “wins” as you could.

Doing the route alone is a different experience. There is no hiding in the group. You are riding exposed and without the motivation of other riders around you. I set as my goal to average 17 mph for the ride and try to land in the top ten of the various Strava segments.

I was quite surprised by the results and it reminded me of something important to consider before you start going out and bragging about your Strava KOM awards!

  • The first segment is aptly named “HOP 1st KOM” and it starts on Tanner Road between Rutherford Road and Reid School Road. It has an average of a 6% grade for just under a half a mile. I scored a KOM with a time of 1:28.
  • The next segment is one I had created earlier and is one of my favorite ones on the ride — when we are in a group. When you are riding it alone, it isn’t quite as fun. Drafting plays a big role in the “HOP Meece Bridge Sprint Zone.” The overall grade is less at 2%, but the over mile long sprint zone has a long stretch of straight road perfect for a lead out. There would be no lead out today, but I still took the KOM with a time of 2:59.
  • Now it was on to another one of my favorite segments on this route: “Quarry Road Climb on Hour of Power Ride.” Oddly enough, the average grade at 1.7% is less than the previous segment, but it definitely feels like you are climbing more! Covering 1.3 miles, the segment as listed in Strava is slightly longer than the traditional zone for the Hour of Power. Still, it is close enough and once again I took the KOM by covering the distance in 3:54.
  • Next? “HOP 3rd KOM” (technically the HOP Meece Bridge Sprint Zone isn’t really a “KOM” but Strava doesn’t offer sprint points) so this is the third climb to contest. It is one that I typically have not participated in while doing the group ride. However, I gave it a shot over the short .3 mile segment with a 6.2% grade. I bagged another KOM with a time of 46 seconds.
  • The route is well into the second half by this time and I was having trouble maintaining my 17 mph average as I neared the segment I created called the “HOP State Park Gate Sprint Zone.” Ironically, on a segment that has an average grade of -1% it is the climbing that gets you! You have a long lead out on rolling terrain before you (almost literally) dive down to the bottom of the dam at the Paris Mountain State Park. At that point, you kick up over .2 miles on a 6% grade. Your legs go from wildly spinning to grinding it up in a matter of seconds. This segment also became mine with a time of 2:32.
  • You’re not finished yet! There is still “Oakleaf.” In Strava this “optional sprint zone” covers a little more road than we typically contest on the route. In Strava it is called, “White Oak on Hour of Power.” It culminates in a climb up an 8% grade. What makes it really hard is the fact that it comes after 20 miles of hard riding and other sprint zones. It is why some bypass this segment. I didn’t bypass it this time, but neither did I give it much of a go. I ended up 3rd with a time of 5:39 over the 1 mile segment.
  • Finally, there is the climb up “Nature Trail at Herdkoltz Park.” Since, I already owned that KOM, I took it easy up the 7% grade covering a half a mile. My time of 1:50 was still holding.

So, what was surprising? It was simply the fact that I got so many KOMs on this route. I didn’t expect that at all. Sure, I didn’t hang back, but neither did I give it all I had on each segment. Beyond a doubt, I have completed every single one of these segments faster than I did on that ride.

That leads me to the lesson to learn from Strava KOMs. If you get one, don’t be bragging about it! You may get embarrassed.

Take for instance the Meece Bridge Sprint Zone… I finished that segment on Saturday with a time of 2:59. George Hincapie is listed in 43rd place with a time of 4:07. Anybody out there think that I could beat George head-to-head on that segment? I didn’t think so.

The thing is that segments “important” to you are not so significant to others. Just because you are spilling your guts to get the KOM doesn’t mean that they guys in second place did. He could just be out there using that segment to get somewhere else. Should he decide to take your spot, he could do so with no trouble.

Having said that, Strava is still fun for “bragging rights” among your buddies. It can breathe new life into some old rides and give you something new to talk about. More than that, it can give you some motivation to improve yourself.

So, anyone ready to go out there and knock me off the top? Start at Sunshine Cycle Shop and follow the route from there. See if you can average 17 mph or more while getting your best times on the segments. No fair to go out and cherry pick! Let me know how you do.

Fear and loving

Let’s start with the loving. Saturday morning I was back on the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power. It was great to be back out there where it really all began for me. The problem is it didn’t go exactly the way I wished.

