It Smells Warm


Fool that I am, I returned to Reston to ride with either The Bike Lane or Evolution Cycling. Perhaps because it was overcast, it seemed colder than last week and the numbers showed. They were way down.  

Like last week, stopping for gas and food left me dangerously close to missing the start of the ride. I rolled up just as four riders were rolling out. One woman was left in front of the dark Bike Lane store telling me she was waiting for their group ride. Instantly I determined, correctly, that there would be no ride from The Bike Lane today and made my decision to catch the Evo boys leaving on the trail.  

Although temperatures were in the low to mid-30s for most of the ride, the low overnight temperatures and some rain during the week left some ice patches on the W&OD. But they presented no problems.  

What was neat was that we started out with five riders and actually picked up riders along the route eventually getting up to 10. We rode on the W&OD until we could get safely off onto other roads and streets.  

Almost immediately I wondered why I had come back. We were in a paceline of 10 riders rolling along at 23 mph on a 3% uphill grade. There is no way, even by being paced, that I could keep this pace. I was afraid I might have to excuse myself. But we took turns pacing at the front and once the strong leader dropped off another rider took over and I didn’t have problems staying with the group again.  

Out of Leesburg towards Hamilton, we climbed Dry Mill Road, in the process dropped a rider aptly named “Turtle.” At the top of the climb, where Virginia Routes 7 and 9 intersect, we waited. Eventually, Turtle came and then graciously announced that he would ride the trail back and not hold us up.  

It was actually amazing that I jumped in with this racing team and hung with them. At the same time, one of their riders could not keep pace.

We headed out through Hamilton, out Harmony Church Road, and back towards Leesburg. I was able to hang on with these racers most of the way. Leaving Hamilton we could smell the fire from a fireplace burning nearby. One of the riders said, “it smells warm.”

I never thought something could smell warm — we’re mixing the sense of touch with the sense of smell — but I could agree with him. I’d love to be inside feeling the warmth of the fire.  

The route today would encompass more than 60 miles. I noticed after 50 miles that when we had moderate climbs of 2-3% grade that I had difficulty keeping up with the group. Usually, I would drop 10, 20, or 50 meters behind only to catch them on the other side.   

The Evolution is a Cycling Racing team, most are younger riders and these old legs just don’t have the recovery in them to be able to spin up these moderate climbs. The steep climbs are different because everyone is working hard but these lesser grades are ones where the younger riders can sit and spin and after 50 miles I have difficulty.  

Maybe it’s the old legs or maybe it’s that I still suck at nutrition on the bike. I had one energy bar with me but didn’t open it. Stupid.  

Without about five miles to go, I sat up for a moment while a couple of riders dropped off to go home. I lost contact with our remaining riders. Mostly they were never more than 100-200 meters ahead but that is still dropped.  

I felt my energy level drop. I hadn’t eaten on the ride and should have and fumbled around to find the energy bar. I felt a little better after ingesting it and rolled on back alone to the start/finish.  

Not sure where the rest of the winter takes me. I’d like to ride with Evolution more but every Saturday between now and mid-March is booked and then begins soccer season. I was asked to join the team and race with them but feel that I would probably bring them down.  

I was feeling bad about not being able to stay with what was left with the group but Adam, back at The Bike Lane, reminded me that these are racers who log base miles every Saturday and Sunday plus are younger too. As I read in Bicycling magazine once, when you feel a little discouraged about not keeping up with the Cat 2 and Cat 3 riders, take a stroll in the Mall and compare yourself to those guys.    

You say you want an Evolution


You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction

Don’t you know you can count me out
–The Beetles

I didn’t ride on New Year’s Day, missing out on Potomac Pedaler’s “I’ve Ridden Every Day This Year” ride. It was cold and windy on New Year’s Day in the morning although not as bad as New Year’s Eve. We had winds sustained at 35 mph and gusting to 50 mph. My mailbox post was a victim. When I arrived home from work both the mailbox and post were on the ground so that became my New Year’s Day project.

