Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What in the hell do I want for a future Mountain Bike - Part 1

Guest Blogger: Tyler Loewens

Lets establish something right off the bat --> I am a gear nut. Just ask Jonathan when he worked at Greenstreet Cycles how much effort I put into building up my road bike (which turned out pretty fantastic by the way). I love to break apart what makes up a particular bike so much, that most folks (including my loving and patient wife) get sick of talking to me about it.

So I know road bike gear really well - spent a year demoing bikes and products to figure out what I wanted in my road bike. Now it is time to figure out mountain bike gear. I have recently got into mountain bike racing a bit, and am already hooked. Something about the atmosphere (holy hell...ever try and spell atmosphere while drinking?!) and camaraderie around a mountain bike race is hard to replace (well maybe gravel racing could overtake it).

Currently I race with a 2009 Trek 69er hardtail. For years I felt like this was one of my best bikes until I actually realized how fast some folks go around singletrack courses. Sure my 69er did pretty good at a couple of gravel races, but the demands there are not even remotely close to the demands of a singletrack race. So now that I have found that I love MTB marathon racing, and may want to do some longer courses before I turn 40, it is time to figure out what MTB would be best for such a pursuit.

Trek 69er before 1X9 conversion

So do you want a hardtail, fully rigid, full suspension, far bike, mid-fat, or yellow bike? - uh who in the hell knows right? One person will tell you that "Around these parts you only need 5mm of travel from your tires" and another person will tell you "You're racing over 3 hours? You need 200mm of travel at least." So who is right and who is a freaking moron? The answer lies somewhere in the "what do YOU really like about a MTB mister reader?" For me it started with what I don't like about my current bike.

My current MTB is skittishly frisky with an overabundance of "stiffer is better!" applied to the frame. You go down a twisty-turny singletrack descent and you better have your senses tuned to 11 to be sure you navigate everything perfectly. On top of that it is such a short-chainstay "trek-type" bike that the front end wants to come off the ground at the hint of a steep ascent with the drop of a hat (even with a 12cm stem). On top of all of that the frame has only a single place for a bottle holder which is a bummer for those of us that do NOT want to use a hydration pack during a race (makes me look fater than normal - ooooo look some Pizza Rolls!).

Did I miss a "that's what she said" somewhere in that last paragraph? Crap, well use your imagination please.

So what I am trying to figure out is:
1) Do I need full suspension
2) Can I get away with a modern full 29er hardtail?
3) Will those seductively looking "plus" tire bikes be the best of all worlds (to eventually dominate with the Oreo Overlords?)

The lovely folks at Dundee Cycles in Omaha NE hosted Niner bikes in a demo day out at Jewel Park, to which I said "Yes please!". Jewel park is a very small loop of single track that is packed with as much steep climbing and roller coaster descending as you can handle. Pretty much the perfect place to figure out what I want in the future, with the exception that I have very little knowledge of the trail and mother nature decided to grow all sorts of tall grass so you can't see where you are going.

Seriously though, big thanks to the folks at Niner Bikes and Dundee cycles for helping folks like me get out on many types of bikes.


So the first bike I take out is a JET 9 RDO built up with SRAM X0 2X10 drivetrain, Rockshox Pike 120mm fork and some sort of Avid brakes. This is the cross country full suspension bike from Niner which has been praised for many things.

 - Quick insert here: I have NO experience with full suspension bikes on an actual trail -

I almost wrecked TWICE, once where the front end of the bike washed out and I had to grab a handful of brake to keep from running into a ditch (which put the saddle square into my back). The bike wallowed when you were seated and riding the trail, and ultimately just felt out of control. I ended that ride pretty disappointed and expressed that to the guys at the tent (Rob asked me if I wanted some cheese with that wine".


