I knew I was in trouble when we hit the bottom of the hill out of Corrales.
It was hellaciously windy day, so we’d dropped down into the valley for some protection. But there reaches a point where you run out of valley. We were about 90 minutes into the ride, and I’d been hanging on for dear life most of the way, trying to hold onto someone’s back wheel. Once I lost it and got out into the wind, it was hell to get back on, and the guys I was riding with are pretty fast.
They’d always stop and wait, mind you, but you don’t want that – distinctly not macho.
Corrales is a little rural village on the edge of Albuquerque, cottonwoods along the river valley bottom. There’s a back road through town that’s big and wide, with a bike lane most of the way, but at the end you end up out on Corrales road, which is narrow and busy, so we were in a single line. I, of course, as had been the case for most of the day, was last.
Corrales Road at the north end of town winds left and kicks up into a little hill out of town. It’s not a long hill, but it’s become something of a badge of honor to bust out a good, quick climb before we stop in the gas station parking lot at the top to regroup. This is the hill that Jaime once raced a front-end loader going up. Jaime won.
I was sitting on the back (note the above reference to “hanging on for dear life”), and I could see Jaime getting itchy, slipping out to the left a little, looking for a chance to jump. When he he hit it, I made a vague attempt to get on his back wheel, but who was I kidding? I looked down at my heart monitor, saw it hit the red line, and shut it down.
That’s the way it went from then on. We’d be climbing these hills into the wind ? not big hills, but the wind made them big ? and I’d try to go with them, and they’d end up waiting for me at the top.
It was a pretty humbling ride, one of the hardest I’ve ever done. But when we finally hit the top (“top” defined here both in terms of altitude and wind gradient) and made the turn for home, we were flying! For one stretch, a favorite road that rolls across the open desert west of town with the panorama of the Sandia Mountains to the east and our city laid out at their foot, I led the train. I enjoyed that very much.