Mike’s Montpelier to Afton Relay Leg

First, I want to express my appreciation to Ken for taking the time to create this. It’s great fun and enormously rewarding to read these posts.

As for the Alpine Cycle Masters relay team, what’s that saying: “May you live in interesting times.” Well, like Ron said, our ride was pretty “uninteresting.” Meaning no crashes or injury/illness. But It Was Fun.

My leg was Montpelier-to-Afton, with the Geneva and Salt River climbs and downhills. The auto route we were required to drive from Preston to Montpelier took longer than expected so I didn’t get to warm up at all. But, since we weren’t “serious,” I kept telling myself this wasn’t a big deal. Still…. And it seemed like there was a pretty decent headwind that blew on and off from Montpelier to the base of the Salt River descent. Other than these minor things, though, it was a great.

Team ACM had already done one “chip transfer” at Preston, transferring the ankle strap/timing chip from Ron to Alan, so when the time came to go from Alan to me in Montpelier, it went slick as can be. Without any warmup, I knew it would be stupid to go real hard from the start. So I spent the first 20 minutes or so gradually working to get my HR up. I didn’t put a bike computer on this bike, so I don’t have all the HAC-like details of some others; you data-heads will just have to tough it out without stats to pour over.

As I was gradually increasing effort, I kept getting passed by pacelines of soloists that invariably would have some relay team scum tacked onto the back for a free ride. My ethics wouldn’t let me do that so I’m sure my ACM split was slower than it might have been otherwise. And it seemed, too, the headwind slowly picked up as I went along, though it did swirl some for an appreciated break. I had switched from a 12-25 to a 12-27 and that was a big help on Geneva where I passed some of the soloists who had passed me on the lead-up to it. This climb went by pretty quickly but, as luck would have it, I needed to pedal almost all the way down the other side. When the momentum finally gave out, the wind had picked up—never a good combination. All the way to the base of the Salt River climb, I railed at the elements. It didn’t change a thing except I relieved a little tension. The Salt River climb was ok; it didn’t feel very fast but, having done it a couple of weeks before (on the training ride where Anna decided to test the limits of her front wheel/tire against a potato-size rock), I was mentally prepared and could work hard the whole time. Again, the downhill was a downer (tweet! 30-second penalty for lousy pun). I got maybe only 30 seconds of being spun out due to the headwind.

At the base of the descent and about the time my momentum ran out, it seemed like the wind shifted and I could get up some good speed. There was a group of 4-5 ahead that I focused on and eventually caught up to. They were all Masters level soloists (I think 500-600 types). They were making good, smooth, even rotations, so it seemed like they knew what they were doing and were working like smart guys should: a good clip but nobody was tiring themselves out too much. After a bit of recovery I went to the front and slowly increased the pace. They saw my relay number and immediately switched their order so the strongest guy was just behind me (with the least draft) and the weaker guys were further back so they could get more draft (smart guys, like I said). With all the Etape training I had done since January, I have about zero anaerobic endurance but a good base of high-end aerobic endurance. So it felt like we flew from a little past the bottom on the Salt River descent all the way past Rulon’s Artery Clogger just outside of Afton. As I said, I didn’t have a computer but I was in the 12-13-14 a lot and spinning at a good clip. A couple of times I needed a quick break and let the group come by. Each time they passed, they would say how much they appreciated the pull. I said, You guys are the bad boys doing 200 miles, so I’m delighted to help out a little. By the way, that’s what I think of all the crew who does this solo: You guys are the bad boys (and girls). We rolled into Afton and, just before the turn off the highway, I sat up so everyone could cruise by and get their feed without any interference. Ron and Alan did a quick chip exchange and John took off for his piece of the fun.

This was a great time and thanks to all who helped and supported in the preparations, and special thanks to Ron, Alan, John, and Earl. I hope your LOTOJA experience was as enjoyable as mine. Who knows what next year will bring but another relay is a definite maybe. Stay tuned and see you all around.

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