A hilly start to the route of 44 miles and the split in the group was bound to come early as we cruised out Waterloo and approached the multi-hill stretch of Pickerington Road. I slotted in behind Jeff S and doggedly hung on through the first two hills but looking up, noted that Da Boss, Jamie, Mark C and Patrick had got a sizable gap on us. Uh Oh, Jamie riding away was not good but not much I could do about it. Steve O began pulling away so I tagged along and we struggled to the highest of the peaks with a temporary gap on Ryan R, Jeff S, Dennis and 1-2 others. I was toast and unable to pull through and drive the pace Steve had set so just drafted behind him as we crested the final climb and coasted down to the stop sign, where we were joined by Ryan and Jeff S and another guy whose name I don't know but wearing an HTC Columbia jersey. We reached Alspach and turned left. I took a pull and just as I was rotating off the front, the HTC Dude jumped from the pack, began sprinting and yelled, "We can do it.", implying we could catch Jamie, Patrick, Craig and Mark C, who were visible on the horizon, as are the Rocky Mountains from several hundred miles away. It seemed pointless and I was unappreciative of any effort that emerged from the rested rear while I was in need of relief after a pull. The charge went no where but did succeed in creating a gap that I was unable to close. Soon, my good cycling buddy Dennis arrived and through mostly his monster pulls, we finally caught Ryan, Steve and Jeff in Amanda (HTC Dude had turned off the route). In Amanda, there was Craig, having drifted off the front out of consideration for a marathon he is running this weekend in PA.
We headed up the long hill out of Amanda, headed over to Justus and reconnected with Ryan R, who had cut the route a little short after the climb out of Amanda. This move subjected him to heavy criticism, some of it said in his presence (it's a tough group in which we ride). Eventually we got on to Cedar Hill and throughout, Craig was taking it easy on us and we all stayed together except for a couple of steeper sections but always we regrouped and finally reached Canal with a modest 20.5 average and 1950' of climbing. The front three of Jamie, Mark C and Patrick averaged 22.3 but clearly Patrick had been the strongest.