First, let me clarify. A populaire is not a race although, these days, you see more carbon bikes and road racing teams participating than in the past. Many competitive cyclists use these events to train for Gran Fondos and other road races. The difference is that with a populaire, there are control stops where cyclists stop, get their cards stamped, hydrate and go to the bathroom. Yesterdays ride had 3 control stops; one at 50 km, 1 at 75 km and another at 100 km. The roads are not closed. You share them with other traffic although, the route is on quiet rural, scenic roads.
I was pleased with my result. I beat last years time averaging a 25 kph pace over 150 km (I got lost twice and added 3 years to Canada’s age – it is only 147 years since Confederation) that included a substantial amount of climbing – a 7 km climb up Sumas Mountain and, over the last 50 kph, a lot of shorter but very steep climbs. On the flats, I would average 30-40 km, depending on the wind and who I was riding with.
I was disappointed I couldn’t ride the Roberts. It was built for this type of longer event. The steel frame, compact crankset and the Selle Italia saddle would have made the climbs a little easier and the ride more comfortable, particularly at the end. I didn’t mind riding the Garneau but it is a racing bike and, consequently, I raced a lot of the time.
Yesterday was unusually hot (33 degrees Celsius) and I may have gone out too fast. The first 125 km I felt strong, often at the front pulling but the last 25 km, particularly the last 10, were difficult. I bonked. That has never happened to me before. Despite all the preparation and hydration during the ride, I experienced cramping for the first time. And, blisters on my feet that made every pedal stroke excruciating. The last 8-10 km were painful and, my pace dropped substantially. Fortunately, I was with 2 other riders, a guy who was experiencing a similar problem and, a younger woman who pulled us along. Without her help, I may have stopped several times.
I did this ride alone finding groups of riders along the way that were maintaining a similar pace. I didn’t stay with any one group. I would either fall off the pace with some or want to go faster than others.
The only time I was ever passed was when I was alone on the road and, it would be a group that would come along side. Solo riders never passed me. And, I was never passed on any of the climbs. I must be stronger. I can remember a time, not so long ago, when I would get discouraged by younger, lighter riders speeding past me on a climb. I still get passed but not yesterday.
Next year, I want to do the ride with a group. It is much easier to maintain a sustained pace with a group of 5-7 cyclists than it is on your own. I am recruiting a team beginning today.