By Mari Holden – T-Mobile professional cycling team
Well, I am back home from Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun. I can’t believe that it has already been a week since we raced. Most of you have seen the results and it was an exciting start to the season for our team.
We had first and second overall, and won every stage. I lost third on GC at the finish of the criterium. We had made Genevieve Jeanson work hard and she rode great. It was impressive and she moved into third overall.
As I mentioned in my first journal, I had hoped that the training in Phoenix would help me on the Acacia Park group rides. It was a joke, but every joke has some element of truth to it.
Since I’ve started working full time this year, I need to take advantage of any training opportunity I can get. My yardstick measurement of fitness is how well I ride on the local group ride. I was actually surprised in Phoenix how much fitness I had considering I started training again at the end of December. So, I had hoped to see my SRM readouts with some pretty high wattage today. My day did not go well.
I started the day by driving down to the Starbucks where we all meet. I had packed a bag full of everything that I might need for the day: a duffel bag full of stuff. One thing about being on a pro team is that you never are at a loss for clothing. My back seat looked like a mini bicycle shop with really cool clothing. Unfortunately, I forgot socks.
I ride with orthotics and I can’t stand the way they feel without socks. I almost thought about going home, but I like the social part of the group so I decided to tough it out. I should have taken this as a sign of things to come. Needless to say, I got my shoes on and was on my way.
The group started as normal. We rode out of town and the pace picked up. There was a good crosswind and so things went to the gutter. I was near the front and after some of the guys took a few good pulls, I decided to try and go.
I had one guy with me. We rode away pretty fast, so I think they slowed up a bit. We were going hard and my legs actually felt okay. I was happy because I was supposed to try and go hard today. We caught this guy named Tim, a guy who always comes on the group ride on a recumbent. He can go fast on the flats, but it is a little scary at other times with the recumbent being so low.
Tim is a regular, and one of the characters that makes up our ride. The other cyclist and I were pulling through. Then my legs started to feel bad. I could only sit on the recumbant’s wheel and the other cyclist was killing me. I was suffering like a dog.
After trying to pull through I told the guys that I felt “like $#*&” and decided that I was going back to the group to try and recover a little. As the group caught me I realized that I had a flat. My legs went from feeling bad to the bouncy feeling of the bike when it has a slow leak. As I was heading to the back I realized I had no pump on my bike. One more thing I forgot.
One of the guys in the back quickly gave me his pump. He was going to wait but I told him to keep going and that I would meet up with the group at the turn around (there is a section of out and back where the group meets up). Luckily I had the kit on my bike and quickly changed my flat.
There were a few groups that passed while I was working. In the beginning the groups were so focused on getting back on that I don’t think they even saw me. As the distance between the group and the stragglers grew, people became pretty friendly. One woman ended up stopping and then riding with me once I got going. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, and I was grateful that she stopped. We ended up having a really nice time catching up… literally and figuratively.
As we got closer to the turnaround we spotted the group coming towards us in the distance. I was thankful that we would be in the group again. There had been a lot of wind, and I was looking forward to sitting in for a while. I also needed to find the nice guy who gave me his pump. I didn’t want to get a reputation for stealing people’s equipment! I finally found him and gave it back to him. The group started to pick up some speed again, and I felt good. I all of a sudden had that bouncy feeling again. No way- I flatted again.
I pulled over for the second time. I knew that the woman (Linda) that had stopped before was still behind me, so I decided that I could use her pump. Now the problem was that I didn’t have another tube. So, another nice guy who was behind the group saw me and stopped. He gave me a tube, and I proceeded to change the tire. Unfortunately it was a 26-inch tube. He had accidentally grabbed it, not knowing that was what was in his bag. I told him not to worry and that he didn’t need to wait. I was okay. I knew that Linda was still coming.
I was starting to worry that maybe Linda took another route. She was taking way longer than I thought she should. Another group of four ladies stopped and tried to help. They gave me a tube and I changed the tire. I found a nice staple in my tire. Lovely. So, I started to pump up the tire, only to find out that the valve stem was broken. Linda finally pulled up. I had thanked the other women for stopping. They only had a short time to ride, and were concerned that the weather was coming in quickly. I told them not to worry. They were going to have an awesome tailwind heading back to town. They took off. Linda had circled around to try and find her friend. (Kerry-ironically he was the guy who had lent me his pump). She had gone back way too far, and he had actually turned around to find her. They waited for me to change the tire and then we were off. By this time, the wind had completely switched. Oh man, I felt bad about telling the four women that they were going to have a tailwind. I hope they turned back quickly and didn’t take my advice.
My point with this whole story is that sometimes you can get more out of a group ride than a good workout. I got the chance to catch up with an old friend, and got to meet a few more. Tomorrow is another group ride. I will have the chance to try again, and bring a lot of extra tubes to give to all the people who helped me. What could have been a real bummer – had I let it get to me- ended up being a nice ride that finished up with a well-deserved cup of coffee with friends.
In fact it was so nice that I didn’t even mind the parking ticket I found on my car when I got back to load my bike….