I went for a 2 hour, solo tempo ride this past Sunday.
A tempo ride is not without effort, would be difficult to sustain for hours, but never requires maximum exertion. My favourite route, and that of many other local cyclists, is along the south shore of the Fraser River. For me, it is a 50 km return ride starting with a 5 km descent, a 40 km flat ride beside the meandering river and, a 5 km climb at the end.
The river road travels east-west and usually there is a westerly wind meaning there is a helping wind out and a hurting wind back. I take a break at the turnaround to pee, eat a Cliff Bar and, take on electrolytes. It is an effortless and fast ride out. And, a challenge coming back into the teeth of a relentless wind. Sunday was no different.
On the return, it was all I could do to maintain a 25-30 kph pace. I didn’t want to work too hard. It was a tempo ride. Right? But is was hard work into the wind. I geared down and dropped on the bars.
After a fews kilometres, I heard a humming sound from behind. As I continued to labour, the sound got progressively louder. And then, I began to hear voices. All of a sudden, I was overtaken by a large group of racers – 50 tightly packed speedsters. As they were passing, one of them hollered “Hop on if you like”. When they passed, I hopped on, tucking in behind the last of the stragglers.
And then, everything changed. The pedalling got easy. We were doing 35-40 kph into the wind and, I hardly had to pedal. It was like a fast descent. I was being sucked along by this Tour de France size peloton. No one at the back had to work. We just chilled being effortlessly propelled down the road.
After a few kilometres, I said “Thanks” to my new friends and dropped off the back. I didn’t like it. I was out for a workout and this was not what I had in mind. It was easy speed. It felt like cheating.
I suppose I could have taken turns at the front pulling but I wanted more of a sustained effort.