03 June 2009

Disproving Survival of the Fittest: Field Testing the Validity of Social and Evolutionary Darwinism (or Cole and Justin's Rapha Ride) PARTE DOS

As overwhelming and uneventful as it may be to collect and process performance data, the benefits from analysis tremendously outweigh the tedium of assessment. While the raw numbers are of course useful in their own right, the usefulness when considered in contextual is simply astounding (e.g. food intake and performance). Increasingly reliant upon technology, numerical data, and supplements cycling (and other endurance sports) has long carried the money trumps ability monkey. While wind tunnel testing and SRM power meters are undoubtedly useful, there is an undeniable appeal to the simplicity of riding based upon feel while fueled by real food. To be fair, I appreciate the cycling computer, love to track my statistics over time, and enjoy the yumminess of Clif Bar products (most of which actually fall into the real food category; just mixed together and baked; minimal processing), but part of appeal to a Rapha-esque Ride is the testing of physical and mental limits. Stripping away all the "lack of training/not enough time on the bike" excuses, minimizing technological assistance, and riding without a parade of support vehicles (although I do sincerely appreciate the spectacular refrigerator organization) harks back the golden age of cycling and recalls the pure joy of pedaling.
Designed to be a detailing of ride statistics, the previous paragraph was clearly destined to be a call for purity in cycling. Gracefully stepping off my PED (by no means a Luddite platform; I sincerely appreciate and utilize the conveniences of modern technology [cycling and otherwise], but simply encourage thoughtfulness) soapbox for a moment and striding back into the dynamic tale of this cycling duo.With the busyness of the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) behind us, the serpentine roads of Giles County and New River scenery proved too beautiful to pass up. As a result, we captured approximately 60 photos during the first 40 or so kilometers. Quite pleased with our Rouleur-worthy photography, Cole and I quickly establishing a far too leisurely pace. Despite our lack of rapidity, an encounter with a classically rusted bridge proved too great an opportunity for staged cycling artistry to forgo.After bushwhacking our way onto the dilapidated bridge (warning: kids, do not try this at home; stunts were performed by skilled and daring professionals), the cinematic possibilities were endless. Although not quite living up to my Guy Ritchie expectations, the final product is no less enjoyable.

Shortly after this purely artistic excursion (after the photo shoot and film making, we reached the end of the bridge, which was a true and final end [the bridge no longer connected travellers to solid ground, but dropped off into oblivion; perhaps the rationale for the bright yellow locked gate and overgrown flora]. As a result, we were forced to turn around, retrace our tire tracks, complete a bit more bushwhacking, return to the main roadway, and pass the rustic bridge from the significantly more modern concrete river crossing), we stopped for a Euro-inspired mid ride espresso, bistro sandwich, and handmade pastry. With only one option in Pembroke, VA, our espressos were 12oz Styrofoam cups of Rituals Coffee, bistro sandwich was a halved (yet surprisingly hearty) Outfitter sandwich, and the pastries, well, they simply did not happen. Undeterred, rejuvenated, and quasi-Euro chic, we appreciated the kind service and enjoyed every moment at the Cascade Cafe and would gladly enjoy future refuelings at this fine establishment.
With what felt like twelve pounds of ham in our stomachs, Cole and I were decidedly less swift when remounting the bikes. Unfortunately, the road leading away from the Cascade Cafe was flat and smooth for about 2 kilometers. After quick left on Johnson Avenue and a hard and steep right on Dry Branch Road, the ride became infinitely more serious. Narrow and lacking guardrails, the roadways in this area created a distinctly European feel for our post lunch ride. Unfortunately, the scenery was not absorbing enough to take our minds off of difficulty. Still in the early stages of digesting the aptly named Outfitter (and remember, we the split this gargantuan sandwich), we suffered during the early stages of the deeply rutted and severely loose gravel climbs. Hyper-caffeinated, we were able to dodge rumbling trucks and the kamikaze cars descending the gravel roads we were ascending with all possible exertion.Steep, but relatively short, we successfully rolled over these numerous climbs. Grueling climbs however most often result in daring warp speed descents. Justly rewarded with some equally steep and curvaceous gravel downhills sections, the our road bikes quickly reiterated the necessity behind Gary Fisher's epiphany. Aside from the tragical loss of a water bottle from after my full-speed collision with a large pothole (borderline crater), we really were in good shape heading into the latter portion of the ride.Having avoided four snarling and lion-sized farm dogs and now fully consumed by the often bizarre and unusually depopulated depths of rural West Virginia, our top secret mission to locate a potable source of water turned into a desperate search for any fluid less viscous and opaque than petroleum. Churning our pedals for what seemed like and endless number of kilometers, we finally located a Baptist church with a heaven sent and life sustaining water spigot oasis.Slightly more than 90 kilometers into our ride, my fatigue (due to my serious lack of training [this 166.86 km ride accounts for about 1/3 of my total riding this season (and with the upcoming trip to Kuwait, will likely by the longest and last ride until fall)]) and mild dehydration kept the camera securely tucked inside my jersey pocket. With a medley of surfaces and cornucopia of climbs already behind us, our psychological willpower was tested time and again throughout the rest of the ride. After a number of comparatively silent kilometers of smooth cadenced pedaling, Cole and I rolled into the homestretch. Arriving in Newport, VA not only signaled the return to familiar roads, but also our arrival at the second planned food stop.Known for its surly employees as well as a remarkable assortment of fresh produce, the Newport service station was our late stage destination for glass bottled Coca-Cola Classic, Pink Lady apples, and a healthy dose of disapproving glances from store goers. Despite Cole's best efforts to trick us into believing that the remaining 50+ kilometers were "all downhill" and would be "easy," two debilitating climbs and rush hour traffic stood between us and the century mark.
In the end (so sorry, blog entries will be more frequent and [somewhat] less rhizomatic in the future), we gritted and grunted our way over the remaining climbs, arrived in Blacksburg, did a Drillfield victory lap, rode over some Roubaix-like cobbles on (yes on, not around) a traffic circle, and then promptly found some floor space amidst all the moving boxes in order to elevate our feet.

Rapha Ride May 2009...astounding success. Here are the vitals:
  • distance: 166.86km
  • average speed: 24.6km/hr
  • max speed: 73.8km/hr
  • ride time (in the saddle): 6 hours, 45 minutes, 21 seconds