There were great expectations mounting as I pulled into the parking lot for the first Official Thursday-Night ride out of New Albany. At this point of the year, the Thursday-Night ride hasn't dealt you any blows to your psyche or body, you've long since started remembering last year's rides with rose colored glasses and you are pumped and ready for a new season, on top of being ready to get rid of that February fat that is still hanging on.
The turnout was excellent along with the weather. A start temp in the 60's brought out about 65 people with many of the usuals present: The Flying Tuna, Dennis the Style Queen, Satan Mick, The Schleupenator (Little Diesel), Super Dave along with myself (recumbent dude / upright dude – Man do I need a new nickname. Something flexible.). Anyway, also present were a broad gamut of the A riders in their new 2011 kit keeping to themselves in the other parking lot as usual, another group that looked like they spent the entire winter in the gym working only on upper body, and a bunch of people that I see there semi-frequently but as I write this realize I don't know. I'll have to make a better effort of moving around the parking lot and learning more about them this year.
The parking lot was subdued in anticipation of the first ride and biking test of the year pending, with little antics taking place. The usual discussion about the map commenced and Cindy decided that we would ride the undocumented 35 mile route. As the dominant female overriding all others, all B riders fell into line and accepted Cindy's benevolent command.
Word got around that the Little Diesel was going to grace the B riders with his presence this evening with plans to bring down the hammer around mile 17 and a sudden bout of religious fervor ensued with prayer sessions breaking out spontaneously, pleading that he would be merciful. (see below)
It wasn't long before the order for the A riders to leave. They were apparently having a meeting in the other parking lot that hadn't completed it's business, because not a single one moved. They continued to stand with their bikes in a circle. So … the B riders were sent.
About 35 B riders made toward the exit, timing it perfectly with the end of the cycling meeting taking place in the other parking lot and 50+ people swept out of the parking lot at the same time. The usual gaggle took placing making its way through downtown and out on to old 161 into a front quartering headwind out of the north east. At this point things organized and a group of about 30-35 B's headed up 161 together at a moderate pace.
We made the right onto Babbit (definitely, Babbit... yeah Babbit definitely) and The Schlupenator headed toward the front. There was much cowering and I thought I heard someone vomit toward the back, but he thankfully allowed the warm-up to continue, despite the switch to a tail wind, through the left on Clark State and the general winding down toward that lovely excuse for a road known as Cable Rd. Now many of you might not know this, but the state of Ohio actually disassembled this road from its original location in Iraq and have kept it in this same, bombed out state for posterity.
The peloton wound it's way around the craters, boulders, unexploded ordinance and death pits taking it all the way to Headlys Mill Rd for the left turn. Thankfully we were spared the climb up Alward, instead continuing all the way up to Patterson, but it was on Headly's Mill that the first bit of pressure was applied. The pace quickened into the wind and up the steady incline and the lead changed out a couple times and those fresh legs caused the first casualties. Patterson was little different, and the moderate pressure continued, and with the February fat still clinging to the sides of many a few more teetered and then fell of the back.
The culling was light however and the group still stood around 30-ish for the right turn on to 161, 310 and finally on to Jersey Mill Rd for the long downhill. A few sprinted off the front on Jersey Mill but the group showed some maturity and let them go and by the end of the downhill the peloton had reeled them back in handily.
We made the right turn toward Alexandria and the left up Northridge into the wind, and it's here that the pressure began in earnest. The Little Diesel took to the lead up the steady Northridge climb, applying the pressure of those massive calves. As soon as he waned a new leader took the front keeping the pressure on. A careful listen revealed groans and ragged breathing as many riders were on the rivet and about 10 fell off before making the left onto Sadie Thomas and a tailwind.
The tailwind brought no relief however. The pace quickened and then quickened again with frequent lead changes always re-energizing the pace. The turns onto castle, duncan plains, 310 and finally onto Miller allowed brief respites but they were always followed by a steady climb up to speed. All along Miller, the casualties continued. Several A's were swepts up and then dropped back off as the well organized and strong B leaders flexed their well rested spring muscles and the group was down to between 5 and 8 as a few bounced painfully on an off the back.
The turn onto Beach was rapid with little slowing and then we were headed into town on a road whose name I can't remember. But it was here that the breakaway sign sprint occurred with Satan Mick snapping authoritatively away followed by the Style Queen Dennis (who was riding his Colnago with the new addition of pink tires. He indicated that this was an anti-theft maneuver.) Anyway. One of the best sign sprint battles I have ever seen took place with each pushing the other, but our darling Style Queen prevailed, edging out Satan Mick at the last by a wheel.
The final mile held the pressure so that no trailers were able to re-join and we rolled into the parking lot with a 19.8 average just as the last of the light was failing. Not bad for a moderate paced first half into the wind.
The after ride party ensued, congratulating Dennis the Style Queen of the first Thursday sign sprint victory of the year and The Little Diesel for the incredible amount of turns he managed up front.
This Saturday is the annual SPOT ride out of Cyclist Connection in Canal. There is a largish group of us starting at 8am. The weather forecast is for starting temps in the 60's and day temps in the 70s.