ROS 9+

I hopped on the ROS 9+ bike next which is a 29er plus bike (30+mm rim with 3" tires) that is fully rigid. I immediately felt at home on the bike. I have no other way to describe this thing - it just felt right. The grip going around corners and up and over roots was just superb. My preconceived notions about the bike were that it would feel sluggish much like my fat bike (Salsa Mukluk which I love...screw you if you don't like it - OK, I'm sorry let's be friends again). This bike was nowhere near what a fat bike feels like out on singletrack. It was nimble, frisky (yet stable), full of grip, and just plain grin-inducing. This was a STARK contrast to what I had felt previously on the JET 9 RDO, and frankly made me a bit of a short term Preacher for the bike to anyone that would listen.
ROS 9+

I next asked for an Air 9 but was instead treated to a One 9 RDO setup so choice that I frankly was a bit taken aback. Full carbon frame, carbon wheels, XTR brakes, SID carbon fork, XX1 drivetrain, and all carbon cockpit. In short a XC riders wet dream hardtail. That bike reminded me of everything I both love and hate about my 69er. It was overly frisky with a skittish behavior that I was "so over" before I was even half way through the lap. I would imagine that racers weighing 30lbs less than me, and not wanting to race more than an hour or two, would be totally happy with it. My fatass endurance focused self was just plain over it. Gorgeous super lightweight and wet dream bike for many turned me right off.


At this point I was feeling a little worn down, so I was excited to hop back on the Jet 9 to see if a full suspension bike could help out as you got more tired. Rob had just come off of the bike and had the rear shock in some sort of pro pedal mode, so I decided to stick with that and see if it made me swoon. About a mile in I switched the rear shock to full open and let it rip. Turns out the bike felt out of control the first lap because I was going that much faster. You have to think about your turns so much quicker with a bike like this. Once I got used to this the bike transformed into something I was much happier with. The thing that surprised me the most was how well the bike climbed out of the saddle....felt like the One 9 RDO hardtail but with more traction.

I briefly hopped on a WFO (150mm travel) to see what that was like, and quickly realized I did not BRAAP enough to justify how in the hell do you traverse a tight switchback uphill on that bike?!

So what did I learn from my demos?

  • A hardtail 29er in some sort of carbon hi-zoot guise is going to piss me off as much as my current 69er does. 
  • A full suspension bike can be a LOT of fun and really fast
  • A "plus" tire sized bike could RULE THEM ALL with the right configuration
In my mind the upcoming Specialized Fuse at a 27.5+ build with a 120mm fork and dropper post just got that much more sexay. Really I see no advantage to a full suspensions traction going uphill that a plus sized tire can't match. When you turn downhill the plus sized tired works wonders in soaking up any bumps. For me the plus sized hardtail makes the most sense right now.....totally willing to be proven wrong if you want me to try your S-Works EPIC or Stumpy :).

Alright folks, that is it for part 1 of my MTB self discovery series. Questions or comments just post them below for me to ignore (not really, I watch that section like it will give me a promotion at work). Seriously though, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

Safety is important when riding your motorized scooter.
What a weekend! I finally got a chance to do the Greenstreet Velo Saturday morning ride for the first time. I've been meaning to make this ride all season and I've been prevented for one reason or another every time. Being my first time, I wasn't sure what to expect as far as pace or distance. I know the route tends to be different most weeks, but it appears to be 40-50 miles most weeks.

We ended up riding towards Glenwood with Jakob intending to turn around after an hour or so and Rafal and Noah intending to do a much longer ride. I figured I'd get a three hour ride in, so I was going to ride through Glenwood and then head north to head back home. Once Jakob turned around (with a few others) Rafal warned me that the road north of Glenwood was not the best road to take due to heavy truck traffic currently taking place, so I changed my plan to ride to Plattsmouth with Rafal and Noah before heading home.

However, getting to Plattsmouth, I realized that I would probably have to ride north on Highway 75 which I've never done and am not familiar with the safety of doing so. So I figured, "It's only another 14 miles to Louisville. May as well keep going with Rafal and Noah."  So what I expected to be a three-ish hour ride, turned into a four and a half hour ride.

