share. learn. thrive!
Last weekend myself and 2509 other cyclists lined up to ride the Valley First GranFondo Axel Merckx in Penticton B.C. The cyclists were spread out between three different distances. 1,590 rode the 160km GranFondo. 785 rode the 92km Medio Fondo and 135 rode the 50km CortoFondo. Although each cyclist, in each category, rode the same route, in the same conditions and on the same day, nobody will have the same story. Here is my story.
I had three reasons for riding the Fondo. I wanted to be at the finish line to congratulate my clients who had trained for four months for the event. It is always exciting to hear about their own experience while it is still fresh in their memory. Personally I needed to ride the Fondo as my last training ride before I left on my cycling trip to the Pyrenees on July 12th. I could have ridden alone but that wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun as the camaraderie of a big group ride. I find it exhilarating to be able to pull together with a large group of riders to complete a distance in the fastest time possible. To me this is fun.
My day started at 4:30am. I had rented a house for my team on top of Apex Mountain where the cool air made for great sleeping conditions. The thirty minute drive into Penticton gave me time to enjoy a coffee and wake up before getting my butt into the saddle. My group was spread out between different distances and different levels of riding ability so I was unsure who my new riding partners were going to be. I was soon to find out.
As we rolled into Gyro Park, Steve King was already in full swing, announcing the day’s events, promoting the sponsors and allowing a few words from the man himself Axel Merckx who also did the ride.
From the moment I left the Penticton for our first 60km loop I knew it was going to be a good day for me. My legs felt fresh, the sun was shining and after the first climb, I managed to jump in with a fast group of guys (and one girl). We worked a single pace line, allowing the front rider to pull for less than a minute before rotations. This lasted for 70km until I had to stop at the third rest stop to refuel with water and Honey Stinger waffles.
As soon as a new pack of riders came through I was off again, now with a new team, led by a man named Kelly (last name still unknown). I was later to find out that Kelly, had survived a plane crash only eight months earlier and had just finished riding the Trans Alps. His story was truly inspirational. With much thanks to Kelly, our new train picked up lone riders along the way, including a girl named Jen (last name also unknown). The reason I mention the women is because I don’t see a lot of women when I ride so I always get excited when I get to ride with other girls.
My second and last rest stop was at 115km at the Fairview Mountain Golf Course. I quickly refueled with another Honey Stinger Waffle and two fresh bottles of water. I had been extremely hesitant to stop because I knew I would lose my peloton of riders but I also knew it was more important to be properly fueled. Having reviewed the profile earlier, I knew that this was where my ride would actually start. Anything up to this point was simply a warm up for the series of four climbs that would determine if I had gone out too hard in the beginning.
The secret weapon
Three weeks earlier I had borrowed a compact crank from my friend, Nic Nastic for my trip to the Pyrenees where most of the rides will include grades of 10-15%. The compact crank is a shorter crank than my regular 172 inch crank which allows for a faster cadence on steep grades, preventing muscle fatigue on the long rides. This was to my advantage. The only problem of being able to climb faster was the fact that now I was all alone. I had two choices: I could wait for a team to catch up or I could try to sprint ahead to find a new team. With only 40km left to ride, I risked the chance of trying to find a new group ahead of me.
Now it is a race
Now that I was close to the finish, I had a new goal of finishing under five hours. With each person I passed, I told them to jump on, picking up as many people as I could to form a new train. Once we had five new riders, I dropped to the back to recover. One by one we would lose a rider but pick up a new one as we made our way along the 97 highway into Penticton.
The end is near
The last 5km felt like it stretched on for hours. With only one person left in the train, we rotated every 30seconds trying to keep the pace over 30km/hr into the headwind. I watched the time tick away and pushed harder to finish under my goal time. And so we always seem to find energy for the kick to the finish, giving me four minutes to spare. My final time was 4:56 placing me 9th female overall and 4th in my age group.
This is only one story out of 2509 who all rode with me that day. What was your story?