The beautiful redhead was getting ready to leave for her exercise that morning. As I walked by with my cup of coffee I said, “Well, I’ll go get my torture suit on.” She gave me a sideways glance that said, “Don’t you go talking like that when I’ve heard you complain for three months about not getting to ride your bike!” Yes ma’am. “Now get out there and ride!”

As soon as I started rolling down the driveway, I was glad I got up early on a Saturday to head out with the boys. My next concern was who would show up. It has been so long since I showed up at the shop for a ride, I was afraid I might not find any of my old friends there.

Thankfully, I found John, Tony, Web, Luis, and Gary waiting. There were a few faces I either recognized without names to go with them, or with no recognition at all. I guess it all came together when Art rolled up. Now there were three or four of us from the original rides.

The day was wonderful. It was cool and there were intermittent clouds. We started out at an easy pace. About 10 minutes in, Art moved to the front and really started to get us moving. Now, understand that Art is over 60 years-old. He can still turn the screws.

As we rode along, I pulled up beside one of the “new” riders. Turns out he has been on several of the rides since I had my accident. What attracted my attention was his green Ireland jersey. I asked him where he got the jersey. With an unfeigned Irish accent he said, “On the Internet.” I’ve met riders from several different countries on my HOP rides. Now I can add Ireland to the list.

Things started going downhill for me as we started the first climb. I can tell my bike handling skills are still a little rusty. As I started up the hill I shifted to an easier gear. The spinning certainly got easier, but I didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Ah, the chain dropped! I started to pull over to the side as I tried to get my derailleur to pull the chain back in place.

Just about the time I slowed. A rider came around on my right side. Thankfully, we didn’t touch. The group went on up the hill as I got myself back in shape. As the group disappeared over the rise in front of me, I chuckled that they must still think I’m in shape seeing how they’ve gone off and left me!

Turns out that being off the back kept me from another possible accident. Gary’s cleat broke as he was spinning up another hill. I learned later that his foot slipped off and kicked his front wheel almost taking him and the riders around him down. Of course, I didn’t see it because I was still trying to catch back up.

On Meece Bridge Road things got back to normal as the three POA riders lined up to easily take the sprint to the Pee Tree. Knowing who was in the group, I wasn’t sure who might be the competition. There were a couple of guys who looked pretty fast, but I wasn’t sure. Turns out in this instance John and Luis left me sitting pretty and I took the line with no problem.

There was a rider in a Cycledrome kit who came in after me and I got the impression the main reason he didn’t give me more of a run for my money was because he wasn’t aware of the distances and terrain. I’d need to keep an eye out on him as the day progressed. Having him there to push me along brought some more interest to the ride.

Turns out it didn’t matter. A few minutes after Meece Bridge we headed toward the stop sign at the end of East Darby Road. Everyone is relaxed after the recent sprint and there is a short climb followed by a long downhill. Finally there is a short uphill to the sign.

I was off the back again as I was taking it easy after the effort. John was just in front of me as we started to gain on the group that was tightly bunched. Suddenly, a small dog ran out into the pack. The group swung to the left and several riders put on their brakes. The rider with the Ireland jersey locked up his rear and slid his bike sideways. Smoke poured from his rear tire as the rubber was burned by the friction from the asphalt.

It all happened in a split second. Once the sliding bike was righted and going forward I relaxed. I thought it was over. Then suddenly I saw Art thrown violently over the handlebars into the ground! I didn’t even see if he hit anyone. No one else went down.

John came over to the side of the road to avoid the suddenly arrested group. This was just as I was starting to pull up to his right. I went off the road to avoid him. The group stopped like a single organism — other than me. I kept going. I was shaking. Seeing Art go over the bars and land on his head was… well, a little unsettling. I didn’t want to see him if he was bad off.

The good news is that there was not any obvious broken bones. His shoulder was sore and he seemed a bit groggy, but he started to get more comfortable as we waited for transportation to take Art to a doctor. To be honest, that was the most important thing of the whole day. I was glad to receive a message later from Art letting me know he was okay.

When I’m in my sixties, I hope I am as tough as Art the Dart!

The rest of the ride was cut short because of the amount of time we spent waiting for Art to be picked up. The group could have split up and just a couple of riders could have waited with Art, but it just didn’t seem right to leave him. No one wanted to be the person to say, “Okay, I’m going to go ahead and finish the ride” while Art was sitting in the ditch holding his shoulder!

I love riding and I love the Hour of Power. However, I was introduced once again to the fear of going down. The good news is that the love won out over the fear today.

