cuda...holy mother of god that was some pace at the front of the pack coming off the start! I was hanging on to those guys for dear life and just trying not to touch wheels or do anything stupid as things got sorted out. And yet every time that I looked you were still right there holding tight and steady on my wheel. That takes some strength and ability big guy! And for the record, we made it out through those first 8 miles at an average speed of just under 27 mph.
I can understand anybody thinking better of trying to hold that pace for another 55 miles
. Believe me, it was more than crossing my mind at that point as well. And if it helped contribute to your PB Metric, well that makes my day! Seeing you holding steady kept me hanging in there too. I felt bad the first time I looked back and didn't see you and am really glad to hear that you had a great ride.
I found my legs were good after all, and all the strength and steady state training that I have been doing this summer kicked right in. So my goal was to see how long I could hold up front, and if I made it all the way in so much the better. Our average mercifully dropped down to around closer to 24mph for most of the rest of the ride. Every time that we would pass one of the rest stops everybody would step out to cheer. After about 30 miles I noticed that our numbers up front had been thinning out just a little with each rest stop as guys (and gals) pulled off to cool down or fuel up. I would have pulled off sooner if not for the rest stop folks who would come out right by the road to cheer and hold out ice cold opened bottles of water. The first rest stop that did that was maybe 30 miles and I just looked on at the process as we passed through. The next one we passed after that I tried to get in position for a bottle but the riders ahead of me swooped in and got them first. The next rest stop didn't come out to greet us with water like that and instead to cheer and to take pictures.
So at the rest stop that would have been somewhere around 50 miles in (maybe #8), I moved up to about 5th wheel as we approached. I picked out a guy on the left hand side of the road holding out a bottle. I quickly checked for car traffic to made sure I wasn't going to get smooshed when I swung over. I zeroed in on him and nodded as we barreled in on the rest stop. He held his spot there about an inch off the road as solid as one of those iron lawn jockeys, looking right a me the whole way in. From his perspective, here's this complete stranger on a bike veering off and making a bee line right at him going close to 30 mph. I was thinking, "Man that takes some stones!" He held his ground though and didn't even flinch. And I can still see the tiny water droplets glistening on the side of that bottle as I zeroed in on his hand. It was like everything was in slow motion. As we made the exchange the crowd cheered and I yelled THANK YOU and then hammered like a 20 year-old to move back over into the paceline. The precision and panache of that little moment pretty much made the day for me. That doesn't happen much for me out training on the Sachse loop after all.
I dumped a bunch of water over my head and shoulders. It was freezing and felt fantastic! I drank a long cold shot, and put what was left of the bottle in my middle jersey pocket which cooled me down for the next couple of miles. If not for that bottle, I definitely would have been in the hurt locker. I remembered Kevin talking about making it in to about that same point in the Collin Classic and was thinking how nice it was to have those Paris volunteers out there holding up bottles for us. Those hand ups made a huge difference.
So as we got to the last 6 or so miles one of the local racers who had been taking pulls and working off the front drops back for a chat, a really nice guy and a really strong rider. I think I must have looked about this color (
) at that point. After chatting with me a bit to see if I was coherent he told me about the last section of the ride being mostly a steady uphill section of rollers that would extend in until we topped out just coming back into town. As I considered that, he gently pointed out that there was one last rest stop up ahead before we hit that stretch of hills. He was really nice about it, not trying to mess with my head or anything. I really think he was just looking out for me as he had done in many of those Tours at that same point. And in short order we did start hitting several previews of the rollers coming up to that point. I was really feeling them. And mostly I was getting hot. I wasn't the only one. Right after that section a couple of riders ahead of me bumped wheels and one guy immediately pulled off the road. Then right about that time the riders of about three different teams including the PACC guys started talking about moving up and picking up the pace for the ride in. And boy they did ever. I was really hanging on at that point. We made a few more of those rolling climbs and then came in to that last rest stop. That was at about mile 58 or so, and that's when I got shelled. I wasn't the only one. The front pack had whittled down to about 30 or so riders, and several of us had to slow and dropped out together.
A few of us stayed together and formed up to set our own pace back in to the finish. We picked up two more groups in race team kit who I remembered riding with up front earlier in the ride. One had been shelled off the front a little farther in coming through the rollers, and one had pulled off earlier in the ride but were just now working their way up through that climb. All were glad to join us and share the work as we made our way through the rollers. The local guy was right about those little hills if you are asking me. They would have kicked my butt big time if I had tried to stay with the lead group all the way in. I would have cracked bigger than Humpty Dumpty if I had tried to hold through on the front to the end at that pace. As it was we ended up with a really nice paceline coming home and kept about a 21 mph average through that last section. Just that little drop in speed was enough to recover and make it in. We finished as the second bunch coming through the finish.
So all in all including warm up, that was a 66 mile ride in 2:47 for me. Thanks to the fast pace, that was by far and away a PB Metric for me at 2:34. It also included a PB 40k at 58:46. The folks in Paris were easily the best at putting together and supporting a rally that I have ever seen. They outdid themselves, right down to the hotel and restaurant discounts that they extended to all the riders. For those of you who passed on the drive up for this one, here's enough detail for you to consider for next year. I would definitely say that you are missing out if you don't make it to this ride. I had a blast and it was fantastic finally getting to meet up with somebody from the forums. Congrats cuda on your big day. Way to go! Let's meet up again like that again sometime.