After a month of taking it easy, Feb was the start of Base 1. As usual, that would be the week I had to travel and so the first week went by with only 1 ride, a short tempo effort on the trainer.
As things worked out, I was in the hill station of Lonavala the past weekend, and made plans to come ride with the Pune Mafia over the course of the week.
I cycled down the 50-odd km from Lonavala to Pune on NH4 on Monday, enjoying the smooth blacktop but suffering a little in the heat. Plans were hatched to ride (read: suffer) over the next couple of days.
Tuesday morning 7am found me bleary-eyed outside my hotel in Aundh, waiting for Sumit, aka Cowzilla, to show up. We cycled up deserted streets to Chandni Chowk, climbed Piranghut Ghat, savored the nice fast descent and then did the 3km Mutha Ghat climb and down the other side for a good 35+km segment. After snacked on some munchies, we rode back along the not-so-deserted streets this time, arriving back in the hotel by 10:30 or so. The traffic, while busy, was very well-behaved and overall, it was a very enjoyable 70km ride, more so by the fact that we stayed almost entirely in Zone 2 for the most part and clocked in 700+ meters of climbing in the process.
Wednesday was the infamous Lavasa climb. The Might Manster deigned to grace us domestiques with his presence and loading up our bike in 2 cars and picking up Sumit, we drove to the starting point (which was our turnaround point for the previous day's ride). Despite the late start (past 7:30am), it was freezing cold and I was shivering as we started the ride. A few km later, I was no longer shivering but huffing and puffing as the road started pointing up - and seriously up. Average gradients in the 8-10% range, with 13-17% segments meant that this was a mofo of a climb. Cowzilla and Manster were, of course, specks in the distance ahead and Yrs Truly, weighted down by the twin burdens of the Guads, was climbing slowly and laboriously. Finally the damn top came in sight, and I rode in to see Sumit nonchalantly sitting on his bike, looking very well rested. Damn. At this point, Boni headed back to work, while us irresponsible non-productive types kept cycling. The 10km descent down to Lavasa was fun but always, I was aware that what goes down must come up... and sure enough, the return climb started with a charming 10% gradient. Hallelujah. This side of ascent was relatively easier, however - barring a few short segments in double-digits, the bulk of the climb was single digits and we rode up relatively easily and in Zone 2 for a change (the previous climb was a mix of Zone 3 and 4, with some 5 in there for a good measure). The descent on the other side was an exercise in braking - for some reason, my normal downhill mojo was missing and I was very cautious. Sumit and I caught ourselves trying to up the tempo a little on the flat section between Lavasa and Mutha, and, with visions of being RNaired for our lack of discipline, we slowed down and rode back to our starting point at a mix of Zone 2 and 3.
My Garmin showed 45km and 850m of climbing, so we decided to get to 50km and cross the 1000m mark. This meant another ascent up to Mutha - after Lavasa, this was relatively easy and lulled me into a sense of complacency which made me ask Sumit if he wanted to sprint the last 250m. The Guads, ever powerful over short distances, accelerated me a little faster but then Sumit Let The Cows out (Moo, Moo Moo Moo) and just blasted past me to the top. I paused to re-insert my lung back into my body and followed him in to the top. We did 49.7km with 1000m+ of climbing and that was it for the day.
After a rest day on Thu, Sumit, Pranav and I were planning to do a relaxed Zone 2 ride again on Friday. Pranav was a little delayed and as we waited for him at the streetcorner in tight and colorful clothes, we kept looking around to see if a pimp was gonna come by and slap us around. When Pranav showed up, I think both Sumit and I were a little antsy with all the sitting around and this ride became a bit of an attackfest. I got off my first attack (on a downhill, where else?) and after that, it was the Cowzilla Show.
If you try to attack Sumit, he responds by ripping off your legs and slapping you with them. Repeatedly. And just when you think he is done, he rips off the other leg and slaps you some more. I was in a world of hurt on the climb up Mutha Ghat and went back to the comfort of Zone 2. After a Coke on the other side, I got my legs back and paced myself up the climb and then held a nice, steady pace all the way to Chandi Chowk. I had to get back early for some personal work, so took off at that point and stayed in a steady tempo pace all the way back to my hotel, getting a thumbs up and a salute from some guy in a scooter for my pains. :)
Saturday, we were planning a nice 100k+ ride to Lonavala and back, but Friday night, I was exhausted and the thought of waking up at 6am yet again was more than I could bear, so I called and bailed.
We were on for Sunday, however, and this time, we were joined by Thorsten, Sumit's training partner, a triathlete with a sexy-as-sin Cervelo P3. He's also in early base, and we all made polite noises about how we were all out of shape, in base, needed to ride slow and disciplined, but we all knew - there would definitely be an element of testing each other on today's ride as well.
Off we went, warming up for a bit till we hit the Bypass. Pranav - who was under the impression that this was to be a Zone 2 ride and was unaware of the sussing-out that had happened already - also joined us at this stage and we were off. The pace kept increasing and I hopped behind a goods vehicle and drafted it at 45kph for a few km before easing off and letting the others catch up. Sumit and Thorsten had a full head of steam by now, and charged away soon after, leaving me and Pranav trailing them. Then the road flattened a little and I decided to bridge up, with Pranav not too far behind. Then came the big climb up some Ghat and the turnaround. The way back, while still rolling, was downhill overall, and now, it was just a fast ride. We pacelined all the way back, with Cowzilla doing yeoman's work as always. At one point, he flicked his elbow for me to take over and moved aside... except that he had gotten the pace up so high that there was absolutely NO way I could have moved ahead of him at that point. He kept looking back at me expectantly, and I refused to make eye contact. Finally, he gave up and got back to the front of the paceline and kept us motoring for a bit longer. Being slapped by your own legs hurts.
This was my idea of a good ride - fast riding on smooth roads, getting my legs ripped off, and good company to boot. A great way to end my Pune week.
Now week 2 starts, and I have plans of trying for a personal best 100km tomorrow. Let's see how that goes.