The nice thing is that, though I was certainly tired when I got home, I never felt totally empty and my legs felt pretty decent for the entire ride. Aside from my training, much of that has to be due to the nice even pace set by Rafal and Noah. It wasn't slow by any means, but those guys ride so smoothly on a long ride, it's easier to stick with them and not have to use a bunch of extra energy trying to match an acceleration on every upturn of the road.

We wrapped the weekend up with a little family shin dig at our house on Memorial Day. It's become a tradition for us to host the party and each year it gets a little better. We lucked out with some wonderful weather that allowed me to get a few hours worth of yard work done to make the yard a more enjoyable place to hang out in. I even had a chance to go get a couple laps in at Lewis & Clark before the party. Rachel kicked ass getting the food and the house read during the last week or so and the party was a ton of fun and next year promises to be fun again! Who knows, maybe Brigham will finally be walking by then!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Wear Yellow Ride with my Mom

My mom and I rode the Wear Yellow Ride yesterday. Ever since I started riding bikes, my mom, my brother, and I try to go for a longer ride together and this year we made the Wear Yellow Ride our annual long ride. Unfortunately, Tyler was not able to make it this year due to some scheduling conflicts, so it was just Mom and me. He was there in spirit, I'm sure. At least that's what I assume the lingering fart smell was. Bazinga!

I wouldn't be surprised if we make the Wear Yellow Ride our regular big ride together. This charity event exists for the mission of "fighting against cancer through advocacy, awareness, and fundraising." This year (and maybe other years as well?) the funds raised were going to support the Wear Yellow Nebraska Cab Ride Program which helps to transport cancer patients to their treatments when they are not otherwise able to get transportation.

There are several charity rides one can choose to do in the region, including Tour de Cure and BikeMS. However, the Wear Yellow Ride is one whose mission strikes close to home for our family. Seven years ago my dad passed away after a seven year off and on again fight against melanoma. Because of cancer, he wasn't able to see his two boys get married, nor was able to meet his, so far, four grandchildren. That's not to say that there wasn't some good things that came from his fight against cancer (because Genesis 50:20), but it's still a horrible disease that should be cured if we can!

Anyways, my mom and I rode the 62 mile road ride and it was a good time. 62 miles is a really long ride for my mom, but she has been doing some training using a Sufferfest video and riding around the lake at Chalco. She's also been starting to ride with some other ladies from the Trek store on Tuesday nights, which she's really been enjoying. I was very impressed with how well she did! Last year, we rode about the same distance with most of it being on the flat local multi-use trails and it seemed to me that she was more comfortable yesterday than last year. It took us something like 40 minutes longer this year, but there was way more climbing involved in this ride.

The ride itself is supported quite nicely and there was a metric crap-ton of stuff being raffled off. I'm pretty sure someone rigged the raffle for the Zipp 202 wheelset that I was suppose to win, but oh well. The only things I would have liked to see done differently would be having more bathrooms available at rest stops (we gave our bladders as much of a workout as we did our lungs and legs) and it would be nice if they would wait until at least the official cut-off before beginning to tear down the event site. The official end of the event was one o'clock in the afternoon, after which the rest stops and the start/finish area would be wrapped up. We pulled in at 12:40 or so and they were already starting to tear things down. I get wanting to get things torn down and put away quickly, but it can be a bit disheartening for someone who's worked hard to finish a long distance ride to come back to such an anticlimactic scene.

We didn't let that get us down though. We were in it more for the ride and the good cause than the trappings of the event. I think we'll strongly consider doing the ride again next year. Maybe even Tyler will join us!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The OTHER brothers race report: Platte River Battle Royale (Marathon)

Coming up to the rock garden (photo credit: Michael McColgan)
Guest blogger: Tyler Loewens

If I had to sum up my first Mountain Bike Race (and first Marathon race at that) in one twitter-like sentence it would be: Singletrack looks way different when you ride at a walking pace J

As I state previously, this was my very first true mountain bike race. I have done criteriums, road races, and gravel races before with mixed results, so this was not necessarily my first rodeo. My goal this year was to try Mountain Bike Racing by doing the entire Psychopath Marathon series, however the first event at Tranquility was postponed to a day where I had other family things going on.

