My commute is pretty ho hum... 11.3 miles each way on mostly scenic roads. Net uphill on the way in, downhill on the way home, but both ways offer some good climbing. I've been doing this ride for 5 years or so, 3 times per week on average and let's just say that the excitement isn't there like it used to be, but I do recognize that I am lucky to have the health and resources available to make it happen.
Three weeks ago I was on the fixed gear bike heading to work when this guy on an older litespeed blazes by me. I had seen this rider before, but usually in the afternoon. He's always in full length tights, always with the same one size too big hi-viz Pearl windbreaker, always motoring along pretty good but he was usually headed the other way so how do you really know, right? Well, here he goes by me like a shot on this long downward pitched false flat that follows the final major downhill to work. I'm spun out in the 42/16 and who knows how long this guy had been hunting me down. "Take advantage of an undergeared fixie" I thought and vowed my revenge next week on my geared bike.
Exactly one week later riding the cross bike I turn onto the hill that precedes the descent I mentioned above. There's Mr. Day glow about 300 meters ahead of me.... my turn to lock the tractor beam on. The effort to catch him was massive, he didn't see me at first but wasn't just cruising along. As we made the left turn towards the top of the hill he spotted me when he checked to see if the coast was clear of traffic. He backed off a bit, and I rode up and asked him if he was commuting or just riding. He settled in behind, said "just a morning ride" and rode my wheel while I tried to recover from the first part of the hill.
There is perhaps 90 seconds of flat road between that left hand turn and a little chopper that brings you up to the top of the final descent into work. As we hit the base of this rise, Johnny Litespeed swings out and drops the hammer, taking off up the hill in what can only be described as an "attack." I was pretty tired and could not respond fast enough to catch any advantage from a draft either up the hill or as we began the descent. He was pulling away, and while doing so continually checked over his shoulder to see where I was. He'd turn back forward and put his head down. There is no doubt this guy was trying to loose me and for the most part, he did.
Not that I'm super competitive or anything, but while commuting last week I admit that I was looking over my shoulder more than usual to see if he was coming up. Never saw him ahead or behind me. The nerves were high for a rematch.
This morning, as I crest the top of the hill on my fixie he goes by, and drops into the super tuck to try and get away.
Not this time.
The lack of a taller gear and the ability to glide in a compact tuck meant that he was going to gap me on the descent and he did. He glanced back at the base of the hill and put his head down again, keeping the pace high on the false flat down hill. After what seemed like forever, I reached the base of the steep part and went into Eddy Merckx 180 rpm spin cycle mode. It took me about 1.5 miles but I brought him back just as we reached the entrance to work.
What a great ride.
See you tomorrow Mr. Baggy Jacket?