Monday, November 4, 2013

$79.99 Saved Is $79.99 Earned

The Giro is described by Randy on the NOBC site as "the standard big group weekend training ride in New Orleans." It has been, for the 13 or 14 years I've been fortunate enough to participate, a reliable, predictable, thoroughly enjoyable ride. Except for occasional disagreements about where the official start should be or minor alterations in the route necessitated by construction or natural disaster, the Giro has been, in a broad sense, the same, week-in and week-out. Same time, same route, same warm-up, same sprints. The same. But each Giro has a unique personality primarily shaped by weather and who shows up at the start.

 My first check of yesterday's weather at about 4:15 might have, on another day, sent me straight back to bed: a "fair and breezy" 58 degrees with NE winds at 23. (I have no doubt that had a cyclist rather than an officer in the British Royal Navy been called upon to standardize the measure of wind speed, what Sir Beaufort thought of as a "fresh breeze" would have been likely termed something altogether different -- maybe, I don't know, "death wind" or "widow-maker wind" or simply "windy as shit.") Nevertheless, I had agreed to provide my wife's SUV and myself as means of transportation from the very edge of the Black Pearl to the Lakefront for a visiting far-flung cyclist. I was committed.
Final Preparations by Rich and the Far-flung at Big Rich's Gazebo
As to who showed up at the start on this particular Sunday, it was a relatively small group, most stronger and younger than I. There was that peculiar phenom, the poison-hearted 1 cyclist I ask each and every time I see to please buy handlebars for his bike. There was the welcome sight, for the first time in many a Giro, of the ever-tanned and sparkly-toothed insurance executive. There was the usual spattering of strongmen and also of those, like me, who seek the solace of a steady wheel on which to sit and hopefully survive. This week, thankfully, survive I did.

By the time we got to Hayne, the wind was down a tad and had shifted more easterly. For me, hiding in the pack, a strong ENE wind is a good thing on the way out as it tends to act as an equalizer, a governor on the speed achievable by those working in the rotation. Nonetheless, several riders were shed along Hayne and several more once the group turned south and the speed climbed above 30 for most of the way to Chef Menteur Hwy.

Heading East on Chef Hwy.

Counting the rider without handlebars who inexplicably pulled off into the marshside grass in the middle of Bayou Sauvage NWR, never to be seen again,
the peleton was whittled to just a dozen riders by the time we were on Chef.

What was an advantageous ENE wind on the way out, turned into an evil bitch of a following wind after the turnaround. While my computer's battery had failed, someone said speeds approached 35 for some portions of the ride in along Chef.

All in all, the ride was delightful, as is any Giro I finish with the peleton. This is true no matter the weather or who happens to appear at the start.

On another but related matter, I have been concerned about undue advantages gained by my far-flung friend by his training on the high valley floor between the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains in northern Utah, and after copious online research resigned to buy a Training Mask 2.0, which is touted thusly:
Elevation Training Mask mimics the effects of High Altitude Training. When elite athletes want to improve their performance they go to high altitude levels to train. When they come back to sea level they perform much stronger, faster, and have increased endurance.
I was a hair's breadth from adding one to my cart and shelling out $79.99. In the end, thankfully, I relented. Apparently, high-elevation training isn't all it's cracked up to be, or perhaps, as suggested by HL, it has been too cold these days to ride in Utah.

1. No disparagement is intended by this term. The One With No Handlebars has on more than one occasion insisted to me that his riding would be much improved if he could only rid his heart of the poisons.

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