Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Rest of the Ride

As I said a post or two ago, I did not walk any more descents, but I walked a few climbs, some of them long, meaning I may have walked for 10 or 15 minutes. I could have ridden them had I had a clear road in front of me but often I did not. There were thousands of riders doing l'Eroica, and many clustered in front of me.

I told you that I had (and have) a 39-tooth inner chainring and a 26-tooth largest rear cog. That was enough for l'Erioca's hills, but it was just enough. Because the roads were dirt and traction somewhat limited, I had to sit on the climbs. A few lower gears, meaning a triple crankset, would have been helpful, if not period or appropriate on a mid-'80s Gios "racing" bicycle.

On the descents, many of which were long, steep and winding, I had a death-grip on the brake levers. My forearms grew tired and began to hurt from the strain. I have old but lovely Dura-Ace sidepull brakes with the appropriate levers. They are good brakes, but not nearly as good as today's double-pivot road brakes.

I wished for more powerful brakes on those descents, but remember: I had limited traction. If I'd had more powerful brakes, I might have locked a wheel and scared myself or crashed. Remarkably, I saw very few crashed riders during the event. I think most people thought of l'Eroica as a ride, not a race.

It was up one dirt hill after another with dirt descents in between. All the stuff I thought was so crucial: my shoes and padded bar tape and my choice of shorts and jersey, none of it mattered at all. I just tried to keep the 39-26 turning on the climbs and tried to keep the speed under something like control on the descents.

I saw Larry and Heather a few times out on the course. I could climb a bit better than either of them, but they just flew by me on the descents. Many times on the descents, there were crosswise ridges in the dirt road. The ridges tried to take the bars out of your hands. My handlebars had been in place in the stem for a year of riding, I believe, but those bumps caused the bars to rotate in the stem.

At a rest stop, all a blur in my mind, we asked an Italian mechanic to tighten the stem's pinch bolt. The bars have never moved again.

I remember eating something at a rest stop. I remember drinking something, probably water, but I can't recall if I drank from my bottle while underway or drank at the rest stop. I suppose I was in some state of distorted reality. Too much planning, too much money spent, too much uncomfortable flying, too much worry.

Perhaps I used to be lighter-hearted about trips like this one. In those days, because I was a cycling media hotshot, someone else made all those decisions and picked up the tab for airfare, lodging, bike rental, even meals. I could afford to be relaxed. I wasn't going to be any more broke when I got home than I was before the trip.

I could say that if I decided to ride some event like l'Eroica again...or to go to the Isle of Man for the TT motorcycle races, Tamar and I would try not to make the same mistakes in planning. We'd be wiser.

But who knows? We might make just as many mistakes, but they'd be different mistakes. My presence has been requested by California friends at l'Eroica California next spring. Probably a two-hour flight. Friends in San Luis Obispo who might put me up. Sounds great. See you there?

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