Saturday, March 15, 2014

Are We Having Fun Yet?

In my previous post, I outlined my intention for this year to put the fun back into cycling. With visions of group rides, stage races in a far off land (New York, Vermont, and Quebec are far-off for me), and fun-filled day trips, I optimistically filled my Summer calendar with just about every fun cycling event I could fit in. But with the crappy weather we've been having, I look at that same calendar for this month, every day filled with yet another trainer workout, and ask myself 'Are we having fun yet?'

Getting close to mid-March, I had expected to be riding outside by now. Instead, we get yet another snowfall.
Considering the unplanned extension to my Winter training, I've been coping surprisingly well. Having a hard date of April 5 for the first A race of the season, none other than the unforgiving Tour of the Battenkill, will do that to you. If it wasn't for that, I don't think I'd be as diligent about completing my scheduled workouts. It's amazing how strong a motivator that fear of "being noncompetitive" really is. It's caused me to dutifully continue my daily trudge down to the basement for each scheduled workout.

My "pain cave" has become an all too familiar haunt over the course of the past 4 1/2 months.
I've learned to keep my time on the trainer comparatively short this year with most workouts lasting between one hour and an hour and 15 minutes. If there's one thing that can be said about trainer workouts is that they are very efficient in terms of training time. You can get a pretty decent training effect over the course of an hour and 15 minutes on the trainer. But, dammit, I am more than ready for a nice outdoor ride in comfortable conditions. Yet, that ride looks to be a long way off. A quick check of the long range forecast doesn't offer much  encouragement with daily highs barely above zero through to the end of the month.

The long range forecast shows daily highs barely above zero.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, back in September of last year when I registered for a Tour pass for the Tour of the Battenkill and Tour of the Catskills races. Now, as I'm cranking out those all too familiar intervals, I find myself wondering what the heck I've gotten myself into. The Tour of the Battenkill is a fun race when the weather is decent as it was last year but in the tradition of the "classics" it's also a tough race with a number of significant climbs. And with less than 3 weeks until race day, I have yet to get in an outdoor ride this year. That's less than optimal preparation for a challenging A race.

The Tour of the Battenkill is a fun race with numerous gravel sections like this one but it's also very challenging.
Lest I convey the idea that all is doom and gloom, I have to confess I'm actually somewhat excited. Today I picked up the frame of my beloved Masi road bike after having it repaired. There is at least one advantage to not having any long rides in the near future. It gives me time to rebuild my Masi. It will be nice to have both a training bike (Masi) and a dedicated race bike (Cervelo S2).

The lack of outdoor ride time has given me more time in the bike workshop.
The other thing that has me excited is what's on my calendar. Rather than doing the usual series of O-Cup races this year as I've done that past couple of seasons, I'll be focusing on a series of stage races in Vermont, Quebec, and New York state. I did the Coupe Des Ameriques stage race last year and it was a blast. Moreover, these races tend to cater to my strengths as a cyclist, including at least one time trial stage and with road races that include a number of challenging climbs. Assuming I can get back down to the weight I was at last Summer, this gives me a competitive advantage whereas most of the O-Cup races result in sprint finishes and I've learned that sprinting is not one of my strengths.

While my Summer calendar is filled with many interesting and fun events, the front end so far looks rather gloomy

On top of the stage races, my season this year will also have a number of interesting cycling-focused activities including: an annual Muskoka weekend with the Usual Suspects, Rideau Lakes Tour again with the Usual Suspects, a day trip to the Annual Buttertart Festival in Midland (probably also with the Usual Suspects), separate day trips to visit my sister near Barrie and my parents in Kincardine, and a week-long cycling getaway with friends (most of which are the Usual Suspects) split between the Lake Placid, NY and Stowe, Vermont. So, yeah, the weather sucks right now and I'm feeling somewhat unprepared for my first A race of the season. But "are we having fun yet?" Well, I'm trying to keep an open mind :) Stay tuned!