Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TPC stage 3: The Descent to Group C

First of all, some business to attend to. Although I realize this should be a technoblog with lots of data about the ride, I would be remiss to ignore the cultural aspects of the Spain we are riding across. I don´t want to force this on you though and like any author the blogger should know his\her audience to provide information that they would find most valuable. Blogger actually provides a mechanism for measuring this in the form of the Comments. So far the "My Barcelona Bano" blog, in which I described my bathroom in a Best Western Hotel by the airport in Barcelona has received almost 3X more comments than any other single posting. So it seems that you want more bathroom blogs. But you´re not going to get them, not from this blogger who happens to also be exerting himself beyond your wildness imagination.

Second of all, another observation about Spain. I¨m writing this tonight on a hotel computer in Catalonia, and to my astonishment the Catalans have adopted the QWERTY keyboard, which is greatly simplifying this effort. They also have other idiosyncratic diacritical marks, but fortunately they are sequestered in remote corners and don´t often come into play.

Back to the ride. Today was cold and I flatted on the first climb, hitting a rock about 30 yards before reaching one of the support vans. Did Mike the driver secretly try to sabotage my day by planting the stones? This is the kind of paranoid thought that arises when you´re burning 7000 calories a day. Actually Mike was just about to take off, so it was fortuitous it happened right there. He jumped out and actually changed the tire for me, which is the kind of service you get when you´re paying $$$$$$$$$ to ride a bike. He also saved me some time, since with my dislocated thumb and splinted middle finger and growing Dupuytren´s contractures, changing tires is not something I look forward to or do well. The rest of the ride was tough but doable and I finished in fine form, but with the C group. It´s clear that I can´t climb with the A´s and even got dropped by the B´s. C is where I belong for now. But since this is a tortoise-hare type event, don´t count me out. I spent a lot of time in the granny and peddled comfortably the whole way, just not fast. There were basically two major climbs today, the first 25 km, the second 15 km, plus several amazing descents includine the last which was 40 km. The quality of the riding is better than France in my opinion. Very remote areas with great roads that get very little traffic. Just the bikes and the road.

I have come to some key insights about myself as a cyclist. Most importantly, I don´t really know how to ride a bike. I´m most comfortable in the big gear, which basically destroys legs on mountains like these. I don´t know how to ride in cadence. Descending terrifies me and I do so the way I ski, that is, not well at all. All the descents here are spectacular and technical, and every time I enter a curve I expect to be hit by a Mack truck coming the other way. I know there is a way to do it, but I am not able to, and don´t really want to. So there: Phil Murphy who rides his bike all the time doesn´t know the first thing about riding a bike! Feels good to have insight into oneself and to make it public. Sort of like going to Confession in the old Catholic days. But don´t worry, my incompetence should not be construed as recklessness. I´m actually very careful, and slow. What I really like is some nice simple flat where I´can hammer away at the big gear til it hurts, then stop and go home feeling victorious. But that´s not cycling.

For you ride fans, here is our daily schedule:

Breakfast at 7:30
Start ride between 8:30 and 9 depending on the group. Since I am now C, this blog will have to end soon, because I have to start 30 minutes earlier than the past 2 days.
Ride til about 5 pm
post ride mtg at 7:30 to go over the next day´s ride
dinner at 8
bed NOW!

I´m feeling like I can do this, and with all your advice and support I will!


George said...

One way to look at this is that we've adapted to the terrain where we do most of our cycling, so you're a great rider over rolling hills and the flats. If we lived in Colorado, we'd spend a lot of time climbing and descending (not sure I'd prefer that), and gradually become efficient and technical doing that, likewise if you'd completed other mountain tours. So reset expectations and consider this to be your extended learn-how-to-bike-in the-mountains tour. It's a learning experience!

Do respect the descents, remember the pros practice them in order to get the angles right (or have other pros' descents to trace). At today's stage of the Vuelta a Espana (which also included 2 categorized climbs) there was a nasty high-speed crash leading into the final sprint when several riders got squeezed. Can you imagine ending a hard days biking like that?

The cycling commentators used the expression "pedaling square" to describe climbers who've lost their mojo and fluidity -- so "keep it round" Phil!

Lance said...

Brownie! Sounds like you are doing very well! Yes, you need to avoid moving the big gears on climbs, as you will quickly burn out. There is a sweet spot for 4-6 percent and a slightlty different one for higher grades and with that triple you should have no problem on any grade. Getting a steady rythmic cadence is the key, one that you can sustain over 25 km climbs!! I am so jealous, because I should be there beside you in the C group, fast pedalling up those climbs. Sounds like the support is pretty good, need more data on what they are providing in the way of food, drink along the way. I wish you had a GPS unit too so we could see the days climbs in full glory. Next year (i know you will want to repeat this ordeal).....keep the blogging coming, its my favorite thing after a long hard day on the belchway and too much time in the mines.....sigh...

Lance said...

OK, got on trainer tonight for a whopping 25 minutes! Thought of you over there the whole time...legs feel pretty good! Hoping to be able to do the Seagull! Those descents sound like crazy fun, particularly if the roads are in really good shape. Are there any massage therapists available at the end of the day??

cprussin said...

I guess major life insights come fast and furious when you are barreling down those roads at warp speed.

My first realization that you did not know how to ride a bike is when I realized you wear jockey shorts under your bike shorts! Not sure how to translate faux pas into Catalan.