Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Long Ride (or Many)

Skål! To getting to the top of Grefsenkollen, one of Oslo's favorite cycling challenges. 

Since I last wrote about becoming a bike lady, I have fully embraced this new-to-me sport as mine. In June I was preparing to participate in my first (and so far only) bike race, a distance of 132 km (about 83 miles). My goal was to finish under 6 hours, but I really had no idea what when happen when I got out there on the road.

Well, I blew my goal out of the water and absolutely shocked myself by finishing in 4 hours 45 mins. The key to going much faster than my training pace was actually being part of a group of cyclists the whole race, a hodgepodge collection of single riders that all kept the same pace and helped each other along. During the Tour de France these groups are known as the peloton, and now I understand the benefit of spending time in the middle of the group before taking your turn at the front.

Proof. I did it!

I didn't even realize at first that this was what was happening. I started out the race at a comfortable but fast pace, passing a number of riders on the slow long hill out of Gjøvik. After cresting the top and heading downhill and through some flats, I finally looked back and realized that I had picked up about 6 or 7 riders. I had created a make-shift peloton and could now drop back and enjoy a rest. This rotation continued for another 50-60 km before it was down to just 3 of us (the others had dropped off along the way). I decided that I had no chance if I lost these two guys, so I stuck with them, only stopping for a shot of coffee and rhubarb soup when they did. It worked, they forced me to keep going, let me draft off of them, and helped me to finish much quicker than I might have otherwise.

Me and my trusty bike riding partner/guru (and our bikes) enjoy a post-ride meal - Kebab from Carmel Grill

Fast forward a couple of months and nearly 1,000 kilometers of road riding around Oslo. I have gotten to know my bike,  conquered the hills around Oslo, and been on a 100km women's only group ride through Rapha (a cycling clothing company). I have ridden in the rain and in the sun, enjoying the joys of both.  I have spent way too much on cycling clothing and watched the Tour de France, including the women's La Course. I am officially obsessed.

A group of ladies and their bikes enjoy a mid-ride snack. 

All weather is biking weather - showing off my stripe with Oslo's Bjørvika neighborhood in the background. 
Rain, rainbows, and perfect roads. Out for a Friday evening ride.

This weekend I went out for a long ride by myself and discovered amazing views and wonderful roads, even though getting there meant a long uphill climb, fighting some traffic and taking my road racing bike onto some off-road gravel paths (option 2 was battling heavy highway traffic with no shoulder and blind corners - no thanks). Even when I was tired and my muscles were burning, I was smiling. So I think I will keep doing this crazy sport and I have a feeling that I have many more kilometers (and bikes) in my future adventures around the world.

The Strava version of 95km around a huge chunk of the western forests of Oslo. 

Solihøgden, the top of a long hill about 40 km outside of Oslo (see map above where there is a mini photo of this same shot). 

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