I guess it had to happen, eventually, as all things must come to an end. For years on our tandem we feasted on glory and success in charity events and group rides, you know, highly competative Cat6 races. I look back fondly on the abuse we were able to dispense to the peloton at the MS Cape Tour when we used to compete in that ride. People feared our team, and not just the people on the hybrids either. No, there were hoards of middle aged dentists on spiffy carbon-fiber bikes with aero-bars that also felt our wrath. It is with a tear in my eye that I recall all of the times we would gloriously steamroll right over the top of the Friday night CRW social ride (aka. the smackdown) screaming back home on RT225. Those tools didn't know what hit them; just a blur of minivan gold from the Cannondale missile built for two.
Well, it all came to end this past weekend, not with a blaze of glory but with a whimper of defeat. We (I) decided to bag MTB racing on Sunday and instead head out early and go bandit on the CRW climb to the clouds route. Yes, I know, I should have registered for the ride but it sold out before I got off the pot. We are members of CRW though, and didn't actually stop at any of the rest areas (that would be admitting weakness anyhow) so I don't feel too bad. We'd done much of this loop in the past though never completely. With the temperature in the mid 90's on Sunday and the sun hanging high in the sky, conditions were tough. It was also breezy, which only made a difference in a few strategic locations.
Off the bat I was working really hard to keep moving at a pace that I felt we "should be moving at". The first couple of hours were a struggle but we were making pretty good time and maintaining a respectable 20mph avg. It was in Sterling, at Davis Farmland that I came unglued. The terrain is wide open and the sun was baking there. It is also slightly uphill with an omnipresent headwind. This makes it feel like you are not moving at all, yet working really, really hard. This was bad, I felt much shame as nothing I did, nor how hard I struggled helped. Regardless of how hard I tried, we were still barely moving at all. I reflected back to visions of flying along on the tandem and was befuddled as to why it seemed so very difficult at this moment. What happened? What has gone wrong?
When we came to the junction for the 80 vs 100 mile loop in Sterling, I knew the score and what was still ahead, so opted for the shorter 80 mile loop, admitting defeat. Even this decision proved difficult and by the time we were in Harvard, I decided to veer off course and head the direct 20 something miles back to home. I was completely encrusted in salt, dehydrated and could barely pedal the bike. Not just my legs were giving up but my body in general and my overall coordination. Worst yet, my will to continue and fight was broken. It was a very long and painful ride home from there, to which I contributed very little.
The truth is that the tandem really isn't that fast on anything but flats or downhills. On any extended uphill it's a bus, slowing to a low gear crawl. Attacking up a hill takes massive effort and is typically not a sustainable venture. Our week of tandem rides earlier this month proved this. If the climbs are really steep, such that everyone is struggling, the difference isn't that severe but on those mid level/length climbs that one can push it up over with a single bike, the tandem is dramatically slower. Power climbs are a toss up. If momentum can be carried, you can keep a good solid pace up them and often are at an advantage over a single bike. Anyhow, we have do a lot of miles on the tandem over the past month. Most of those miles involve large amounts of suffering. I can't say that I'm really anxious to get back onto it in the near future.