Back to the HOP

My last post probably gave you the indication that I was facing some motivation issues. It seems that ever since I upgraded to Category 3, I’ve been having some “lost in the weeds” moments. I’ve lost a bit of focus.

I think part of that loss of determination has had to do with the time trial bike and iBike issues. I’m just not comfortable yet on the TT bike. Part of that discomfort is due to the problems I’ve been having getting the iBike set up.

It is hard for me to follow the work out programs that my coach is giving me. The problem is determining exactly what numbers I’m working with. Now, I don’t want to blame this all on the iBike. I simply have not had the time to learn how to make sure that it is configured correctly.

Certainly, it is not nearly as easy to work with the computer than it is to work with my Garmin-Quarq CinQo combination. Still, I’ve seen enough of the potential to say that I believe I can make good use of the iBike. I’ll just need some time to devote to learning how to set it up and use it.

The other issue with the TT bike is that it isn’t as easy to find the terrain to train with. It is somewhat like a mountain bike. To make the best use of the bike, I need to have it out of traffic and without too much climbing involved. This means it takes more time getting to and from an area to train. That is one thing I just don’t have a lot of.

So, I was very happy when my coach told me to ride the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power shop ride on Saturday. I was told to “just let the meter run.” This means, I got to ride how I felt. Pressure was off and the fun was on!

There wasn’t a large group that started out. However, right from the start, Tyler Crotts went to the front and set a faster pace. We all followed. It was uncharacteristically quiet in the group. We were just rolling along in silence.

We then neared Meece Bridge Road — it was time for the Pee Tree Sprint. Knowing that this was a small group I thought I would play around a bit. I attacked early. As I set off, I knew I would hear about it because the “official” attack zone was after Meece Bridge.

Still, I wasn’t wanting a field sprint. My thought was to create a selection by attacking early. My guess was that Tyler and a French rider who has joined us on several rides would separate with me from the group. My next goal would be to start laying down a pace that would wear them down and the hold it to keep a sprint from developing in the closing meters.

I have to hand it to Tyler. He stayed right there. I would see his shadow coming up behind me as we began the final move to the straight that would lead to the sprint. It was here I made my fatal error.

It was at that point I should have laid it down hard. Instead I let the fact that I had been unable to shake him get in my brain and didn’t follow my plan to the end. Instead, I let Tyler sit there on my wheel. I entered a moment of indecision — do I try to ride him off or wait for the sprint?

I ended up doing neither very well. I did pick it up, but it was too late and then I started a half-hearted sprint. Basically, I just have him a nice little lead-out. I determined I wouldn’t do that again!

So, at the quarry road, I determined I would exact my revenge. On the way there we stopped to regroup at an intersection. While there, Mike found a long rooster feather on the road. He handed it to me and I stuck in in my helmet. Then we started off again with the feather fluttering out the back of my head.

As we neared the quarry road climb, Mike started cracking all sorts of “chicken” puns. It was just one after the other. We rode along egging him on to come up with a new one. Meanwhile, Web and Tyler went on ahead. By the time I reached the bottom they were well on their way up the climb.

It felt so good just to find a rhythm and start reeling them in. Before we reached the halfway point, I saw Tyler sit up and look back. I knew then he wouldn’t be contesting it. It didn’t matter, I wanted to let it out. So, I kept the pace strong until near the very end.

Basically, the same thing happened at the next two contested points — the Paris Mountain State Park gate and Nature Trail. I finished alone at the top of each of them simply because no one really challenged. That was okay. The main thing was that I got some angst out of my system.

I split off from the group at that point to go do another hour by climbing Paris Mountain up Audubon Road. About thirty minutes after finishing Nature Trail I was on top of the mountain by the towers looking out over a hazy Greenville. After taking it in, I headed back to the shop to grab a coffee and hang out with the guys for a bit.

These were the days that first got me into riding. It is good to return to them ever so often just to remember what it was like. I’m sure that once my race calendar picks up again I’ll be raring to go. However, it is always nice to know that I can go back to the HOP.

A mile of pain

This morning I had a fun ride with the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power crew.  Granted there was a smaller number due to the weather and another large organized century ride.  The group stayed together well and while it wasn’t as fast as it can be, it was great for me.

The last time I was on the bike was last Saturday when I finished my racing season.  I took the wheels off the bike and it hung in my basement the entire week until I put it back together for the morning ride.  I even forgot to put air in the tires before I left!  I must have been riding around on 80 pounds of pressure.

