On Saturday, I finally had a flat on the way to the ride. Luckily, it was daylight already, so I pulled over and tried to change it as quickly as I could. It was a rear flat, and although I was shifted into the gear combo with the most slack, I couldn't get the chain off the cassette. I had to get my fingers a little greasy. Once it was free of the chain, I pulled out my single tire lever, and promptly broke it. Argh! It wasn't looking good for making the ride in time.
I mentally reminded myself that I had around 30 minutes to spare...no need to get nervous. I used the broken piece to work a little bit of bead off the rim, and even though I ride Michelin Pro3's, I was able to get the tire off relatively easily. After a quick inspection of the tire, I noticed the tell-tale white, dusty residue, and in the center was a through-and-through cut. I booted it with a dollar bill, then put everything back together.
I rode on to the ride start, and made it with 5 minutes to spare. Of course, I couldn't help but think about how the official ride start time has been pushed back 15 minutes to help us leave on time. I wasn't at the team meeting to vote, so I guess I shouldn't complain.
Since the Zapata to Laredo race was Sunday, the Saturday ride was sparsely attended. About 12 of us rolled out, mostly intermediates, but with a couple of stronger riders too. We managed to hold an 18-20 mph pace as we rode southeast towards Progreso, and the wind was unusually light. We held a double paceline for the entirety of the outbound trip, and as we neared the turnaround I got a little antsy for some fun.
I noticed a couple of pulling pairs tended to push the pace to the relatively mild 20-21 mph range. I was more than happy to work with them if they wanted a little extra pace. On my next turn at the front, I happened to be pulling with one of them. I did something a little evil: I half-wheeled him until I could tell he was tiring. If you aren't familiar with half-wheeling, it's when you pull ahead slightly of your riding partner, about a half-wheel of distance, forcing them to surge forward to catch you. You then speed up a little more, and your riding partner will follow you, unexpectedly expending energy in the process. Of course, if you're the half-wheeler, you know when you're surging, so you have a distinct advantage.
But that's not all. We started the pull at 18mph, and when I half-wheeled him up to 22mph, I geared up into the big ring, and started churning. I pulled away from the group, and held a 25-27mph pace for a short while. I wasn't feeling strong, but I had put 1/8 mile gap or so on the group. Two other riders had followed me away from the group, and had been sucking my wheel, so I let one of them pull me for awhile. We held the pace until we put 3/4 mile or so on the group. Luckily, we were almost to the turnaround spot, so I slowed, made the turn, and let the main group catch me. Nobody said anything about my dastardly half-wheeling, so maybe it wasn't noticed...but I don't think so.
On the way back, we "climb" a short little rise. Seriously -- we probably gain 150-200 ft in 1/2 mile. To the South Texas folks, this means it's time to test your constitution and "race" to the top of the "hill". I knew it was coming, and when a small group surged, I joined them quickly and then pulled enough ahead that they grabbed my wheel. After about 1/8 mile, I feigned fatigue, and pulled to the side. But I grabbed a wheel, and as the group seemed to stabilize speed on the approach to the finish, I got out of the saddle and sprinted the rest of the way to the top, taking the informal stage win. Wahoo...or whatever.
Yes, it's always nice to win something, even if it's a race to the top of the hill, a city limits sign, or the county line marker. Even better to do it after starting the ride with a flat!
Here are the statistics for the ride:
18.5 avg mph
27.5 max mph
2163 kcal burned
Note that we gain/lose barely 1000' of elevation over 60 miles. Trust me -- you wouldn't notice.