I try not to make it a habit of blathering about training rides here. Tonight's ride was too much fun and a confidence booster, so I have to comment on it. It's tough for me to get over to Exeter Cycles these days for the Wednesday night training ride. When I do, it is often something special for me. I'm on the email distribution for these rides and have noted that they have been very fast lately, even this spring they were riding at mid-season speeds. With this weekend's race on Sunday, I thought tonight would be a good opportunity to swing by.
Talking to Jeff Palleiko before the ride, he said he's been doing Wednesday night since '93, and they've never been faster than this year. While we were talking, I noticed Josh Lipka there and pro Robbie King rolled up. Oh crap. Plus there were the usual mix of UNH kids, Nor'East elite and masters guys, and several elite Metlife guys, about 30 in all starting the ride.
These rides start single paceline soft pedalling 2-3 miles out of town. Then the hammer drops. You rarely see less than 26mph, and often the speed will hold well above 30mph on the flats. The pack quickly sorts out to those working the double paceline rotation in the front and those hanging on for dear life. It is wicked fun, it's not a race but rides like a smooth race, and there's no pressure. Nobody is keeping score who gets dropped or "wins" the sprint back to town.
Our route tonight took us over the Rt 4 double hump. I wasn't sure what this was. After we got on Rt 4, Lipka and King started drilling it. This caused some fragmentation in the pack. We got to the big rotary and had to wait for traffic. Everybody got back on. But after we rounded the rotary, all hell broke loose. I was hanging on for my dear life. In New Hampshire, when you see a passing lane on a state highway, you know a climb is involved. Lipka, King and two MetLife guys drilled this climb. I might have pulled through once. I crested the top with them, looked back, and freaked. It was just the five of us and the next splinter group was waaaay back. There was no way I was going to be able to finish the ride at this pace with these hammerheads and I contemplated falling back right there to realize the inevitable.
But no. We bomb down the descent and they are still drilling it. I actually pulled through a couple times, getting some recovery now. But wouldn't you know it, we pick up a passing lane again, the second hump of the "double hump". Now I'm hurting so badly I was ready to cuss out loud. I think Lipka was driving this one and the rest of us had bungee cords on the verge of snapping. I was on the back behind Robbie. Robbie backed off, and I buried myself like I never have going around him to catch back on. I caught the other three just as the next descent began. We made a right hand turn shortly later, and I guess Josh had enough fun with us and decided to wait for others to get back on. Thank God.
To be sure, I came with fresh legs tonight. Guys like Lipka and King probably rode 5hrs before joining the Exeter ride. Plus Robbie raced the International Triple Crown in PA this past week and was no doubt still recovering from that effort.
After a minute or two of waiting, we picked up about 8 guys and started to roll again. The rest of the ride was mostly hard paceline work with most of us taking pulls on rolling terrain. There's a slightly uphill sprint to finish the ride just as you reach the edge of Exeter. I stayed with the 6 or 8 guys that went for it without unnecessarily killing myself. The rest of the starting group came stragling in over the next 15 minutes.
For the out of town portion of the ride, we averaged 25.8mph. It was not flat, and we had to stop for many intersections. These rides are always harder than Masters races. About half the riders are young P/1/2. It is superb race training. All the riders are super skilled. Wish I lived or worked closer to Exeter so I could join them more often.