I always attempt to enter the spring cycling season as strongly as possible, usually with mixed results. As much as I had more access to winter cycling in Madison due to their plowing of bike trails and ubiquitous salt usage (up here they only groom for skiing and rarely use salt anywhere), I often had to ramp up early in the season to break in my legs and lungs for longer rides. I believe the opportunity for intermittent winter cycling (I have never owned a snow bike) was just enough to keep me off the treadmill. Why run a 5k a few times a week if you'll be able to get on your bike a time or two?
When I moved up here I realized how much more difficult winter cycling is if you don't commit to a snow bike, so I quickly found myself jumping on the treadmill here and there during the winter. I decided to give a spring triathlon a try, which means swimming laps soon followed. As much as running and swimming definitely generates fitness, it doesn't necessarily feed into strong miles on a bike. The cardio strength is there, but the precise cycling muscles need to be rustled from the their slumber.
This winter I xc skied about 6 times per week (8-9 hours total) in hopes of staying in shape and embracing the winter, both of which happily worked. I had also read that the muscles involved were nearly identical to those used in cycling. Holy cow is that true. I've only been back on my bike for a week but I am amazed at how in cycling shape I am. It's a wonderful surprise. There is a very steep climb nearby (Stuckagain Heights), that I often use as a barometer of my strength on the bike. When will I be able to make it to the top without standing during the grinding climb? It usually takes a month or so, but this year it happened on day one (and I turned around and climbed it again immediately after the first attempt). I am very pleased and really looking forward to the triathlon in 7 weeks. The next challenge will be climbing Hiland Road in Eagle River. That is earmarked for this weekend, assuming the road is ice free.
It's also very exciting to come back from my ride at dusk and notice that the clock is just turning 10pm.