Saturday, November 10, 2012

My stretch of glory

The North Huon Road:  a fine stretch of gravel.
For almost every cyclist, fast or slow, competitive or commuter, there strikes the occasional desire to test the legs. For most of us not of the lyrca clad set, who entertain no illusions of Tour de France glory, the urge may seldom be strong enough to rise much above our normal pace, save for the occasional sprint through the orange traffic light or the rise from the saddle up a sharp hill or the sly pursuit of a another rider on the morning commute.

Those moments, competing with no-one - barely even ourselves - are all about the joy of propelling oneself down the road at an interesting  pace for a few moments or a few minutes. That racing spirit need not be strong, nor last for long, but it is there.

Similarly, for each of us there is a stretch of road, so familiar, ridden so often that we regard it almost as our own. Every bump, each turn, every hazard and rise is mapped is so deeply ingrained in our minds that each run along them can be done almost asleep.

For me, that stretch of road is the North Huon Road. It's one of the nicest stretches of gravel road around this neck of the woods. There's little traffic and the surface is usually smooth and fast. Roadies normally turn around just before this bit without realising what they're missing, lest their shiny plastic bikes be shaken asunder by a peril we lesser mortals cannot even perceive.

So imagine my surprise when I set up a segment on Strava for my favourite slightly downhill homeward gravel stretch, to find that I was within spitting distance of being the king of the North Huon Road! Normally I'm well down the leaderboard on popular segments, thanks to a combination of a lack of ability and a lack of caring. But on my own damn road, against just 15 others how has passed that way before? I had to be in with a shot!

I made my move coming back from the shops the other Sunday. The stretch is only 5km long and with the commuter bike locked in on the top chainring, a gentle tail wind and a bit of effort I was able to hold onto an average of 31km/h for the distance, coming in two seconds under ten minutes and knocking 30 seconds off the previous best. I think I've left myself a little room for personal improvement too. That's just as well, because I can feel the hot breath of a competitive neighbour one the back of my neck, trying to take back what it rightfully mine. But for for now these fleeting moments of glory are mine. I am the king of the North Huon Road.

3504km so far this year.

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