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Updated January 22, 2016 | By Bob Fugett

Impossible, and yet...

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It was one of those perfectly bright mid-summer mornings. The sunlight was clear and strong but not nearly oppressive, just perfectly clear enough to give all the leafy passages that protected the road winding up to West Point a more lustrous luminous sparkle. Otherwise it was the bronzed warmth of open air.

Up through this alternating scene of shadow and light, at some distance past the overlook which spread the broad slow moving Hudson River below, something special was happening, but only a few of the riders knew it.

The Black Widow was spinning a climb.

It was the heyday of cycle sport in the northeastern United States. Within a radius of 50 miles from this very spot were found a wealth of climbs and cuteness rivaling the very best that Europe could offer.

Nobody believed the Widder could do it—her 23+ Widder's Hump (which that day's ride preambled), because the process she was following was so different from the established norm that it was in effect invisible to most other riders.

However, on this morning she had set her attack with precision, and was carrying it off as if by rote.

The Black Widow's day job name was Mary Endico, and she was a watercolor artist by trade. Her paintings hung in museum permanent collections, and she had sold nearly 20,000 watercolors over a long career showing no signs of ending. Hard competitive cycling was her hobby. It was her release from the intensity of the art world.

As for her cycling name, she received the nickname Black Widow (what the local bicycle club called a nom as in nom de guerre) almost the moment she began riding.

Her first serious road bike was all carbon and black, and she was always outfitted all in black. Her black cycling shorts and jersey were not purposely matched to her black bike. They were just the first things off the rack when she made her first bike shop purchases. She hated to shop.

However, purchasing her obsidian black carbon bike was a divergence from her shopping antipathy.

She had been looking for an upgrade bicycle for weeks, and tried a few, but when she saw this one hanging in the stairwell of a local bike shop, her nostrils flared and she smiled, "That's my bike."

She got that bike on purpose... for a purpose.

She would show up to rides where newbies assumed she was just another weak old woman, so they hardly noticed as she dogged their wheels the entire ride, but at the end (through their shaggy exhaustion) they quickly saw the truth.

Her first ride leader (the person who nommed her) once commented, "Yeah, that's The Black Widow. She'll suck your wheel to the end and have you for lunch."

The name stuck as the number of riders to suffer the Widder's sting, bite, and disembowelment increased steadily ride by ride over the years, but Mary remained an oddity. She was just an old woman riding with younger men.

The irony was that even though she was assumed weak, she was actually a lot weaker than anybody imagined.

In fact, on this very morning when she was spinning above and beyond the group, her recent tests had shown she was performing at 5 seconds with less power than an untrained woman.

On the other hand, by 5 minutes she was holding the sustained power of a Cat 3 Racer... for MEN!

On that morning, very few had a clue what the numbers meant, nor exactly how they translated into her present situation—that of being well ahead of the group on a long and challenging climb.

Her heart rate was low, her spin was smooth, and to the other riders it looked like not much was happening... that is until they began dropping off and away behind her... which they did one by one.

The tools and technique she was using would soon be more widespread, but on this particular morning it took a subtle eye to see what was unfolding.

It is still unclear if anybody present really knew, or if later they were only pretending they knew all along.

Mary was well on the way to her 23+ Widder's Hump, and in the several months leading up to that day's  preparatory training ride,  she...


But first a tiny but powerful formula: t @ P/W.

Actually before that a brief historic perspective on the development of Widder's technique.

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