In fact, the wind is not your friend. It is just another element that cyclists face when riding. You can lump it in with chip seal, gravel on the road in a turn, debris in intersections, cyclists that hit the brakes in a paceline, and other challenges you encounter on the road. The wind might be a friend if you use it to your advantage in a race or to take a rest when you have it at your back, but it hurts so much when you ride into it, if it's a friend, it's the worst ever.
Yesterday, I met Speedo at 5:30p to ride the scheduled Thursday night Team McAllen ride. Much like Austin, where the official temperature is taken in a low spot near the airport and always seems to be much lower than what everyone really experiences, Speedo tells me that the wind speed at McAllen is taken next to a hangar at the airport, and is always lower than what we really see out on our rural rides. So when I checked the wind speed history on Weather Underground and saw the below graph, I knew why yesterday's ride was so tough.
It's a bit hard to see unless you zoom into the image, but we faced winds of 15-20mph, with gusts of 25-30mph. We both think that is a 5-8mph underestimation. As we rode side by side, Speedo commented that he was leaning over about 30 degrees to counteract the wind, and that was while riding in my generous leeward side. And not only was the wind stiff, it was blowing air that was superheated: 100F at the start, 92F at the finish. If the wind was indeed our friend, it was counteracted by the actions of its weather buddy Mr. Temperature.
When you cycle in Texas, you have no choice. I know...Texas ain't the only hot and windy locale, but I write about what I know. Speedo and I faced the hot wind, and rode 25 miles. We hammered, but we could only hold 16-18mph into the wind. On the back side of our loop route, we pushed up to 35mph. Is that the part where the wind was my friend? I think not, as friends don't usually push your heart rate to 95% of your max. I told Speedo that I wasn't about to puke, but I could see the point of no return.
We did four loops, 6 miles each, and I was cooked. I had consumed 2 bottles of sport drink, and half a bottle of water. It was time to go home. As tough as these 25 miles were, I LOVED IT. If not for other commitments, I would be out there again today, accompanied by my friend Speedo and my supposed friend the wind.
For the data-philes, here's a link to my ride data. I wish it accurately portrayed the pain.
POSTSCRIPT: Perhaps I'll write another blog post about this; if so, here's a preview. About 1.5 years ago, I decided to train for and ride a 2-day ride from McAllen to San Antonio. I used a technique I've used in my professional life: find some mentors with proven ability and skills, and learn from them. I didn't tell them, but I chose Speedo, the Major, and Dutchman. I rode with or near them every chance I got, and still do. Their mentoring has been invaluable and I have enjoyed their friendship. When I leave the valley, I will miss them all.