Here is a number.
So that number represents a preview lap of the Central New Hampshire Road race in Bow, which I rode on Thursday on my Langster (42×16). I noodled. Sort of. The hills were very tough in this gear, but I rode fairly conservatively for nearly the entire lap. Probably one mile to go I started hammering to get out of a sudden downpour. I wrapped up in a deluge, but definitely had the presence of mind to hit my lap button right at the start finish line, so I know that time is pretty solid. I checked last year’s results and 2 hours is the tail end of the field, and I’m thinking I have that beat on a geared bike nooooooooooooo problem.
This race was to be my first road race ever, and I figured why not – it looked to be about a 2-hour effort at worst. I can do that. But three laps of 11 miles with 1000 feet of climbing per lap was no laughing matter. But even still I liked my chances; I had been climbing like a hero the last few weeks and felt this would be a good opportunity to see if I could use that talent in a slightly different discipline.
Lap one: I am definitely ready to crap my pants. Plus I have already been thoroughly dealt with by the ornery race marshal because I didn’t wear both of my numbers on the back of my jersey. I attempt to defuse the situation with comedy, which was definitely not working in my favor. We are led up the toughest climb of the loop by a pace car at what seems to be a conversational pace. Why am I already barely hanging on? Within a few miles the only thing running through my mind is lanterne rouge lanterne rouge lanterne rouge.
Lap two: I’m feeling slighty better. It hardly matters since I am now in a race against less than five people trying not to finish last in my division. At the base of the biggest climb I can still see the main group, yay! But the moment I crest it they are long, looooong gone. I’d love to puke. I’m praying for a mechanical, but I know it will never happen. Half of the lap I spend in a complete downpour at 30-40mph downhill for several miles with my eyes nearly shut to keep the rain from slapping me in the eyeballs. Now that it’s wet maybe I’ll crash, but I doubt it.
Lap three: It’s a miracle, although not the one where the entire peloton’s wheels go flat and they all abandon. On the biggest climb of the lap, I pass at least one rider near the top, even politely offering a “good job” on the way by. However, this same guy has been absolutely destroying me on the descents all day long. Surely this victory will be short lived. I am absolutely wailing on the bike through the last 2 miles, partly because I know it’s about to be over, partly because I know that if I have actually passed anyone on the course, they’re now probably right behind me, waiting to decimate me. Incredibly, I finish ahead of three people. At least that’s what the results said.
So that number I showed you before – 40:11. That number, times three, represents a total finishing time of approximately 2 hours if I rode the entire race on my singlespeed. It would be pretty damn hard, but there’s no question it could be done.
My finishing time in the race on my geared bike – 1 hour 55 minutes.
All of that pain, suffering, intestinal distress, anxiety, general discomfort, malaise, vertigo, nausea, ensuing days of fatigue, soreness, lingering irritability, general contempt for the sport, second-guessing of my very existence as a human being – was worth 5 minutes. About 1:40 per lap. All of that work for 9 seconds faster per mile. You’ve gotta be kidding me.