The whole week leading up to the event I was very anxious mainly due to the weather we were having. If I had to miss another event due to a weather postponement I was going to sell my mountain bike (not really….n+1 and all). Hell, Thursday morning saw just shy of 5 inches of rain in the rain gauge at my house. As luck would have it the rain stopped two days before the race, and Platte dried out enough for a bunch of us to get out and get some pain in!

Rain rain go away

The morning of the race I got to Platte early to help setup the Bike Way team area. Tom Solberg arrived shortly after with the big blue Suburban followed shortly by Michael McColgan and the three of us got to work. I may have not spent much time at our team area that day (was racing for over 4 hours after all), but I can tell you it was very nice having a set area where I could setup “home base”. Hell Tom even passed me a bottle on one of my laps after I gave him some good natured crap for not having one ready for me on the last lap.

Setting up with Tom (photo credit: Rob Evans)
Bike Way Truck

So the promoters of this particular event decided to have a Le Mans style start. For those unfamiliar, that means we all laid our bikes down about 164.02 feet or so ahead of us and then ran to the bikes when the race was on. I know many people are not a fan, but I have a pretty OK short-distance run in me so I had a blast running ahead of most of the pack and grabbing my bike! Pretty sure I was chortling like a big excited, but slightly over-zealous, rhino during that run. That good run means I had pretty OK positioning inside the pack heading towards the first big climb of the day. By the top of that first climb my heart rate was at 185bpm and people were passing me into the first section of singletrack. I slotted in between two other racers and proceeded to go full blown race pace through the first third of the singletrack, hanging with the guys ahead of me for most of that section. As we got out of the trees and into the open area I was passed be more racers (including my brother…what a jerk J) but decided to stick it out with two other guys that were going at a more moderate pace. I figured that if I wanted to survive 4 hours out at Platte I needed to conserve some energy by backing off on the pace.

Le Mans start (photo credit: Cycle Works bike shop)

As I came into the end of the first lap I realized my cooler (with the bottles) was still zipped shut (*facepalm*)! I hurriedly unzipped the cooler and swapped a bottle out. With that longer feed zone time I lost the guy ahead of me for a short while, but made it back up to him on the climb largely due to my forced larger climbing gear.

Here is as good a time as any to talk about my bike setup. I have a 2009 Trek 69er that I have converted to 1 X 9. The gearing setup I used for this race was a 34 tooth chainring up front, and an 11-32 cassette out back. This is a hardtail bike with a very small front triangle (really the bike is one size too small for me) that only holds a single bottle. I am running the very excellent Bontrager TLR system front and rear (Duster rims, XR2 Team issue tires) which has never given me issues. The brakes are still the original turkey garble Avid Juicy Five’s which stop well but are just so damn annoyingly loud (and they shake the frame so bad it tickles your taint every time you apply the brake while sitting in the saddle….so maybe not so bad after all)!

2009 Trek 69er

So while I had caught up to the racer ahead of me again on the climb, my heart rate was once again over 180 bpm not out of some sort of race pace strategy but rather out of not a low enough gear.

Here is as good a time as any to talk about my fitness. While I would describe myself as having good power and Ok endurance, I would also describe myself as having twenty more “elbees” then my body needs. I would use my job and kid as an excuse for my lack of weight conscientiousness, but my jerk brother in his previous post already one-upped me with “I have three kids under the age of 4 and I still rock!” Seriously though, I need to drop this extra weight to make my racing life that much better. More seriously though, he’s still a jerk J.

Coming in to start another lap (photo credit: Rob Evans)

As the laps wore on a few things happened. Firstly I was very happy with my choice to have three different flavors of Skratch Labs already mixed in my bottles. Something very good for the mental game when you get a new flavor from time to time. Secondly I started crashing more often as I got more and more fatigued. Thirdly I was going so much slower the 5th lap on that I was actually disoriented as I did not recognize certain parts of the trail! I had never gone slowly enough on those parts to actually look at what was around me! Fourthly I was starting to get pissed that I only had a spot for a single bottle on my bike frame. It would have been much handier to have two bottles on the bike (enough for two laps) and then cut my feed zone time in half. If I were truly in contention for any sort of placing (HAHAHAHA) that is time I could not afford to lose.