I felt good, but continued to take it easy through the ride.  I don’t think I came out of the saddle for speed until we reached the Meece Bridge Road sprint zone.  We didn’t even sprint.  However, for the sake of testing the legs I uncorked near the end anyway.  Even then I didn’t get much over 1000 watts.

Once I approached the quarry road, I decided to make some plans for the future.  I pushed the lap button on my Garmin as we crossed the bridge.  My plan was to go up at a nice steady speed and set a baseline for this climb that can be quite painful.  I was curious what the data profile would look like.

picture-17

The red line is my heart rate, gray line = cadence, blue = speed, yellow = power, and orange = elevation.  Not sure why the speed is jumping around.  Could it be the Garmin was freaking out due to the cloudy skies?  Interestingly, it only happened during a 10 minute period in the whole ride.

Anyway, here are the numbers: Distance = 1 mile, Average Grade = 2.4% (that is all?), Elevation Gain = 128 feet, Power Max = 582 watts, Power Avg = 355 watts, Heart Rate Max = 188 bpm, Heart Rate Avg = 183 bpm, Cadence Min = 68 / Max = 113 / Avg = 87 rpm, Speed = 19.2 mph.

Now, I’ll just store these numbers away and compare it to future attempts during the ride.  It will be very interesting to see how this one compares to one of those times when we’re actually racing up that 2.4% grade.  Of course, that is the average.

The hardest section of the climb is about 7% for about a third of a mile.  A few slight dips in the beginning and halfway are followed by a long shallow climb at the top.  It brings the average down, but the fact that it follows the harder climb makes the finishing sprint a killer.

I call it the mile of pain.  Besides the physical characteristics about the mile there is the competitive side.  Normally in this group we are racing to the top.  That means you have someone breathing down your neck the whole way.  On those days, you can feel that queasy feeling at the finish.

Today I climbed it in 3 minutes and 10 seconds.  Don’t know when I’ll be able to climb it again.  With the Ride For Mike coming up, it will be several weeks before I’ll be back on the Hour of Power ride.

Hello, Max Heart Rate

Today was Tyler Crotts’ last official Hour of Power ride before he heads off to Brevard College for the year.  I don’t think it will be his last Hour of Power for the year though.  I’m sure he’ll be coming back so his elders can help keep him humble.

I was still feeling the effects of Thursday night’s ride.  It was a tough one, and I didn’t sleep that well Thursday or Friday night.  I knew the alarm was about to go off before it rang.  After an inner battle, I finally rolled out so I could be there to kick Tyler’s you-know-what.

The first order of business was to pump up my tires that had been switched a bit.  I had taken my tires from my race wheel set and moved them to my training wheel set.  My regular riders were starting to show threads.  It seemed like a good idea to get some more out of the race tires while getting my race wheels all prepped with new rubber for the SC Road Race Championships.

Wouldn’t you know it… the tube exploded at 100 psi.  I didn’t have time to change the flat.  I just threw my front SL on the bike and headed for the shop.

Pulling up I found a good crowd ready to roll out!  There were several levels of riders represented.  Of course, the ones I noticed first were the number of Greenville Spinners Bicycle Race Team members.  Randy was bringing some reinforcements!

Hmmmm, John James was the only other POA guy there.  It would be just the two of us.  Oh boy, and there was Jeff Cash.  Tony was there as well, but he was riding his cross bike.  The sprints could be interesting today.  I’m sure Tyler would be gunning for one himself.

The first test came at the pee-tree sprint on Meece Bridge Road (click to see the infamous tree).  The Spinners started the train.  Looking ahead, I saw Jeff, Randy, and one other rider breaking away.  John was sitting holding a steady pace and letting them move.  I decided to bridge up so I could recover a bit before fighting it out.

I caught them and moved onto Jeff’s wheel.  He was the one I was watching out for.  The plan was to match his acceleration until we crested the small rise about 300 meters or so from the finish.  Then I would attack from third wheel.

It never happened.  John came flying around and Jeff jumped on his wheel.  I held my pace to let those two guys go for it.  I figured my chances were pretty good with John.  I might as well save myself for the next battle.

It came sooner than I thought it would!  Before I knew it we were pulling onto Grove Meadow Road.  This is the “pace-line road.”  It is a long stretch without stop signs.  We typically end up getting in a single line pace-line and move along at around 22 – 24 mph.

