Thanks to various commitments, travel, interruptions and indolence, it’s been a considerable time since I last went on a decent long ride. But the weather has been improving, and the days are getting longer. Browsing through the local audax rides a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the Spring Dawn to Dusk ride was coming up. The initial plan was to ride it together with Chong but by mid-week, he was battling a cold and was forced to drop out (quite wisely, too. If it’s the same cold I’ve recently had, it sat in my lungs for weeks). Even without a riding partner, I found myself getting more enthusiastic about riding as the week progressed. There had to be some actual planning involved, because the start time was 6.10am, which meant I had to leave home by about 5.10am and therefore wake up by about 4.30am. So during the week I bought a fruit cake to eat for breakfast and during the ride, and Elite Racing Cycles was kind enough to donate some almost-not-expired energy bars to keep me going during the ride. Also, because it’s an audax, I had to add a reflector, extra lights and put on a saddle bag to make room in my jersey pockets for all that food for a dorktastic but practical look*.
*See picture somewhere below
All this preparation paid off so that I was able to wake up early, get dressed, make a cup of coffee and stare blankly at the wall until it was time to leave the house. There was a bit of a headwind on the way down there but I still arrived in plenty of time to meet Perry, the ride organiser, and Adrian, one of the entrants. Not long after that, I was happy to see I wouldn’t be riding with strangers, as my old pal Guido showed up to do the ride. We did a 600km audax together a couple of years ago which involved me spending most of the time sitting on his wheel and trying not to get dropped.
Altogether, there were just six starters, and of them, one couldn’t wait for the rest of us to get started so he took off and we didn’t see him again. The remaining five of us took off together and coasted easily for a while into a headwind on the freeway bicycle path until we started to pick up the pace and lost Perry, leaving me, Guido, Adrian and Sean as a group.
It can happen when riding in a group that the pace slowly creeps up because nobody wants to be the guy who gets to the front and doesn’t take as good a turn as everyone else. I was quite pleased to see our average speed start to get faster because my goal for the day was to get around the course at an average of 25kph including stopped time. On the other hand, I had some concerns that I would soon be quite worn out. Guido and Sean had just got back from riding in this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris and when we got to checkpoint one at Pinjarra, I was a bit relieved to hear Guido say he thought we had just worked harder than he had done while in the front group of Paris-Brest-Paris. Nonetheless, we had got to the first checkpoint at an average of 30kph; not a bad effort into a solid headwind. In true audax style, then, we sat down and had a leisurely breakfast and coffee.
After our break, we took off at a much more sensible speed and enjoyed the open road and what was turning out to be a pretty pleasant day.
We kept up a reasonable tempo but still had time to chat until we got to the base of the hills for the climb up to Dwellingup, which would be about the half-way point of the ride. To my delight, I seemed to be the lightest of us, which meant I found myself in the peculiar (for me) situation of being able to use the climb to have a rest. In future, I must insist on only riding with people who are heavier than me.
After Dwellingup, the road was a bit up and down and we lost Adrian, who was wisely not pushing himself too hard up the climbs. Sean and I were having fun descending but Guido was on some sort of crazy weight loss scheme where he was only drinking protein shakes. He hit a bit of a wall and we lost him a couple of times. He insisted we not wait for him, so I took him at his word and dashed off up the road but luckily Sean was more loyal than me and chose to wait. In the end, the pair of them caught up with me and we descended out of the hills together. Back on the flat, we rode west with a crosswind until we got to (abandon all) Hopelands Road, where Adrian caught back up to us after what must have been a mighty effort on his own.
Up Hopelands Road we had a tailwind and Sean hit his straps until he managed to drop us all and the only question was how long it would take for him to notice there was no one behind him. We eventually all reassembled but this was my lowest ebb for the ride and I was just able to hang in with the others for as long as I could until I got dropped. Luckily for me, our second foray into the hills arrived sooner than my legs giving out as we headed for Jarrahdale, where some sugary drinks helped improve my mood.
I also had a nibble of the easy-to-chew and delicious Clif Shot Blok energy chews (available at Elite Racing Cycles) in my pocket, and on the descent from Jarrahdale, my stomach told me it was open for business again so I downed the rest of the bar, which seems to have brought on a second wind for me at just the right time because we set a pretty decent pace home, arriving just short of the ten hours that I had hoped to complete the ride in.
Here’s the ride on Strava:
And here’s a gratuitous picture of my new bike, taken last Monday in Kings Park: