As recorded herein, I've been running a lot lately. For some reason it's easier on my left knee than is cycling right now. My sore knee after Wednesday's ride reminds me of this fact.
Wednesday I came home early to get a ride in while the sun was shining. I chose the road bike, bib shorts, Santa Cruz Mts Challenge jersey, sleeveless windbreaker, and arm warmers. Before I had even finished inflating the tires the arm warmers were already stashed in my jersey pocket.
Some days are meant for riding and this was one of them. I was soon asking myself why it had been so long since I had been out for a ride. Sliding the arm warmers back on at the end of the ride I remembered why.
The northern California February afternoon sun was already steeply angling shadows across the road, but the air was tenuously clinging to the mid day warmth and before long produced a few trickles of sweat below my windbreaker.
I pushed up the first series of hills getting through my side of town, and was pleasantly surprised at my performance. Attacking the final rise to look over Alhambra Valley the reason came to me in that pleasant and warm way that good things that should have been obvious do. I've been running. My lungs were taking this exertion in stride - so as to say. All of the heart pounding lung burning work I've been doing in running shoes has made a difference.
Having been off the bike for a while, I mediated between my mutually exclusive aggressive and conservative personas, and decided to favor conservatim over aggression. This would be a tempo ride rather than a test. I started the Crocket loop still feeling remarkably strong. The whole of the ride was far under capacity yet I still managed to finish in an hour - not much slower than my best.
The real joy came while climbing McEwen Rd. I overtook another cyclist with a slick kit, and sweet full carbon bike about 1/4 of the way up. I saw him as I turned right up the hill, though didn't rush to overtake him. We chatted briefly, and then I beat him to the top by half a minute. I sat up rolling down the other side, and let him catch me at the bottom where we both made the left turn back toward town.
This was exactly what I had hoped, and we were soon swapping turns on the front and pushing 30 miles an hour for the long gentle descent of Franklin Canyon. My fun soon turned to determination, as I decided to push for a sprint finish.
Coming into the last mile I was pulling and was fading so he came around for a turn on the front. I sat in for a while resting just off the left side of his wheel, but soon came back around again not wanting to be accused of taking advantage. With only 3 corners left I saw him off my left elbow as if he would come around me, and still seated, I added pressure to the pedals and ducked my head a little lower. He stayed back. Rounding the last corner and looking up toward the top of the road I jammed the balance of my powder and shot down the barrel and came off my saddle. I touched the fuse and went straight up the center of the road forgetting that this stretch was strewn with potholes and crumbling asphalt. There was not help for it - I had committed. I went right through barely feeling them, partly from some deft hops and nudges, and partly because I was flying.
He sat off my left elbow and no dark thing from the Abyss could have driven me faster toward the top of that hill. He had sucked my draft up the hill and adroitly stayed up with me. I'll never know if he could have beat me to the top without the draft or not, but he did kindly allow me to crest first. He came up beside and tapped me on the back laughing. We both rolled over the hump to Alhambra Valley Road where he turned to the right, and I to the left. Briefly shouted salutes were the end of our adventure.
I was reminded why I love this sport. The people. The wind. The speed. The ability to invest your whole being into a few moments of pure excitement and roll to a stop and smile at the end.