Monday, July 23, 2007

A whole nother level

Monday, 23 July

The folks who really rode on a different level this weekend were at Race Across Oregon.

Being a mere mortal, I stuck to the Co-Motion tandem stage race. It was my third Co-Motion race, but the first year to race there with my husband. Race results will eventually appear here, and I'll forgo the blow-by-blow details. We were third in the TT (first mixed tandem), lost no time to our competition in the crit, and were fourth in the RR (first mixed).

The lesser observation of the weekend is that the male-male bikes did absolutely nothing in the crit. They didn't ride at the front, they didn't get in any breaks, and they didn't win any primes. I could only attribute such atypical male behavior to the fact that the male pairs were matches made for this race--and thus less confident of their combined technical riding skills?--whereas the mixed pairs probably do most of their tandem riding with their partners in this race. Never mind that we'd never sprinted on the tandem before; it didn't stop us from trying (we have 2+ pounds of coffee to prove it)!

The greater observation came halfway up the epic climb in yesterday's road race. The bottom mile is the steepest; everyone stayed together. Then it settles into about 7% for the next two miles. By halfway through this, we were the only mixed tandem left in the front group. I knew it was the place to be, but I felt a little out of my league with all those boys riding hard on a long climb. Mostly, though, I felt like I might explode at any moment; I know this climb well and was focusing on getting to where it flattens out a little in the last mile. And then the Hutch's guys attacked. Before I could even think "oh good, let them go," my captain launched to get on their wheel. And we did. And we stayed. Until the next attack.

I have always thought that riding tandem is a better workout than I would get doing the same ride on my single bike. Perceived effort is less than actual effort. Previous tandem partners have all been much stronger than me--men just have more muscle mass and more power output, and the ones I've ridden with also had more pounds than I have.

But when O.A.D. went after that first attack yesterday, I was truly surprised--not that he tried, but that he made it work. I thought I was at my max, and there was no way I could've gone harder if I'd been on my single bike. But all of a sudden someone was making me go harder--I didn't have any choice. And since I was probably contributing about 10% of the increased effort, that meant he was doing 90% and dragging me up the hill...and staying with those guys. Think about how hard it is to accelerate on a long climb. Then imagine doing it on a bike that weighs 10 pounds more than your race bike, with 125 pounds of underpowered weight on the back. This was something that all the modern technology you can put on your bike will never measure. I'm not sure what the measure is, but I guess my climbing ability has been relatively similar to that of my previous partners, whereas O.A.D. possesses more of something in that department.

We couldn't match the second attack but--like Levi--we just rode a hard, damage-control tempo and stayed with one male-male bike that eventually towed us up to the two leaders. Apart from two 2-mile descents, I was maxed out for about 17 miles of climbing and chasing. I never ride with a heart-rate monitor, but I sure wish I had data from that effort!


Old as dirt said...


STOKED I AM said...

"A whole nother" (instead of "another whole") is an Americanism. It even made it into the dialogue of the original Star Wars movie.