I joined that local Wednesday night ride for the third time last night, and it seems I am strong enough to make a showing, at least. After three years in the Pioneer Valley searching for a group that is neither too fast nor too slow, I think I've finally found one. We rode up into the hills above Northampton, and, after going flat and fast the first two outings, I got to find out how my climbing stacked up next to riders I've been getting to know. This is the benefit of a regular group; I begin to sort out how fast I actually am, instead of constantly wondering, without anyone with whom to compare.
This is one the slowest of the rides the Northampton Cycling Club sponsors, although everyone agrees (perhaps self-servingly) that it's not a true "C" ride, because NCC is simply a bunch of hammerheads. You may discount this argument, having heard it before, and that's fine. I'm buying it -- it's the way I sleep at night. For what it's worth, most of us in the group have been B or even A riders in other clubs in other locations. Why NCC is so amped up is a question for another post. I have tried their B rides more than once, and been unceremoniously dropped -- I mean those guys were flying, in a double rotating paceline, and constantly ramping up the speed.
So, okay. Here's the verdict: Currently, it looks like I'm faster than most of the (relatively) slow, but not all of them. Some guys in this group are more hardcore than I am. For now. When they peel away on the flats, they stay away, and I'm caught chasing them, solo. When they make a move on a steep hill, I have trouble keeping up with them -- but again, I'm far ahead of the "peloton."
With that said, I did discover last night, to my pleasant surprise, that I am far and away the fastest descender. I'm either stupid enough or skilled enough (I like to think it's both) to hammer through steep curves others brake into. The extra few pounds around my middle probably don't hurt either; gravity is your friend, kids!
I can't help feeling like being the fastest descender is sort of a condolence prize -- "You're not really in shape, but man, you sure can eat up those downhills!" But you know what? I'll take it.
I know. I've become one of those bloggers, posting excruciating details about tiny, invisible victories and defeats no one who wasn't there cares about. "But enough about me; let's talk about what you think of me!"
So sue me. I'm having fun trying to beat people -- something I've ached for these four years, since I swung my leg over a saddle for the first time in 25 years. The folks are super-friendly and the competition is just fierce enough, without that nasty "I beat you so I deserve to live -- for today" edge.
I've made a date for a ride this weekend with a couple guys from the group who're faster than me. Everyone better be looking for me over their shoulders on Wednesday nights. After all... it's only July.