You don't drive 6 hours to ride anything but the century but after arriving at the high school for the start I began to have doubts. Not knowing the area and not having a map was a problem. Did have a cue sheet but if you get off the route good luck getting back on in this very rural area. I also left my pump at the hotel and SAG service was one old geezer who looked like he was going to find an anonymous location and get some sleep time. Lastly, there were only 35 people, 20 for the century ride so if something did happen, I probably could not count on a bunch of people riding by to help out. Then it began raining a couple of minutes before the start and the forecast was for 60% chance of rain so, at the start, one had to choose between 100 miles and 60 miles and I chose the 60 route.......I know what you are thinking.
The first 7 miles was all down hill and I slotted in with 4 other guys, one of whom had a long, flowing beard but this is the heart of the old Confederacy so not unexpected. Think of General Stonewall Jackson in lycra and you get the correct image. We hit the first short hill and Stonewall and buddy got out in front of us but not too far and we regrouped. Then came a longer hill and the two got out again but soon tired and I caught and passed and had a small gap but was reined in. All along we had exchanged normal banter and we were having a good time. One guy stood for a long time while climbing a hill and I asked if he had hemorrhoids, getting some good guffaws from the others. One guy rode his front tire into the rear tire of Stonewall and I thought he would go down but because the roads were wet, so too the tires and that must have kept him up. Stonewall said, "I know you want to stay close but that's ridiculous."
Then came a 2 mile climb with 3-4 ramps at 12-13% and here I put in a really good gap, arrived at the 26 miles rest stop, grabbed an apple slice and fig newton and took off, just as the others arrived with shouts of, "Don't be anti-social" and "We're supposed to regroup!" I just laughed and kept going, figuring the rate they descend as a group they'd catch me anyway. Thus began one of the most enjoyable down hills I've experienced along I think Dry Creek road. For many miles I followed a 1 1/2 lane road, nicely paved, along a roaring stream cascading over rocks into multiple pools, surrounded by dense forest with a canopy that sun rarely penetrated so the hill side was covered with ferns. With the cloudy sky and blocked sun otherwise, it was kind of an eerie scene. I kept expecting the other 4 to catch but once I turned left on a new road, climbing began in earnest and I began thinking I might stay away.
I crossed the finish line and was embarrassed they made such a big deal about finishing first. Someone from the local chamber of commerce was there and took my image, asked me for some quotes (I said I owed it all to the Thursday New Albany group ride) and said to hang around as they had pizza coming. I had to go though and rode back to the Gristmill Inn with 60 miles, 5100' of climbing and a finish time of 3:42 (they didn't record the time I crossed the line, instead when they thought to check the clock, duh, so the official time is 3:48). I know, pretty sad time but good enough for this crowd.