I just completed my third hard training today. Up until now i have been doing lots of long slow rides only. They were lots of fun as i saw lots more of the sceneries than usual, and got to talk nonstop the whole time! They were also necessary since I was going through lots of therapy for my quads, neck, etc. But now that the therapy is solidly headed in the right direction, I was given the go-ahead to get some speedwork in.
Since i'd done nothing but a cookie-timetrial that Coach Elmo led us on in California, i was super nervous about the upcoming rides. The first was the Begijnendijk ride - the one whose usual participants include heroes like Sven Nys and Niels Albert. Jonas and i rode the 25km each way and joined them for the over-80kms of riding. They averaged 36kph, which is pretty fast considering there were stop signs, stop lights, turns, yielding for traffic, cobbles, etc. But for the most part it was steady riding, which is easier to do than the race-style riding of fast-slow-fast-slow.
Just when i was feeling really comfortable in the peloton, all hell broke loose. Jonas was first in the double-paceline and i was two rows behind when we missed a turn. We went straight where the peloton veered right. Ten of us had to timetrial the long way to catch back on. It was cookie-timetrial all over again! I never thought i would be thankful for the cookie-TT so at least the feeling of suffering was not completely unfamiliar. We joined back on but not without consequence. For the next ten minutes, i felt worked! But i stayed with the group till the end. Yippee! As a reward to ourselves, we detoured by Leuven on our way home for an iced tea and a sangria on a terrace in Oude Markt.
The next hard ride was two days later on a Saturday. We joined one of those organized rides for 130km (plus the 15km to get there and back.) When you attend a ride like this, you never know what to expect. You hope for a big fast group to pass so you can tag a ride, but it is never a guarantee. The first group to pass was going about 28kph which was great for a warmup, then soon after, a faster group avg 33-34kph came so we jumped in, and quickly after that our ultimate group, the FOXYs, came by. It was a group of about twenty five guys, mostly wearing blue FOXY jerseys and riding an average of 36kph - in the beginning...
It was a comfortable pace until the last hour or so where the guys started to race each other. I hid as much as possible and felt mainly ok. But just when it looked like i was in the clear since most of the guys had already killed themselves pushing the pace, we merged with another group that was clearly well rested. They reanimated the race and i was buried. It took three priceless nudges from one of the guys to help me keep my place in the paceline. Only about eight of the 25 guys (and girl) made it to the end. I think i shocked a few of them when they realized i was one of the eight.
The third, and fastest, ride was this evening. We got in a 1 1/2 hour warmup before joining the ride. They started off slowly which gave me hope that i may have a chance of staying with them to the end. But then the pace jumped and my legs burned. I looked to the front of the paceline to see who was killing me and it was the only other woman on the ride, Melina. What a powerhouse! I was so incredibly impressed. She spent quite some time at the front in the first kilometers, making me feel like a lazy bum hanging out in the back. Out of fear of embarassment, i started to make my way to the front. Bad move.
On one of those frontward moments, i was third in line behind some guy with jonas 2nd wheel. We were moving at 36kph, then the guy moved aside and jonas brought it up to 40 just like that. And just like that i was in pain. Then after a few minutes of suffering, he moved over to kindly let me through. Shit. I went through, died, and almost lost contact with the group. Coach elmo once told me that you cant get dropped from the front. I wonder if i just proved him wrong.
Second mistake was similar to the first. I found myself up front again, behind melina, in fourth wheel. The pace went up to 51kph and stayed there. As each person peeled off, the wind hit harder. Thankfully i didnt have to face the wind. While melina was at the front again, the guys rode by us. Again, directly from front to back. And if that wasnt enough of a mistake, i thought i could pull a superhero move and help a rider who was dropping off the pace. Eventually i dropped myself and crawled back thanks to a couple of turns that are easier to take fast when all alone.
Then just when i was feeling really strong again, the road went uphill and the group started to sprint each other. Afraid that i'd pull another stupid move again, i rode up it conservatively. but as the riders started to slow, i kept the speed up since jonas was up the road in a group of five and i didnt know the way back home. Turns out that the top of the hill was the sprint finish. I got top ten without realizing it! Not bad for dying three times. Of course i look forward to doing it again!!
Thanks for reading.