Great rides in the Tour of California last week, in which some of the top teams, domestic and international, raced through the first miserable conditions in the race’s history — cold and drenching rain, as well as a virus, caused riders to abandon in droves. A well-deserved win for Levi Leipheimer and the Astana team, which has been singled out for punishment for its previous incarnation’s doping evils by the Tour de France organizers, and a great showing by Slipstream-Chipotle. I’m so hopeful that the efforts of Astana, Slipstream, CSC and High Road will lead to clean racing and the end of this decade of scandal. (And in reply to Michael Ball of Rock Racing’s lament of “What are we? The low road?” I would say that yes, I think you are. More arrogance is not what cycling needs.)
But all those miles of misery suffered by the riders last week inspired me to take advantage of yesterday’s bright sun and momentarily mild 40-degree temperatures and get in my earliest ride ever. I warmed up on the Kreitler rollers first, and then took a quick half-hour crank around the neighborhood at full steam, just to show myself how out of tune I am. I finished the fall in high style and great condition, and even had some novelty rides into December, so this will have been the shortest layoff ever. I’d be lying if I said I had been committed to the rollers all winter — riding the garage is hard to get excited about — but I did spend time on the silly video game bikes at the Y, and even did some of my sporadic running, so the off-season wasn’t a complete loss.
But I did quickly remember why winter riding just isn’t a great idea around here — other than the fact that drivers don’t expect to see you out there, there’s ice and water all over the roads, the shoulders are filled with sand, stone, salt and debris that hasn’t yet been swept away, and the wet often hides new, gaping holes in the pavement that must be avoided at risk of life and limb. Still, even if I don’t get out for another week (we have somewhere between nothing and 7″ of slushy misery coming today), I broke my earliest ride record by nearly three weeks, and matched last season’s record of only having failed to ride in one month. These things are important when you’re 47 going on 15.