A tad bit humid for the Canal Winchester start but thankfully the clouds usually shielded us from the sun. When they did not, the parking lot was set to boil and most of us gravitated to the shade.
Some of us are clearly not excited about being here. Kevin H on the right and trying to get back in shape after too much work time.
I counted approximately 45 at the start. Seems the numbers dwindle a little as the season wears on. Gone are the days of a crowd of 60-70. However, the turnout among the A's is very good with more new riders showing.up. Three B1, two Jenis, Buckeye Planet Dude turned Walker Dude, the phenoms Luke and Nick (15 and 13 years old respectively), some young kid in Bike Source kit, Billy Campbell making a surprise visit, Paul Stock, Mark C, Jeff S, Steve O, Grand Poobah, Dennis, Eric, Alberto Contador's Brother, Mitch, Ryan (masquerading as a B rider tonight) and of course Craig Butler (masquerading as an A rider when the dude should be racing in Europe).
Also there, barely, was Amanda, furiously pumping her tires and assembling her bike, with Jeremy, Yawning Roy, Kevin H, Mark R and others making up a very fast B group. I think it is the C riders that have largely abandoned the Canal rides, probably deterred by the evilly difficult routes but tonight was different and also very intriguing with a super flat first 1/2 then super knarley middle section and then a long run in via Cedar Hill. At the end, I expected an elevation gain of less than 1000' but we actually got in a respectable 1300' of climbing on this 40 mile route.
Mitch and Ryan. Ryan (on the left) is such a good guy. After the ride, he told me how much he was glad to see me and thankful that I made the long drive down to enrich the ride experience.
And so it began. Humiliated by my recent showings and downward spiraling of fitness, I headed out with the A group and was #21 in a group of 21. Hey, was that Paul Stock violating the warm-up rule with a virtual sprint from Canal to Lithopolis??? Rolled into Lithopolis after the 3 mile uphill with a 19.8 average. We rolled through town and headed out Elder to a right on Lancaster Rd. left on Pike. right on Airbase, going farther east than normal. We got onto Lockbourne Eastern and a very long stretch at a high rate of speed. One of the B1 guys was very strong and with he and Da Boss taking most of the pulls, there was not a lot of relief. At one point, I was third in line with the strong B1 pulling and another B1 in 2nd when the 2nd B1 pulled out of the line and waved me through. I managed to close the gap and just then, the lead B1 pulled out but I could not then take a pull. He looked disgusted and went back to the head of the line and hammered more, with me drifting into the middle somewhere. I don't think I have ever engaged in any other activity in which one is subjected to so much humility...maybe hitting a golf ball out of bounds on the first tee with a crowd watching, but that's about it.
We turned onto Hagerty and our average had been inching up into the low 22 area but now we approached some up and down sections, jumping briefly onto 188 before a left on Ringold Fairfield and topping out at what is the highest point in Pickaway county. It was on this climb where Da Boss just rode away from everyone and in so doing, as Phil Ligget would say, "Stamping his authority on the peloton", as if that was ever in doubt. More hills approached and where once I felt good, I began to feel bad. I have the power, I just don't have that pesky endurance part of it. I drifted back from the pack as we approached Cedar Hill and glancing back, saw Dennis a small distance back. This spurred me to put in one final dig and I caught back on to the group while pulling Dennis as we coasted down the beginning of Cedar Hill. I slotted in behind Billy Campbell, who must not be riding as much because he appeared to be struggling. On one of the rises along Cedar, I finally spit the bit, at mile 29 so things are improving a little. There were 11 still with the group when I popped and in the run into Canal, a few more fell out but for those who finished in the main pack, the average was 22.7. Riding the last 11 miles alone cut into my average but I ended up with 21.4. I'm on the comeback trail.
That was fun. Lots of folks heading to West Virginia for the Mountain Mama ride this weekend. Mitch is setting up an alternative out of Gloryland Church and will have more details later.