My friend (and Tour de Gruene teammate) Dean (a former national champion) told me several years ago that he knew that in the future he would no longer be as fast as he was (that year). Dean is three years older than me, and at the time still whipped my butt in both road races and time trials. As best I remember, I was 66 and he was 69, but it could be a year either way. As predicted, for the past couple of years my time has been better in the 10k time trials, and once or twice in the 5k. He still whips me in the road races. There is no rancor, it is just a fact of life. And sure enough, when I hit 68, I, too, knew I would not be getting any faster. It was more a matter of slowing down at a lesser rate than my competitors. The ego takes a hit, but if you know it is coming, it softens the blow.
I bring this up now due to my practice ride yesterday. It actually came as a surprise to me, but it has been sixteen years of regularly doing my "hill' workout. Ideally once a week early in the year, then slacking off. Generally, this takes in the range of eighty-five minutes. I factor in wind, traffic lights, and whatnot, plus what gears I used on Courtyard and Jester, and arrive at a good assessment of my fitness. Most of the time, it is one less gear on Jester than Courtyard.
I'm taking the long 'way around to get to my point. When I first started, I had a standard 52/39, or maybe it was 53/39, crank and 12/27 cogset. It took all the gears for Courtyard. I turned 67 and switched to a compact crank 50/34, but it still took all my gears. A few more years had me in a triple, 52/39/30. Then I went to a 28 small ring. Then a 28 cog. On good days I have a gear left on Courtyard.
Earlier this year, for the first time since 2008, I pooped out on Courtyard and had to walk the last (20%) pitch. Subsequently, I have succeeded in the ascent but the handwriting is on the wall. My next upgrade, probably a year away, will have lower gears.
And this is why I'm an ardent advocate for Senior Games. If we continue to age without debilitating injury or disease, then by competing against those in our own 5-year age groups, we have a generally level playing field. Truthfully, as Dean and I are witnesses, in the upper groups even a two year difference is significant. Because our muscle mass deteriorates doesn't mean our desire to race does. We have fun, take less risks, and celebrate just finishing.