I got on the front first.  I figured I would get my pain out of the way early so I could recover before turning up the quarry road.  It worked like a charm.  As we turned onto Keller Road, I was about 10th and sat in for the next couple of minutes before we hit the bottom of the climb.

John started them up with a nice steady pace.  I stayed in my 53 and just launched a do-or-die attack from behind.  Looking back was not an option.  However, I know now that John picked up a “false” pace as though he was coming after me and others sat on his wheel.  It bought me some more time.

My goal was to stay in this attack mode until I reached the false flat.  I didn’t make it.  I had to shift down and recover about 50 meters from my target.  Later I noticed that my computer had me pegging 197 bpm at that point!

Once I did make it over the hump, I hazarded a glance behind and didn’t see anyone.  I was now moving at around 16 mph and trying to recover a bit.  Then I looked back again to see a lone rider coming up behind me.  It was Jeff.  He was just coming around this corner – this picture is from the vantage point about where I was.

No way was I going to give it up after suffering so much!  I grabbed some more gear and tried to stay over 20 mph. Thankfully, it worked and my go-for-broke attack paid off… but I’d say two matches went up in smoke at once with that one!

It took me until the State Park entrance sprint before I was recovered enough to give it another go.  Right away I messed up because I got separated from John’s lead out because I got caught behind some slower riders.  Things worked out though because the break came to a halt due to a car stopped in the middle of the road.

Seems that these folks stopped to talk to some people standing on the shoulder of the road.  As we came up on them and began to make our way around the stopped vehicle, we noticed that the people on the shoulder of the road were attempting to coax a pot-bellied pig to move out of the ditch.

The pig out of the way, we started ratcheting things up again.  I got on Jeff’s wheel as he was following Tyler.  Web Fitton and Randy Hutchison were also in the mix at that point.  However, as we hit the bottom of the climb… it was Tyler, Jeff, and me.

Then things got dicey – and it had nothing to do with a pig.  Jeff and I had momentum taking us right onto Tyler’s wheel.  I could see Jeff was getting ready to move on Tyler, but I realized I could get the jump on him by pinning him behind Tyler while I moved up the right side.

I made my move, but Tyler must have been aware of Jeff because he moved to the right.  That brought Jeff over to me and for a moment the three of us were bar-to-bar with me tight-rope-riding the white line.  Thankfully, none of us touched and Jeff and I drag raced for the line.

After that, John played spoiler for Art and took Oak Leaf.  On Nature Trail Jeff finished strong by holding off John.  We all rolled into the shop pretty tired, but with lots of stories to tell.

It was such a beautiful day, I decided to put in some extra miles and did an easy spin down Chick Springs to Main Street.  From there I did a couple laps of Cleveland Park and then went home.  A very profitable 45 mile morning.

Speaking of beautiful…  If you get a chance, click on the links I’ve placed in the post.  They are Google Street Views of some of the points on our ride.  Of course, these were taken in the winter, but if you play around with the views, you can get a good idea of the terrain and scenery that we get to enjoy around here.

Better to hit the grass than an SUV

In an effort to pull myself out of my funk, I decided not to do the Asheville race on Saturday. The plan was to go out and just have some fun riding with the guys. Turns out what should have been a simple effort turned into a ride of survival.

I showed up at the Hour of Power ride with my Garmin set to show only my speed and distance. No heart rate readings and no power data was going to distract me from just having some fun. I might ride hard. I might take it easy. I had no agenda.

Things started off well enough and I even did a number on the guys and took the Meece Bridge Road sprint in commanding fashion. Better yet, I was still feeling pretty good afterward. Perhaps this could be the day that things would turn around.

Between that sprint and the quarry road sprint, we have a section where we form a pace line and go for a couple of miles at a good pace. I got on front early on and started to pull the line. Looking down I could see I was holding a steady pace of around 23 mph and feeling more power was in the tank.

As we hit the base of the quarry road challenge, I wasn’t sure how I was going to work things with Tyler. He had said he was going to go for it on this one. It didn’t matter to me, but I wasn’t sure if he would prefer that I help pace him up for the win or if he would want to beat me. I decided he would probably prefer to beat me.

Turns out he wasn’t the one I needed to be concerned with. Randy Hutchison was there in his Greenville Spinners’ Race Team kit. He had given me a run for my money on Meece Bridge and now he was attacking right away on this climb following the wheel of Luis.