I left the house this morning after 8:00 and WTOP Radio reported it was 23º (-5ºC) in Manassas. Cold. I drove up to Reston to ride with the group ride that leaves from The Bike Lane at Reston Town Center. I was running late and arrived at exactly 9:00 a.m.

I quickly parked in the parking garage and put the wheels on my bike. I rolled out of the garage at about three, maybe four, minutes after 9:00, turned the corner, and saw the group heading out. I rolled past The Bike Lane to catch the group. Funny, as I did I saw 3-4 bikes parked outside The Bike Lane.

I caught the group as we rolled through some bike paths out to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. Adam (The Bike Lane group leader) normally doesn’t take the group on the WOD, I thought, but was willing to concede that either he decided on a cold winter Saturday it wouldn’t be crowded or this somehow was the wrong group.

Could there be two 9:00 rides leaving from The Bike Lane? Even if there were, it was too late to go back and find Adam. I hung on the back of the group — they were flying — and finally asked someone if this was Adam’s ride. No one seemed to know although there were no Bike Lane jerseys in this group. But lots of white ones.

I was told that I had joined the Evolution Cycling Club’s training ride but that I was welcome to hang on. And I did. I asked how far they were going and I was told — 80 miles. Yikes. It was a nice day, if 23º was “nice,” but I hadn’t brought any water (intending to fill up inside The Bike Lane) and no food. And no money for a stop at a store. It’s not good to ride that far with no nutrition. Oh well.

The ride was relatively easy as long as I was hanging on the rear. We went through Ashburn then to Leesburg. After Leesburg, we climbed our first long hill. It wasn’t that difficult but one learns the perils of hanging in the rear.

I wasn’t having any problems keeping on the wheel of the rider in front of me. But he was. A gap opened halfway up the hill and the first half of the group crested the hill a good 150 meters ahead of our group. In a race that’s when they attack but this wasn’t a race. Still, once we reached the top we had two separate groups out on the country roads. The gap widened more.

I finally broke free to pass a number of riders and tried to bridge to the front group. For a while, I was in “no man’s land” about 250 meters behind the lead group and 250 meters ahead of the trail group. I had no one working with me. After being stuck here a rider finally bridged to me and the two of us then worked out way up to the leaders.

We stopped at a store in Hamilton where some bladder-challenged riders, including me, made our way behind the store for a visit to some trees. Here we also broke the ride into groups and when we left there were nine of us. It was nine that we should have ended with.

We rode for a while longer until we came to a moderate climb. One of the riders, in the middle of what was supposed to be a paceline, was having difficulty climbing and we all passed him. When we crested he was way back and we waited for him at the light on Va. 9 at Paeonian Springs.

Our ride leader, a guy named “Chicken” then decided we would have some fun descending on Dry Mill Road to Leesburg. We would break into teams and try to box other riders out at high descending speeds — generally about 35 mph. Say what?

What the heck. We took off and formed our teams. We had only gone a couple of miles when we lost our trail rider again. Chicken went back for him and was going to show him the direct way back — the WOD. Chicken came back to us but reported that he couldn’t find him. I felt bad and was going to offer to ride with him but he had disappeared. We were down to eight.

We continued on and while descending, one of the guys in front of me went off the road. His tire hit the shoulder and three of us had to quickly maneuver so as not to join him. That also killed our descent. We regrouped, didn’t get any sprint points, and made it back to Leesburg.

Passing through Leesburg I was told Chicken peeled off although I didn’t see him. At a cross street, I saw another rider leave. And I missed another one bailing because we were down to five.

Another rider and I moved to the front and did a monster pull for about 3-4 miles. What was I doing pulling these 30-year-olds home? Eventually, we let the trail riders lead and we would follow their wheels.

The five of us returned to Reston and I got to go into The Bike Lane and told Adam why I wasn’t able to join him today. He just laughed. Unlike three weeks ago, I was able to hang and at least one other rider wasn’t.

I was told that the Evolution ride was a closed ride but no one on the ride took exception to me being there. In fact, many introduced themselves and went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. I don’t plan on racing because I don’t have time but I am thinking about joining this racing club. It was a great day for cycling!

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