Day Forty Six: Eduardo’s Road To Fitnesss

The bunch had exploded into three distinct groups, with fragments of the former peloton scattered all over the road, individuals were trying their best to catch their breath before putting in a big effort to catch one of these groups.  The leading group was flying. The train had left the station and if you were not on it, you weren’t getting back on.

I was watching one of the last circuit races of the season and had positioned myself on the corner of the road at the start of the first of the two climbs on the circuit.  Before the race I had chatted to my wife about gear selection on the climb and we had agreed that it was a big ring climb.  She was going to use a 53×21 on its short, steep slopes.  I watched as the leading bunch flew past. They were using 53×19.

Rosie was about a hundred metres behind it with two other men, they were working well but I could see that they did not have the firepower required to catch the front group.  Behind them a larger group of eight was coming up fast.  Rosie and the two guys saw it coming, eased off and jumped in when it caught them.

The leaders were comprised of the 40+ Veteran men.  Lean, tanned and super fit, these boys would easily contest an open Elite race and I wondered what sort of carnage they would cause at a road race back in England.  Chaos is the answer. It would be brutal for the British boys.  These guys train. They train a lot. More importantly they race a lot.

At the front of this second group was the leader of the 60+ Veteran competition.  He was riding his beautiful Italian Pinarello, shod with expensive Campagnolo Bora deep section carbon wheels.  He was wearing a mask of determination, a focussed look on his face, his eyes wide, mouth agape as he took in huge deep lungfulls of air.

The bikes were all top drawer, pro quality machines with the best of the best kit on board. All the key brands were up on the start line.  Very few bikes had anything but the level top components from Campagnolo and Shimano. It was bike porn at its best.

Having spent many years working in the bike trade one does tend to become a bit blasé with regards to bikes, a result of having seen, touched and fondled more than my fair share of bike exotica. There were, however, a couple that stood out from the crowd.  One was a custom Carrera Estremo, used by the yellow jersey wearer, signifying the leader of the criterium series.  The other was not an expensive bike.  Quite the opposite.  It was a Decathlon. A bit of a shocker.

For those in the ‘know’ the professional team AG2R used to ride bikes labelled ‘Decathlon’ but these were actually made by Cyfac in France.  The bike I was looking at yesterday was not a Cyfac.  It was a real Decathlon.  A cheap piece of junk. OK that is a bit harsh but it was a pretty horrendous bike. A bike you would buy if you had no idea at all.  A bike you might pick up in a supermarket.  Well almost, perhaps just a shade better than that.  A nice swanky supermarket then.  One that had a deli inside.

Mr. Decathlon Bike Man had all the right gear but all of it was of dubious quality. No name brands that at a distance looked the part but up front were wrong. A bit like no name cola. It’s the right colour but the taste is all wrong and you certainly would not put rum in it.

Despite his bike, he was giving it full beans on the climbs.  He was fit and was obviously new to cycling.  I smiled as he attacked the climb again, pulling away from the small group he was in, only to sit up at the top of the climb and put his brakes on as he started the descent.  The group started shouting at him, asking him what he was doing.  He could not follow the wheels of his group and was highly erratic. He was trying. It was obviously his first race. And that is pretty cool.  Just think how much he has to learn and how much he will improve.

I remember my first bike race.  In actual fact it was the bike leg in a triathlon.  I was perhaps fifteen.  I had no idea what lay ahead.  Three of us were doing the event as a team. First off was the swimmer.  We thought he was a good swimmer as he was one of the best at school.

I remember waiting at the edge of the beach for him to arrive.  Hundreds of swimmers had already left the water.  I thought he had drowned, or had been eaten by a shark.  Finally after what seemed an age he arrived, panting and out of breath. He did not look too good.  He slipped the rubber band with the little team number off his wrist and onto mine. I jumped onto the bike and cycled off.  I had forty kilometres to ride, with eight two-kilometre climbs to tackle en route.  I really had no idea how tough the course was.

The bike I was riding was a bit big for me. It was blue. It had cotter pin cranks on it. They were not very robust and after about thirty kilometres the left hand-side crank arm fell off.  This did not bode well. I grabbed a rock from the side of the road and hammered it back on.  Ten minutes later it fell off again.  I ended up running with the bike up the hills, jumping back on at the top and freewheeling down them. This destroyed my legs and like the crank arm they too fell off and ceased to function.

I had no water and it was sunny. I ended up drinking water from a tiny waterfall, that emptied into a huge drainage area by the side of the road.  With my raging thirst quenched I finished the bike ride. I died a thousand deaths that day on that bike. It was however my first ever competitive bike event and one that I won’t forget in a hurry.  In the same way that Mr. Decathlon Bike Man won’t forget his ride yesterday.

At least he had a water bottle and his cranks didn’t fall off.

I leave you with a few photos from the race yesterday.


1 Comment

  1. Ed,

    Well I might have started my training again a bit too aggressively as I did 60 miles with the group yesterday and met up with Tash, Robin and Graeme today and did at least 55 today. I’d say about halfway through, my legs began to turn to jelly and it suddenly became a real struggle to keep the pace. Every hill felt like an Alp and I had periods where I started feeling like a bonk was immenent. Managed to survive after a Starbucks break and some help from Graeme but it does remind me that you can’t perform at the same level when you simply haven’t been working hard enough at training. Today I kinda felt like Mr. Decathlon but these things simply take time.




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