I love Luis, and he is a great guy to get behind at the start of an attack, but I knew he wasn’t going to sustain that all the way to the top. Randy on the other hand might easily use the pull to get a good jump on me. It was time to move.

They stayed ahead until we reached the false flat. By just putting out a steady tempo, I managed to pull myself and Tyler up to them without overdoing it. Then it was time to sit and recover before the next effort.

Randy was behind Luis (who was still there on the front as we neared the final turn) and I began to move out around them. My plan was to trap Randy behind Luis as I attacked. It would allow me to get a bit of a gap on him and that might be all the difference.

As I attacked I swung just a little too wide to the left and it opened a space for Randy. I just had to put the hammer down. It seemed to be working because a quick glance between my legs showed empty road. There was still some time.

However, rather than just spinning it out to the end, I eased slightly to shift to my big ring thinking I could bring that up to speed and put the nail in the coffin. Problem is, I never got the chance. Just as I starting to turn the pedals Randy came by me. Of course, I was in too big of a ring to respond. I let him go. He played that one well.

Then the ride went south.

Not nearly as bad as it looks.

Not nearly as bad as it looks.

I have become experienced on the bike enough that I don’t cause other people to wreck. However, I have not yet learned those bike handling skills that help keep me from being wrecked by other people. Is there a text book out there I could study?

We were in an easy pace line between zones. I had moved to the back just taking it easy. My wheel was lined up right behind the rider before me. Suddenly, he slowed and moved to the left.

I avoided my brakes in attempt to keep from having the rider behind me plow into me. My bike shifted slightly to the right and my momentum carried my front wheel up near axle of the rider in front. This is called overlapping – or crossing wheels.

The ride ahead weaved back toward the right pushing me near the edge of the road. I was flirting with the edge of the asphalt when he served back toward the left. Ahhhhh, I slowed some and moved back away from the edge. Unfortunately, he moved back my way one more time and I couldn’t avoid it this time. It had only taken a couple of seconds.

My bike slipped off the road into the thick grass and I did a Jens Voigt into the shoulder of the road. The first thing I felt hit was my head. It turned and I felt my neck wrench. Then it was my right arm and shoulder. I was too worried at that moment about my head hitting to think about what was happening to my legs.

Embarrassed, I disentangled myself and jumped up. Because I went down in the grass, the bike appeared to be in good shape. There were no wounds on my upper body, but I could see blood pouring from my knee. All in all, I felt pretty good with the fact I hadn’t broken anything.

Then someone pointed out that my right shifter was broken. No way! This is the second SRAM Force shifter I have had to break in the same place. Yes, I know, I wrecked, but still! Two times in the same spot tells me that they could come up with a better design.

The day wasn’t over. Thankfully, the bike shifted fine and if I held the lever a certain way, I could still brake. There was still opportunity to salvage the ride.

Randy attacked early on the State Park Road sprint. I was pacing myself to slowly pull him back when Luis came around me and yelled for me to hop on. I did and it was fun to watch the space between Randy and us get eaten up without me having to work hardly at all.

As we neared him, I saw him glance back. He was aware of us and I knew he would tried to accelerate and get in our train. I needed to break his draft. As Luis began to come around him, sure enough Randy sped up. However, I swung wide left which disrupted the draft for him. Once I saw we had gapped him, I moved back to Luis’ wheel. It worked.

We really needed one more rider, but I had to do what I was dealt. Luis had to drop off before the descent to the bottom of the dam. I was going to have to work a bit for this one. I put the hammer down and came around the turn that is followed by the quick descent.

Up ahead I saw a truck in the road. He looked to be driving slowly along. I was moving at nearly 40 mph by this point. There were no brake lights, but suddenly it dawned on me that the guy wasn’t moving! The distance was closing fast.

There was no way I was going to be able to stop. I looked ahead and saw there were no cars coming. About that time he saw me and put his truck in gear. All I could do was swing wide to the left and come around him.

My momentum was messed up and my timing was as well. I have the timing down for exactly when I need to shift my gearing for the climb. The truck incident messed me up and I was caught in too big a gear with no momentum. Tyler came around me and there was nothing I could do.

Still, the success was in the fact I didn’t plaster myself to the back of an SUV!

This morning I am soooooore. My neck is stiff and my right shoulder hurts. It will work out. Maybe yesterday was just what I needed to purge myself of the bad vibes. You’ve got to think that things will turn for the better at some point.