Having ridden the first bit of the course as well as the first climb and having driven the rest made me feel a bit more comfortable about what I had gotten myself into. Yes there were a couple of good climbs but nothing horrible. The first 38km of the race was pretty much pancake flat but man oh man was it ever windy. I wanted to be conservative along here and resist the urge to hammer it. It was so tempting, the road was so nice. The wind made it difficult to keep up a really good speed - at some points I was comfortably doing 35 kph and staying within my goal wattage but when that wind came up, I was knocked back down to about 31 kph. Still not too bad. I knew I'd be able to bank some time on the way back as the wind would be at my back heading towards the climb in Greiveldange. I flew along the river, in my aero bars, making sure I drank regularly. I stuck to my fueling plan of one GU roctane every half an hour. It was quite hot on the bike course, even with the wind. I was glad I opted to down a couple of salt tablets before the swim start. As soon as I started riding, I started smiling and I don't think that smile ever really left my face for the entire ride. There were all sorts of people in the little towns that we rode through, all of them cheering or waving cowbells. The turn around in Grevenmacher was quite technical with lots of twists and turns but once we got back out onto the main road, it was smooth sailing. The wind was actually at my back almost all the way to the climb. The climb into Greiveldange was a long grinder, probably just over 1km and I spun my legs up it. I caught one woman on the way up.
But like everything that goes up, it must come down and the descent into the next little town was a bit harrowing, especially since there was a sharp turn on cobblestones at the bottom of it. I suck at descending most days so my brakes got a good workout here. I didn't think we'd start climbing right away again but we did. Another long grinder of a climb. This one was longer than the other climb and somehow we were riding into the wind. Awesome. I was coming up to the half way mark and figured I'd see some kind of timing mat. Nope. So I glanced down at my watch and saw 1:27 and change. Not bad. I had hoped to be a bit faster but the two climbs really slowed me down. I knew there wasn't much more in the way of long climbs so I hoped to be able to pick up some speed in the second half of the course.
I got to the top of that second grinder and expected a downhill but that didn't really happen. We were heading into farm country. We went through another little town so there we're some more slight twists and turns. Then it was back into farmland. This was where we got some awesome little sections of rollers and false flats. We then rolled into another small town that I remember driving through; Moutfort. I knew after this town we'd have some good sections of country road before we hit Syren and another little climb. I figured we'd ride along country roads but no, there was a Marshall directing us to get onto this random path. Ok then. I rode through this tree lined path and then came out to a field. It was super fast through here so I hammered along. I was singing the chorus to Rush's "The Enemy Within" OUT LOUD as I rode along:
I'm not giving in to security under pressure, I'm not giving up on the promise of adventure, I'm not giving up on implausible dreams, experience to extremes....experience to extremes.
To You, is it movement or is it action? Is it contact or just reaction, and you....revolution or just resistance, yeah you! It takes a little more persistence to get up and go the distance...
I was singing out loud and grinning like an idiot, I was having so much fun. I had conquered the swim and was feeling really good on the bike. The scenery was beautiful and it was a glorious day, I couldn't really ask for anything else.
The bike path ended in Syren and we made our way through here quite quickly. It was basically ride into the town and climb the nasty little hill there and get back out onto country roads again. I was riding with two other women through here, one if whom I passed on the climb. Yes! It wasn't easy to pass folks here, there were a LOT of very strong female riders. I pushed up the climb and rounded the bend to come out onto another country road when all of a sudden I heard my name. What the..!? I look over to see G sitting there with his road bike and his iPhone out trying to get a picture of me. I was already smiling but seeing him made me smile more and I yelled "see,I'm smiling" as I passed him. His response was classic G: yes, I see, now ride faster!
Gotta love him. He even got a few pics. Looks like someone could probably get a little more aero...
Once we left Syren, we got back onto a smaller road that went through farmers fields. This road was absolutely spectacular. It was mostly flat with a few small rollers and then some really good long descents. I flew along here, it was awesome. There were some pretty decent crosswinds that popped up every so often which kept me on my toes. I still felt pretty strong and I think my fuelling plan was working perfectly. From Syren we went through Filsdorf, still flying along. I couldn't get over how awesome the roads were that we were riding on. From the course descriptions that I had read, I knew that there wasn't going to be another climb until we were leaving Mondorf-Les-Bains so I had a bit of time to enjoy all this free speed. The crazy part was that there were guys passing me like I was standing still. Amazing.
I passed the Casino and the aid station in Mondorf-Les-Bains and knew that I had just over 20km left. I told myself 40 minutes max. I couldn't believe I was almost finished the bike course. We wound our way through the town and then I remembered we were coming to that steep descent with the hard right turn. I started to slow down. Sure enough, as I turned the corner the road started to drop. Oh boy. I rode the brakes and went over to the right. More guys were whizzing by me and taking that turn at almost full speed. I went squeaking around the bend, riding my brakes. As soon as we made that turn, the roads changed. At that point I knew we were in France. I remember one of the race reports had said that the quality of the roads wasn't that great in France...he wasn't kidding. It was chip seal. Ugh. Luckily we weren't on here for too long. The course went along country roads again and then made its way into the tiny town of Contz-Les-Bains. There was a decent sized group of spectators hanging out at a cafe, all ready to make some noise for the riders coming through. They had cowbells and were cheering for every rider that went by. I came rolling in and waved my arms in the air. That drew a huge cheer from the crowd and had me grinning from ear to ear one again. We came down a road and started to snake our way along the river. I was getting closer. Before I knew it we were in Schengen. I had less than 15km left. I was starting to feel a little mentally fatigued. I was almost ready to be off my bike.
I had ridden this part of the course a few days earlier with G so I knew exactly what to expect. Completely pancake flat. And into the wind once again. Awesome. I hit the 80km mark,glanced at my watch and did the math. I started to push the pace. There was no way I was going to make my 2:50 time goal but there was a good chance I'd come in sub 2:55. I was riding just above my prescribed watts for the last 10km. That probably wasn't the smartest thing but I just wanted to be done. I passed a few more ladies along here. Woohoo! My Garmin clicked over to 90km. Still no turn off. What? A few seconds later I saw it. Yessss.
Bike time: 2:53 and change for 90.1km
This went a little more smoothly than T1 did. My spot was right by the bike exit so as soon as I got in, I racked Scotty and started running. It probably would have been smart of me to take my cycling shoes off but I wasn't thinking. I found my red transition bag right away and ran into the tent. I grabbed my running shoes and socks and then dumped my helmet and shoes in the bag. I slathered my feet with Lush's Ultra Balm, pulled on my socks and shoes and headed out for my favourite part of any triathlon....the run.
Stay tuned for the final leg....we're heading out for dinner.