Preface and Preparations
I got my first road bike as a birthday present just under two years ago. A month after that, our daughter was born, and my shiny new bike languished in the basement until just over a year ago when the fog of sleep deprivation started to lift. I managed to get in a ride or two a week last summer, mostly solo but occasionally with my brother or dad, but I didn’t start really training until I signed up for the Tour de Victoria in January of this year.
For me, the Tour de Victoria became not only a training goal, but also my coming out as a lycra-clad road cyclist. After signing up, the Tour de Victoria was destined to become both my first ride over 100 kilometers, and the first time crossing a start and finish line. I did manage to go on my first two group rides in the two weeks previous, tagging along with the Friday Tripleshot ride and getting my first taste of riding in a paceline (along with my first and second taste of getting dropped during a group ride).
I really didn’t know what to expect when I rolled into the crowd in front of the legislature on Saturday morning, but I felt like I had prepared as well as I could have with the time I had carved out of my mornings for the last five months.
The starting area was divided into self-determined, estimated finishing times. I figured that, even if I didn’t spend a lot of time in anyone’s draft, I could probably come in in just over 5 hours, so I parked myself near to the front of the 5–6 hour group. Once the bell rang and the spandex parade started down Craigflower, I got the feeling that maybe I had been a bit conservative, that people a little further up the line were going at pace that was a better fit. I slowly worked my way through the crowd, moving up a bit from where I started but with many many riders still in front of me. There was a pair, one in full Lay-OH-pard Trek kit, and riding a Specialized Tarmac, and another in the blue orange Garmin Transitions kit, also riding a Specialized Tarmac, who seemed to be going at about my pace despite their ProTour pretensions, so I stuck to them for a bit.
For most of Metchosin, and then again coming onto Wallace Road, I spent alot
They fell back to pick up some of their group just before the Munns Road climb. I knew what to expect on Munns road, and after a few practice rides through that part of the route had decided to really take my time and avoid paying later for too much effort on the first half of the ride. As a result, my time for this section was less the spectacular, but the way my legs felt on the subsequent climbs along Millstream/Durrance reassured me that I had held enough back.
Coming down Willis Pt. Road the Norco Reds caught up with me again, and I spent a bit more time in their draft before arriving at the second rest stop, refilling, and taking an overdue bathroom break.
I’d hemmed and hawed over what to wear the night before, driving Kaisha a little crazy with my ongoing narrative on the benefits and disadvantages of the various choices I had to make for my clothing on the ride. In the end, I’d settled on two layers, with bib shorts and my summer jersey underneath, and my fitted jacket and full tights over top. Looking around at the starting line, I’d felt a bit overdressed. Not many others had full tights or a jacket, and even though I was comfortable at 7 AM there was a chance I’d be sweating it out by noon.
Coming out of Brentwood Bay it turned out I was not overdressed. The rain started coming down and before long the streets were soaked. Drafting became an exercise in finding the balance between effective protection from the wind and tolerable amounts of water to the face. I spent most of the Northward ride riding solo, or just outside of the draft of the occasional rider going at a similar pace. A few minutes into the rain I was starting to wish I really had overdressed and worn booties over my now completely soaked shoes, but I was happy that at least the rest of my body was warm if also wet.
The Tandem Train
Coming up West Saanich, and across the Peninsula on Wain Rd., I got in line behind two others to follow the wheel of a couple on a tandem. They were fast on the flats, even faster on the downhills, and they dragged four of us all the way from North of Sydney through to Cordova Bay. With the rain and cold, I spent most of that part of the ride in an introverted state, contemplating the volume and the composition of the spray that was showering my face and dripping into my mouth and what effects directly consuming that much road water might have on my future health.
Despite maintaining my place in the tandem train for more than twenty kilometers, I didn’t really start to feel parasitic until we started up a small hill coming out of Hunt Road. The pilot started to feel the weight of the tandem on the hill and shot a question to his partner. “Are you pedaling?” The question wasn’t directed at me, but I suddenly felt a bit ashamed. It seemed like a bit of an intimate moment to be witnessed by the four of us lurking behind. On top of that, I wasn’t really pedaling, not much anyway, as the four of us were all waiting patiently for the tandem to struggle up the hill so that we would be in place when the train started really moving again at the top.
So it was a bit of a relief when I decided, after a brief internal struggle, to get off the tandem train going along Cordova Bay. I had promised Kaisha that I would call her or send her a message when I was about an hour away so that there would be some chance of her meeting me at the finishing line, and in the end that promise outweighed the lure of the nice pace I had maintained in the tandem’s wake. By about halfway through the ride, whenever I thought imagined seeing Kaisha and Amelia at the finish line, I would feel this wave of emotion, a sort of preview of the relief and pride that I would feel at the end of the ride. I would just be riding along, my mind would wander to the end of the ride, and I would just feel strangely, overwhelmingly…verklempt.
Glotman Simpson Overdrive
After a short time going solo through Cordova Bay and Mount Doug park, I was swarmed by a group of white and yellow jerseys going up Ash. They seemed to drop a few of their own on that hill, but I was feeling pretty decent and when they started out at the top of the hill I opportunistically fell in line behind them. Just like the Norco Reds, it didn’t seemed like an organized paceline, instead there were a few strong riders pulling most of the rest of the group along. Rather than interfere with their group dynamics I once again took a position near to the rear of the group, willing to take a pull if it came down to it, but also happy to stay near the back.
It turned out to be a good group to tag along with. My legs still felt strong, and I was able to keep on despite the occasional little surge and the small hills along the way. Staying with them allowed me to maintain 35.6 km/h through the timed section on the coast
I crossed the finish line 4 hours and 36 minutes after the starting bell. After months of preparation, and more than four hours on my bike, it was a unreal to just be done, off my bike, and walking down Wharf St. to meet Kaisha and Amelia, feeling happy and comfortable despite my sweaty spandex and soaking wet feet.