Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hill Climber

Last night I was able to catch a group ride with the big guns from Trek Store Omaha (Midwest Cycling club). It was the second time I joined this weekly 6pm ride but the first time I was able to complete it with the group. Last time, Munson had one of those miracle flats right at Ft Calhoun, only minutes after a torrent pace with numerous attacks that resulted in cramping calf muscles for me. As a result, the group rode on without us and I didn't experience the full ride.

Yesterday, I was able to leave work early, but much later than I wanted, forcing me to TT through the hills of midtown Omaha to catch the group. But I managed to catch them as they entered the Keystone trail near NFM. I don't know very many riders in that group. Munson already told me that he wasn't going to be there. Bryan and Sean ride with another group. Fred? He's disappeared again into parts unknown. So that left Shim, Lucas and Eric as the only people I knew would be there among at least 30 cyclists.

For those of you who've never experience a big group ride, you're missing out on some good fun. The colorful jerseys and bikes, the camaraderie of working together in a pace line, the antagonists who attack and intentionally work apart and the exhilaration of the sprints are easily some of the reasons that keep 'em coming back. Omaha has a few of these group rides that leave from the following bike stores weekly: High Gear on Tuesdays at 6pm, the Trek Store and Bike Masters on Weds at 6pm. Typically, there are two groups and is an unsupported ride. If you'd like to join, it's a good idea to brush up on some group ride etiquette ahead of time.

The Trek store ride begins with a 15 minute easy spin north along the Keystone trail before hopping off at Fort Street and then continuing northwest through state roads towards Ft. Calhoun. By the time you see cornfields, you'd better be ready to step on it. It's then up-tempo, attacks and sprints until you see the gas station in 'Hoonerville (Ft Calhoun).

The return trip from Ft Calhoun meanders its way through some of my favorite riding in Nebraska: the Boyer Chute Reserve and Ponca Hills. Flat and wide as the eye can see, it's a good place to practice pace lines and such while enjoying the scenery. But don't get lulled into thinking it's gonna be easy. There's a pretty good climb into Ponca hills looming in the distance where the men separate from the boys. (To be politically correct, yesterday there were in fact no women on the group ride).

So while I'm riding, Shim's chattering away about Old Yeller. That and nudging me as to how to ride the pace line, as in "follow that guy in front of you and do what he does" sort of thing. Thanks Shim! As we approached the Ponca section and I'm drifting towards the back of the group, he says, "that hill climbing yellow bike aught to be up there in the front." Shim's referring to Old Yeller's rear cassette. He once implied that it was an easier, big-geared mountain bike cassette tailored to climbing mountains as opposed to a road bike's configuration for speed. For the record, it's a Shimano 105 road racing cassette. Anyway, I looked ahead and saw the group slowly pulling away. I retorted that there was a lot of hill yet to climb and felt smugly confident that I'd catch many that were pending blowing up but just didn't know it yet. I mean, I felt good and had no signs of fatigue that I was aware of. But when I started to spin up to reel them in, I simply didn't have it. It was like: clunk-clunk. What?! That's it?! Sure enough, I was toast as I saw the group putting even more distance between them and me. Then there's a longer gradual portion before the final steep ascent that I attempted to bridge the gap. I managed to pull within about 100 meters before the group punched it up the final portion and left me for good.


I am, I am Superman and I can do anything... What a wake up call. What hubris. Old Yeller may/may not be a climbing bike, but I didn't have the engine yesterday.

Thankfully, the ride re-groups at OJ's restaurant a few miles down the road for the overconfident riders like me. From there it's a few more rolling hills back to the Trek store for the group; I peeled off at 52nd ST and quietly limped home.

Still, what a ride! Looking forward to next time.


  1. Did Shim ask that question as he was near the back and there were people going up the road? If so, he tried to employ the age old tactic of "use the younger, more enthusiastic/less experienced rider's eagerness to draft you up to the front." I experienced this many times as I was climbing the ranks of cycling status. A more experienced rider knows that a "noob" will follow directions, I mean heed advice. So they "suggest" that something you're riding or the way that you time trial should mean that you can go redlining up a hill with no problem. So, being that they must know something you don't, you try with all your might to defy gravity and get to the front group. The crafty codger then gets a free ride by following your wheel.

    I'm not calling Shim a crafty codger.

    Just a codger.

  2. I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night.

    Anyway, it was like you said. But what happened was that I didn't jump right away. I waited & he passed me like everyone else. I was falling off the back before I attempted to catch them and found out that I was in trouble.

  3. >> "I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night."

    ... that settles it. Brady is the old codger.

    Don't feel bad Brady. You just went too hard at the beginning. Next time, go at your own pace to where it flattens (hard but not too hard)- This part is very important - "LET THEM GO!" Smile and wave if you have to. Don't panic - You'll catch them by the top. Once you get to where it flattens out, hammer and let spinning and momentum carry you to the top. You'll catch them. I always did (once I learned this) and you're faster than I was.

  4. Don't listen to these fools, follow my advise and you will be KOM (King of the Mountains) in no time. This week I was on a rest week and was trying to just hang back and chat about Yellow Bike, the tempo up the first part of the hill was pretty moderate so it was easy enough to bridge up, then when two guys attacked at the top and nobody closed it down I had to go with. At the end of the day it was no big deal as almost everyone caught up on the decent. One guy almost took out Greg from Olympia on the way down and we about had our first fist fight in Wed Night Ride history. Luckly cooler heads prevailed and no one got punched.

    Peace Out,

  5. Frecube: I went easy at the beginning. I was being patient. Maybe too patient. I was preparing for the flatter section where I'd rip it with a classic Munson head wag to boot. But when I attempted to make the run, I discovered that I needed a third lung and a bolt-on pig heart to bridge the gap.

    The truth is that I didn't have enough medium/long up-tempo rides to hang with the group.

    Shim: With your tutelage, I'll be a front-runner for that polka-dot jersey.