Challenge accepted: The Daang Reyna individual time trial

Sometime in November 2017, my VPx teammate Ariel Dumlao thought of creating a little challenge in order to inspire our teammates to become active again. He had our mutual friend Mario Ramos take care of the prizes, while he talked to me to write up a set of rules. What he had in mind was basically a couple of individual time trials, one in Daang Reyna, and another further south in Nuvali.

The idea struck my fancy. I’ve been riding a lot on the turbo trainer; except for a couple instances, all of my December riding was indoors. After all that time in the pain cave, I wanted to see how much I had improved.

But first, let’s look at the mechanics of the challenge.

Most cyclists would know about Strava by now – the website and app that lets them track their riding, route data, and various other statistics. One functionality peculiar to it is “segments,” which are highlighted routes in particular areas, and are subject to competition. Each segment has its own leaderboard, and the titles “King of the Mountain” and “Queen of the Mountain” reserved for the fastest male and female riders out of all participants for that segment.

For the VPx challenge, participants will be performing an individual time trial (ITT) of five laps along the Daang Reyna loop – a 20.7 km effort all in all, and already conveniently possessing a segment under its name.

It was only on January 7th, the first Sunday of 2018, that I was able to get on the saddle for a proper long ride. As usual, I would be riding the 25 km from my house to Palazzo Verde, near the end of Daang Reyna fronting the irregular rotunda leading to MCX. In preparation for the time trial effort, I took it easy, but still at a pretty brisk 22 km/h average pace. I would wait for my other VPx teammates there, then set off.

After spinning a light gear while sitting on the wheels of the VPx paceline, I upped the pace and started the ITT effort after the U-turn at Palazzo Verde. The challenge rules discouraged drafting off other riders, and I intended to respect that, so I acted as a solo breakaway.

The outbound leg of Daang Reyna leads to a small rotunda nicknamed the “Lollipop,” which branches off to roads leading to San Pedro in Laguna. This outbound leg is also a “false flat,” set slightly uphill. Push too hard here and you sacrifice performance on the faster downhill inbound leg, so I used to restrict myself to a 25 km/h limit.

Today, though, I would not be having any of that. Outbound, I kept a pace of at least 28 km/h, spinning a light gear at very high cadence in order to avoid prematurely burning out my legs.

Lou Mendoza of VPx on the inbound leg of the Daang Reyna loop.

Once the Lollipop approached and I leaned over for the U-turn, I put down the power as steadily as I could, and gradually built up speed for the inbound leg while keeping as low and aero as possible. A crescendo to 40 km/h within the final 500 meters before the Palazzo Verde U-turn was my target…where I had to do my strategy for the outbound leg once more, and repeat the whole cycle for five laps.

The Palazzo Verde U-turn is the main uncontrollable factor along Daang Reyna. While it is part of the segment, sometimes stopping here is inevitable while waiting for crossing traffic to clear, so this area will have an effect on the segment time.

On the saddle, I felt surprisingly strong. Keeping this blistering pace before would have seen me give out after two laps. Yet here I was, putting the hammer down even harder, and I had a lot in reserve, although I felt the familiar burn of built-up lactic acid beginning in my thighs.

With subsequent laps, I seized my moments and raised my speed to 29-30 km/h toward the Lollipop before looping back. By the fifth lap, though, I was starting to fade slightly. I went one cog easier to avoid succumbing to side stitches and calf cramping, but summoned what I had left to muscle my way inbound at 41 km/h.

After the U-turn at Palazzo Verde, I was spent. I limped along and spun very easy gears at 18 km/h as I completed my cool-down lap back to the Palazzo Verde parking lot to recover. I still had at least 25 km to ride going home, and another 8 km to ride for an errand.

So, what was the result?

I posted a new personal best, beating my previous effort by almost two minutes.

A few VPx teammates sat on my wheel for the first two laps of my ITT, but peeled off. They told me I had become stronger as a rider.

I’m four minutes down on teammate Patok Dormiendo, who is VPx’s current leader around the segment and a powerful rider in his own right. I don’t mind, though. My “fast bike commuter” mindset was always a little different compared to the VPx folks, who are generally more interested in training for cycling events, duathlons, and triathlons.

Personally I’m just glad to see that I did make some gains after all. On the ride back home, even badly surfaced concrete roads couldn’t stop me from cruising 3 km/h faster than normal. I may have gained some weight, but I can feel a significant portion of it was muscle.

I actually goofed with the segment; I just recently learned its start/end point is actually at the Lollipop and not at the Palazzo Verde U-turn. All the more reason to try the five-lap ITT again and see how much better I can do.

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