The ride on day 7 was tough. I decided today to go out with the boys to hammer. My thought was, that it was the end of the week and I might as well put it all out on the line and see where it takes me.
Boy howdy did we hammer. The B group left with at least a 45 min head start before we left. We started with the first couple miles at a tempered pace to warm up our legs, but it wasn't long before the pace began to gradually climb. Then, we were off. In the flats I could mostly keep up with the pace line, but I could only barely hold on when anyone surged. If you also threw in a hill at the same time, I popped right off the back. More than once I started to think this was a mistake. The pace line initially rotated a fair amount and I unfortunately found myself upfront early in the ride. I started a countdown in my head -- my goal being to hang on for 30 seconds before heading to the back of the pack. I made it to zero and pulled off the front. However, as soon as I moved aside the group surged. I had anticipated them picking up the pace, but even with my mental preparation I couldn't hold on. I was off the back and chasing within the first 10 miles of the ride. Luckily there were a few sharp turns that let me catch back up and I latched on to the back wheel.
We were off again.
My entire focus was on simply holding that wheel. I have no idea where we were riding or what was around us (which was amusing to ride on the way home because I didn't recognize any part of the course). There were a few sections I did pretty well with hanging on, but I'm not going to lie - I definitely fell off the back several more times. I quickly realized whose wheel to follow and whose to ignore. Some of the guys had a very active style of riding, bopping on and off the wheel in front of them not really worried about holding a line. Whenever I ended up on one of their wheels, I was left on my own and then would fall behind leaving me to chase. At some point I saw John point to his back wheel, which I am pretty sure meant that I should hang on to him. I lined up behind him and enjoyed his draft and predictable line for what felt like an eternity. I used this chance to breath a little bit and try to relax my legs even though we were still flying.
At some point we hit a section of the route with sweeping, rolling hills. I say sweeping because these were no ohio rollers! They were long climbs with paired descents. This section was a blast to ride through. Though I fell off the back of the train, I hammered my way through this section at full power. I wish I had a cyclometer, I am kind of curious how fast we were going ...
After 1 hour 45 minutes, we caught up with the slower group ahead of us. I was never so happy to see the rest of them in my life! In hind sight I was glad I went with the A group for the morning, but wow was that a tough ride!! I made sure to hang out and do the touristy - picture thing for the rest of the day.
We didn't actually make it all the way into Malaga, but we could see the city and the ocean off in the distance. It was really quite a gorgeous ride, though I guess we didn't have an "ugly" ride while in Spain!
At the end of the ride I had to give my competitive buddy one more push. We were speeding up the last little rise to our hotel and I pulled up alongside him. Smiling I said, "come on, let's go!" I took off and heard him groaning in frustration as he chased me down. Right before we got to the turn to the hotel one of the other guys caught up, but I managed to hold Andy off :-).