As I started my sixth lap of the track I was almost certain that would be my last. I was already walking the big climb at the begging of the course to try and save my heart rate and legs, I was having to still get out of the way of some of the non-marathon racers, AND my stomach was not too happy with what I had been eating and drinking. Right after the rock garden section one of the spectators said something along the lines of “You only need to soft pedal now man” to which I responded “all of my pedaling is flaccid at this moment”. We had a good chuckle - he probably thinks I’m pretty cool now - and I continued on my way.
Enjoying the big climb after 6 laps (photo credit: Michael McColgan)

At this point I had crashed at least three times, and nailed a tree with my shoulder good enough to leave a solid welt. I was so spent that I was riding like an idiot that had no fitness whatsoever. I kept thinking about how impressed I was that my brother was still way ahead of me killing it on the cross bike!


During this sixth lap I kept looking down at my Garmin wondering how far off the time was. I had my auto-pause set, so when I stopped for bottles, or was going slow enough (walking that climb) the time would not be counted on the head unit (future note -> do NOT use the auto-pause function for these races).Honestly I was almost apprehensive to get to the finish line as I was concerned I would have something like 15 minutes left till the 4 hour mark and need to continue on.

I get to the finish line and the announcers calls out “3 minutes left for any of you marathoners wanting to start another lap!” Pretty sure I let out some very choice words as I turned and headed back for another lap. In my mind there was no other alternative but to start another lap. What was I going to do, just stand there and wait for the three minutes to count down? Absolutely not!

That last lap was absolutely epically and pathetically slow. It was like I was out for a leisurely ride, except my body wanted nothing to do with it. This is where I really started to not know where I was on the course. I truly never go this slowly on singletrack so it was a new and pretty cool experience.  I ended up crossing the finish line while the race promotors had already started taking some of the course down. I was late enough that they had printed out the results before I finished my 7th lap, so I really have no exact time on when I finished….guessing 4 hours and 40 minutes or so?

While I did not podium, or make any huge course improvements (I did PR that first climb on the first lap by a second though), I really appreciated the experience! In my mind if you are doing it right as an amateur racer, you are probably learning something new every time you race. I absolutely learned the following: A) I need to drop 20lbs ASAP J B) I need a lower climbing gear (ordered a 30 tooth chainring) C) Mountain Bike Racing is pretty damn cool!

Oh…would someone please buy my brother a real mountain bike so it doesn't suck as much losing to him? Thanks! J (seriously though, nice work bro!!) PROST


Strava File

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Are You Racing?

A 'cross bike in it's element. Photo credit: McColgan Photography.
Last Saturday was the Platte River Battle Royale, a mountain bike race taking place at Platte River State Park. The trails at Platte River State Park are among the most technical, interesting, and fun in the area and though I was very much looking forward to racing, I was a bit nervous as well.

I don't get out to Platte very often since it's about a 45 minute drive from home. Being married and a father of three kids who are four years old and under means the higher driving time to riding time ratio is unfavorable for getting laps out there with much frequency.

I tend to be a pretty conservative rider and have a hard time going fast on a trail I am unfamiliar with so I was very glad to have a chance to head out to the park the weekend prior to the race to get a few laps in and regain some familiarity with the course. My mom took our kids overnight (which she does nearly every Friday night cause she's Super-Grammy) and my wife and I drove down to the park together. Rachel did a little hiking and had some nostalgic fun with smashing coins on the railroad tracks while I played in the dirt.

A photo posted by Rachel Loewens (@raeloewens) on

Another reason I wanted to be as familiar as I could with the trail was that I would be at a further disadvantage due to the fact that I would be racing my 'cross bike rather than a true mountain bike. While I technically do own a mountain bike, it's really better to race my 'cross bike. My mountain bike functions fine enough, but I've never really been able to get the fit down quite right and the previous owner of the bike, my brother, had swapped out the stock suspension fork (which apparently handled like a pogo stick) for a cheap Nashbar rigid fork with some unknown geometry. That, coupled with the lower-end mountain bike weight, means my 'cross bike ends up being the more comfortable and faster machine, even at trails like Platte River State Park.

