January is cycling’s most humbling month.
The summertime fitness that peaked in early September has been eroded by ennui, bad weather and shorter days. Seasonal sloth and holiday over-indulgence add girth.
Suddenly the effortless sprint along the flats becomes a slog for survival. Strava is no longer your friend; it’s a heartless reality check.
Time to shape up.
Friday’s third edition of the FRF’s celebratory New Year’s Flask ride started in a thick, icy fog. The roads were slicked by thin sheets of white frost, our cheeks burned from the chilled air.
October and November had been good riding months. But December’s dreary weather and busy schedule meant I had only two rides in my legs.
But some in our FRF peloton had barely been on the bike since the season ended.
So our route would be flat, the pace languid. With stops along the way to warm bellies with alcohol.
As we headed west, the fog thinned. The wan sun started to warm us. The pace quickened.
But there were hazards in the shadows.
An ice patch disguised as a harmless wet patch claimed a rider, sent him crashing to the road with a clatter. We all stopped as he collected himself, assessed the damage to himself and his bike. There was none.
Acclimated to the chilled air, relishing the burn in our thighs, we pressed beyond our first turnaround point.
The roads were busy with other cyclists of a similar mind. One even packed a small bottle of champagne in his bottle cage.
Everyone exchanged greetings as we passed. It’s January, we’re on our bikes; how can we not be in a good mood?
But somewhere along the return leg, the energy stores suddenly expired. All those potatoes and gravy and sweet treats of Christmas week had taken a toll and now it was time to pay. A spirited sprint in the sunshine turned to a grim grind back to the warmth of home.
A flat straight stretch of road along the Fraser River where the summertime pace often touches 40 kph seemed more like quicksand that dragged some of us down to barely faster than 24 kph. Conversation stopped. Only two things now mattered; get home and get warm.
Strava told the tale; the ride was 20 degrees colder and two kph slower than the same route in May.
There’s plenty of work to be done.