We have ridden many Blue Jay rides with temps in the 90’s and high humidity so what a welcome relief to have a cloudy day with temps in the 60’s for most of it, although there was that gusty wind. Good turnout even with several people riding in Peletonia. Craig Butler (The Boss) was there and his challengers were Mitch T, Larry P, Joe G, Aaron (former Sausage Hill guy), Steve O and then maybe a slight notch below that were Pastor Mark, Mitch the Engineer, Mark V and many others. As officially the co-ride leader (although for this 2nd BJ ride I was a bit of a sluggard, avoiding remarking the route), I eagerly embraced the prospect of being the sweeper so I’d have an excuse to take it easy. As we left the parking lot and navigated the byzantine streets of Newark, I saw Mark V and decided maybe I would instead just suck his wheel for 65 miles so at least I’d get around the cursed route in a decent time.
The Octopus, a.k.a. Flyin Tuna, a.k.a. Cindy B assumed the ceremonial role of leading us out. Mark V, and by extension me, was well back as the lead group got to the base of Blue Jay. Out of deference, everyone continued to line up behind Cindy and the somewhat slower pace allowed Mark and I to catch on to the back of the front group. Ahead, Larry and Mitch were nervously twitching as they shot sideway glances at Mitch, waiting for him to make the first move. I actually thought about shocking everyone and taking a flyer out the front but realized that would be stupid and humiliating as everyone would surge around me as I would be left gasping. So, I just sat on when suddenly, Mitch surged , thus setting off a chain reaction. At the last second, I decided to give it a go too, but just to the top of the climb. The pace was furious and quickly a long line developed of otherwise normal people who for some reason, enjoy punishing themselves. The Boss led, followed by Mitch Tallen, maybe Joe G., then Aaron, then Larry and then me. We swept around the corner and hit the next to last ramp when I pulled around Larry, then alongside him and then….every red emergency light and emergency horn in my system simultaneously erupted and I began spewing oil. I limped to the top of the last ramp and alone now, enjoyed the coast down the hill, waiting for multiple catches and passes of those behind. Steve O passed me, which is expected but then no one as I wobbled up the next steep hill and began coasting down its back side. As the road rose again, Engineer Mitch and Pastor Mark passed but I had recovered neither the endurance or desire to catch on and watched them ride away. I decided to see if I could get to the end of Blue Jay before the next catch occurred and did and then once turning on Brownsville, I decided to just plug along at a consistent pace and wait for a good group to come along and draft off them. As I approached the last long hill on Brownsville Road, I heard voices behind me but once at the top and turning left at Flint Ridge, I looked back and saw no one. What the heck, maybe I’d pick up the pace and try to reach Zanesville without being caught, doing some solo work and settled in for the long ride down Poplar Fork to #40 then a quick jog to Mt. Perry road down to Coopermill. I had regained eye contact with Mitch, Mark and a 3rd cyclist but they were about 200 yards ahead as I gained the tail wind on Coopermill. As I rounded a turn, there they were, having paused to figure whether to go left or right at a fork, Mark, Mitch and Aaron. What a great group of overly competitive types, all seeking to destroy the others whenever we came to a hill. We were hammering with Pastor Mark showing amazing endurance and pulling more often than not, but paying for it when we slipped around him at the last minute to claim fictitious KOM points. Finallly, we cruised to the Market west of Zanesville.