Anyways, I was racing the four hour marathon race. You get four hours to complete as many laps as you can start within that time. The long and steady style of racing suits me better than the more all-out punchy style of the Cross Country races.

The race used a Le Mans style start, meaning our bikes were all laying on the ground in a designated area while we racers lined up about 50 meters away and had to run and grab our bikes when the whistle blew. I wasn't too worried about working too hard on the sprint for the holeshot. The trail at Platte starts with a 0.3 mile climb up some double track that averages around 8% but kicks up to around 20% a few times. I knew that first climb would probably line us out pretty well and allow me to slot in to a good position for me by the top. Plus, potentially being in front of people who would be pushing harder going downhill than I would be comfortable with was not what I wanted. I didn't want that pressure, as my handling skills are what I like to call "pretty good for a roadie."

Before the start of the race. I'm pretty sure I was asking Tyler if he thought I should drop the air pressure in my fork. Photo credit: Rachel Loewens
I think my starting strategy worked out pretty well. I might have been better off a little further forward, but by the time we hit the open section about 1.6 miles in, I had been dropped by the guys immediately in front of me who were taking the corners better than me and I had caught a decent sized group of guys who seemed to be starting to fade a bit after their initial effort. I don't think I ever saw most of that group again.

After catching and passing that group I attempted to set a good pace that I could hopefully maintain throughout the race. At some point a single speeder named Chris and I began to ride together. I can't recall now if I caught up with him or if he had caught up with me, but I know I was in front and was trying not to let the fact that I had someone following me cause me to ride too hard or to push myself too hard in the corners. I know I was holding him up when the trail pointed down but I would then get a bit of a gap when we climbed. We played a bit of tag for the rest of that first lap and all of the second as well. He was a good guy to ride with and never acted annoyed with my slower descending. He ended up stopping in the pits after the second lap while the fact that I was using a hydration pack meant I never needed to stop in the pits to swap bottles or grab food so I kept on trucking without him.

About halfway through the third lap my teammate Todd Ramsey caught up with me and we rode the rest of that lap together and began the fourth lap together as well. Todd was another good one to ride with. He is good at making conversation which always helps to pass the time. At some point I realized Todd was no longer right behind me. At this point we were about 2 hours in to the race and I realized that I hadn't been eating as much as I had planned. So, I pulled over and grabbed some more food. Todd popped up out of the woods a couple minutes later and was not feeling so hot. He said he thought he might puke and took a seat in the grass next to the trail to rest a bit. I did not envy him. We still had two hours to go and it sounded like he may have pushed a little too hard already. Later he would tell me that after eating something and getting some more fluid in him, he felt a lot better. I was glad to hear that. Not much is worse than feeling sick and trying to ride your bike.

Two hours after the marathon start was the cat 1 start so not too long into the third hour of my race, I started getting passed by the really fast guys and gals. It was also about this time that I started feeling the effort of the race in my legs, arms, and back, so pulling to the side of the trail to let the cat 1's pass me was not entirely unwelcome. I do my best to not impede the process of these guys since their race tends to be decided in much closer margins than mine, so I try to pull off the trail with plenty of time for them to get by without having to slow down. At one point on my second to last time up the first climb, I heard someone coming up behind me and, in my oxygen-depleted state, decided the best course of action as to pull to the side of the double track trail and put a foot down. I'm not sure why I did that since there's plenty of space to pass there. As the rider passed me he asked if I was racing. I thought that was an odd question. It didn't occur to me until a few seconds later that he probably only asked me since I was riding my 'cross bike. He probably thought I was just some dude out riding in the middle of a race. I had to chuckle to myself about that one.

