My weekend rides begin at the club. I leave my electrolyte powder in my locker, and pedal there to prepare my bottles for the ride. The club is on a bikeway, on a traffic calmed street, that runs north and south, so it is a good place to meet up for a ride regardless where we are headed.
Today’s ride was supposed to be a group ride to Horseshoe Bay and back, a 75 km trip on one of the most scenic, and iconic rides in the area on a smooth surfaced road cut into the side of the mountain on the north shore of English Bay.
Well, the boys were a “no show”. The weather was warm and sunny but apparently there were yard chores that took precedence. Hmmm … This is one ride I like help. It is hilly, steep in parts with relentless rollers. No matter. I headed out alone.
10 km out I crossed the Lions Gate Bridge to the North Shore. There are separated bike lanes on both sides of the bridge but this is my least favourite part of the ride. It is high, windy and bumpy. Once over the bridge, the real fun begins. A winding, rolling road cutting through West Vancouver, home of the most expensive real estate in the country, to Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, home of Troll’s, the best Fish & Chip restaurant I know.
This is one of my favourite rides. However, it’s not for the uninitiated. It requires consummate climbing and descending skills as the road meanders relentlessly along the shoreline. It is a favourite training route for local road cyclists.
I stopped at Horseshoe bay to refuel, empty my bladder, and rest for 20 minutes before heading back. The climb back out of the Horseshoe Bay community is long and tiring, particularly when the blood is in the stomach digesting food instead of fuelling the legs for the climb. I wondered if I was going to make it home. By the time I summited this first climb, I was beginning to feel better. The legs were back.
Next, there was a lengthy descent, and then another long climb. As I started up the hill, I began thinking about the boys back home cutting grass instead of helping me up this grade. It is times like this that I like to be on someones wheel.
Mid-way up the climb, I heard a rider approaching from behind. 10 meters later I was overtaken by a young woman on a carbon bike, wearing the kit of one of the top amateur cycling clubs in the city.
This is what I needed. A wheel to follow. This woman was good. Fast, strong, and determined. I got on her wheel, working harder on the climbs than I ever have. She was strong on the way up but my extra weight helped on the way down. For 15 kilometres, we traded bunches, me working feverishly to keep up on the climbs, and she hammering down the descents to keep pace.
It was the toughest 15 km I have ever ridden. I worked so hard that my lungs were burning. That doesn’t usually happen. As we approached the slower portion of the road, I pulled up beside her and said, “You are good. Thanks for the help. I enjoyed that.” We chatted a bit, and then parted ways, me back to the city over the bridge, and she farther east.
We didn’t get to talk much. We were working too hard, and then parted ways. Another chance encounter left by the roadside. The way she was riding, I suspect she is a competitive road racer. You can tell by the way someone handles a bike, how and when they shift gears, and how they attack climbs and descents. This woman was an experienced racer.
I was pleased I could keep up, if for only 15 km. After all, she must have been half my age. I rode the hardest part of the road faster than I ever have.
This was a good ride 🙂