I met Geraint, Colin and Gary at SOMA this morning at 11am for a team training ride. If the weather has been anything, it’s been consistent. Consistently challenging. But we approached today with the same sort of indifference that seasoned riders gather after years of discipline. We were planning on motorpacing today after about an hour and a half of riding. But, the specter of motorpacing in February conjures up many feelings-mostly deep-seated angst as mortal rider is pitted vs. an unfeeling machine. So the group was just slightly off balance as we began our ‘warm-up’ in 35 degree temps under gray skies.
I have had the good fortune of learning the nuances of both ends of motorpacing back in the mid-1980s as a young(er) Cat2 racer. I was having trouble making the leap from Cat 3 at the time. I was OK, but barely hanging on at the end of the big races. I had the power, but not the sort of extended-top end required to stay up front in national caliber events. I was living in Vermont and I had a motorcycle that I used for commuting to work at the bike shop. I had just gotten the call to race for a regional Cat2 team and we had done some drafting behind our cars, but it was dangerous and the driver was disconnected from the cyclists. So my training partner and I set up my Yamaha 400 Special with a touch bar for safety and a bike rack to carry a bicycle. We would train for a about an hour and a half each through the valleys in the Green Mountains.
Today, we designed a short warmup ride to swing back around by my house after an hour-plus of riding. My computer indicated 22 miles and an hour and 15 minutes. At the west end of Bethel, I split off and went back to my house, took off my wet upper layer, unplugged my battery from the charger, threw on several layers of winter wear and headed out to Anderson to meet the trio. I was wearing a ski mask and a cycling helmet so that I could easily communicate with the team. My motorcycle is a bit bigger than I am used to for motorpacing so today was a little experimental. It’s a Suzuki 800 Intruder cruiser. My goal today was to be able to take the team safely through a speed workout that was challenging but not exhausting. Also, I wanted to learn where the speed pegs needed to be set on the little rises and descents on our 10 mile out and back on Anderson.
We kept the rules simple. The driver (me) was in charge of the experience today and responsible for the safety of the team. When I had to shift, and there was a slight engine braking of the team I would ease the clutch and gas the throttle to maintain our speed. If there was a car behind us I would beep once as it approached. I would wave the car by when I thought it was safe. I would keep a keen eye out for holes and debris in the road. In situations where I couldn’t communicate with the train behind me, I would speed up and away from the group until it was safe.
So today’s final result was that we topped off our ride with 10+ miles of high quality work. We averaged about 25+ mph for the 10 miles. We spent most of the flat middle sections at just below 30mph and the boys were up to the task of managing the slight variations in speed as their trust and confidence increased. Toward the end, we were cresting the small climbs at 20+ mph. The line tightened up and the tempo of the group was synchronized. About then we passed a large group of students riding the other way. They were spread out across the road, a patchwork of jerseys. A smile came across my face as we hurtled past them in single file. A precise, disciplined team training with a purpose.