The last few laps were a matter of just pushing on. The mental game really started for me there. My legs were getting tired, of course, but one of the big downsides to using a drop bar bike in a mountain bike race is that you have to combine your grip on the hoods with your braking power. Modulating the brakes while essentially pinching the hoods with my thumbs and palms put a lot of stress on my triceps. This isn't usually a big deal for shorter rides, but after a couple hours on a technical trail it really adds up. I concentrated a lot during the last few laps on relaxing my arms whenever I could. That really helped and I'll have to remember that for the next race.

I rolled through the line for the final time with a total of 7 laps in 4:02:39. That was good enough for 11th overall out of, I believe, 24 men racing marathon. Officially, I was given 5th place in the under 40 age group, though the guy they called up for 4th place was actually over 40 and they never adjusted it, so I'm calling it a 4th place finish.

Officially 5th place. Photo credit: Rachel Loewens
I was stoked with my result. I wasn't sure what to expect considering my bike and the course, so to finish in the money and to have my name called during the podium presentation was really cool. I was pretty happy with the way I rode as well. I kept the rubber side down the entire race and never made any huge mistakes. I stayed on top of my eating and drinking for the most part too, though I'll need to be a bit better about drinking more in the middle of the race so I'm not so thirsty towards the end.

Next race is at Lewis & Clark on June 13th and I'm looking forward to it!

I wonder how much faster I'd be on a real mountain bike...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Greenstreet Velo Tuesday Night Ride 5/5/15

Yesterday was my first GVC Tuesday night ride of the year doing the full route. I've done a couple earlier this year but it was before we had enough sunlight to get in the full 45ish mile route. Two weeks ago I attempted to make the ride, but I was a little over 10 minutes late thanks to a dead Garmin battery and ended up riding solo until realizing I would not likely catch the group before we got to Railroad Highway. I had no desire to ride on that particular highway at dusk with no lights all by myself so I turned around and soloed home.

There was an okay turnout last night, featuring several strong riders. Grant Rotunda, Noah Marcus, Matt O'Donnell, Paul Eichler, and Adam Stoll being among the most notable pain bringers. Dave Cleasby was also there and is also riding really strong, but he and Michelle headed home after the white church so he didn't get to participate in the fun for as long as the rest of us. I, yet again, showed up late, but only by 5 minutes this time and so I was able to catch the group before they reached Mudhollow.

When we hit the final rise on Mudhollow, the pace heated up as per usual. I watched Grant and Noah ride away from me and was unable to match their pace. There's nothing all that weird about that however, and I continued to push my pace over the top of the rise and all the way through to the white church. While being dropped by the likes of Grant and Noah is not surprising, I could still tell that my legs didn't have quite the snap I was expecting. Perhaps the 30 minutes of threshold work I did the day before had left my legs wanting. Oh well, it's not like I'm training to win the Tuesday night ride!

The final rise on Mudhollow was foreshadowing for the rest of the ride. Just maintaining a smooth rotation on L34 proved to be quite the task towards the end of that stretch and the moment the pace got really going on Mahogany, I was popped. We had a nice steady rotation at a very doable pace for me on Railroad, but as we neared our turn on to Birdsley, Grant pulled through and calmly said to me, "I'm going to go." He proceeded to turn up the power and I was dropped again. It wasn't for lack of trying though, to be sure. I just didn't have to strength to hold his wheel. The last two hills, Birdsley and Coit, were mostly just a matter of survival for me. In the past, I've found that they have been great places to hit it hard towards the end of the ride, but I was all tapped out at that point last night.

This kind of "getting dropped again and again" suffering is one of the things I love about group rides like the Tuesday night ride. When I ride solo, I just can't dig quite a deep as I can when I ride with people faster than me. Don't get me wrong, I also really enjoy those rides where I might get to be the one dishing out the suffering. Those are just more rare for me.

Now it's time to rest up and try to recover as best I can for this weekend's Psycowpath race at Platte River State Park. That is, assuming the trail is dry enough for us to race. I've already missed the first Psycowpath race at Tranquility and I'd really prefer not to make it two in a row!