The big cycling event for me, for the past 5 years, has been the Tour de l’Alberta. This ride (not a race, though some people consider it as such) is the largest single-day ride in Alberta, with 1500 riders participating this past Sunday in 5 km, 15 km, 50 km, 100 km, 150 km and 185 km routes. It is put on by the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club (EBTC), the bike club that I belong to, and is always held on the final day of the Tour de France. Since Edmonton has numerous French communities scattered around it, the routes are planned so that we pass through a number of them north of the city (Morinville, St. Albert, Legal, Bon Accord) to give the ride a French flavour. The lunch stop in Legal even serves tortierres!
For the first 4 years that I rode it, I did the 100 km route with 3 or 4 other members of our ski club cycling group. More of our members rode it but were either faster or slower than my group, so we didn’t see them until the rest stops or the finish.
This year, the club decided to add a 150 km route to the menu, so I though I would go for this challenge. Only one other rider from our regular group, Wayne, figured he was in good enough shape to try it too, so at least I had some company.
EBTC holds weekly training rides to build up speed and endurance over the summer but, due to weather and/or other commitments, the longest ride that I managed was only 96 km. Even though I got in over 2100 km of cycling on the hybrid and road bike since May, I was not too confident in my ability to chew off a 150 km ride. After all, it was over 50% longer than my longest ride this year. Hell, my longest ride EVER was only 105 km. A randonneur I am not!
I had 2 main concerns – legs and butt. I have experienced leg cramps a few times in past tours, usually around the 90 km mark, but always pedaled through them for the last 10 km. If that happened this year, an extra 50 km would not be much fun. As for the butt concern, I was having second and third thoughts about the seat that came with my new bike. Even on our normal 50 – 60 km rides, my sit bones would be yelling at me! I tried different cycling shorts and even chamois cream, though chafing was not a problem, but(t) my ass and the saddle just didn’t want to get along. Too late to buy and try a new saddle, so I donned my most comfortable shorts, greased up, and off I went.
Check out the 150 km route and my metrics here.
I had been telling myself to start slow and feel things out – give the legs time to find a rhythm, stand up and shift around a lot to give my butt a break. Well, I did the latter all right but the former? Not so much. We averaged 32 kph for the first hour, which may not sound too fast to some people but it’s pretty fast for me, and averaged 29 kph by the 140 km mark. We slowed down considerably for the last 10 km and finished with a 28.7 kph average. And no leg cramping! The constant shifting around on the saddle seemed to help too. My butt was getting uncomfortably sore at around 130 km but nothing I couldn’t handle for another 20 km (actually 23.7 km. They lied – as is usual with these rides, 150 km turned into something longer. In this case 153.7 km).
The only bad part of the ride was I got a flat when I hit a pothole hiding in a puddle. It had only stopped raining an hour before the ride, so there were lots of puddles to start the day. We were in a paceline of 6 or 8 riders and by the time someone ahead had his water bottle knocked out of the cage by the impact, it was too late for me to avoid the hole. Unlike the TdF, no team cars were following so Wayne and I changed the tube and were back on the road after not much of a delay. All in all, a very good day. I slept well that night. And with even more respect for the TdF riders who do much longer rides at much higher speeds for days on end. Asses of steel they must have.