The coldest 56 degrees I've ever felt was tonight's start out of New Albany. Noticed quite a few people adding a layer or arm warmer and I was no different. From the bottom of a clothing box I keep in the trunk of my car and to which light has rarely penetrated, I pulled a winter-weight, long sleeve jersey and threw it on at the last minute under the short sleeve jersey. Figured I'd regret it later but as it turns out, did not. A very light turn out and up until 10-15 minutes before the start, there could not have been more than 35 in the parking lot.
The old battle axe, Flyin Tuna, told me it would be a late arriving crowd and like that, they began coming in from all directions and by the time Jeff S called us together, there were over 72 people standing astride their bikes. Including Farmer Mike, having finally migrated north from his comfy winter retreat in Florida. The A group had a cast of all-stars like Marty, John M, Dave Chesrown, Rich Lewis, Colnago Ron (he switched to a Trek but crashed it while riding in the trainer???? cracked the frame and is waiting on a replacement), John Sada, Mick, Will (Kenda kit), Grand Poobah, Tim Tyler & Lisa, Todd Mullens, Gus, Mike Rea, some triathlon guy and a few others so our group was 18 and not a slouch in there.
I heard the B group had around 40 at the start and that included Cindy B, Nathan, Dan, Gary, Jeff S (he had to cut the route short to take care of a project), SupeDave, Farmer Mike, Mark R and lots of new people too.
So, out old 161 we went and curiously Marty and 2 others got off the front, a move I have never seen before at the start in New Albany. They stayed out there, pretty impressive with a fairly strong NE wind cutting into them, until the light at Beech. Undoubtedly they panicked a bit when the inexorable mass of the peloton bore down on them and they rode through the red light. This produced some shouts and turmoil at the front but I was too far back to understand and frankly, relieved we had to stop for a red light. We regrouped and hit it hard along the length of 161 and I was grateful for having the luck of being able to keep out of the wind for most of that stretch. My position was not as good as Poobah, who was tucked in nicely on the right about the 5th spot back. If that guy picked stocks with the same skill as he picks drafting positions he'd be a trillionaire.
We reached 310 with a 21.3 average and turned onto the long descent on Jersey Mill. Again, three guys got out in front and Poobah crossed the gap and joined up but we absorbed them by the bottom, cruised through Alexandria and made the illegal left turn onto Raccoon Valley Road. I thought this would be the toughest distance with the cross wind but the pace was not too fast so we all stayed together. As we climbed the modest hill toward the left turn on Loudon, Ron's bike slid into a crevice and his bike tilted left. I thought he was doomed for sure so I and another swerved to avoid but Ron righted the bike and avoided hitting the deck. As we turned onto Louden, a trucked approached us from Raccoon Valley but, knowing the group would not pause, I cut in front and avoided having to stop. Unfortunately, Poobah got caught out and we did not see him again. There was a ragged chase to regroup but once we were together, the pace was still not that high and clearly, the hills of Stone Quarry had an influence on those pulling at the front.
We turned left on Stone Quarry and as usual, I was at the back. I headed up the extreme left side and as I gained momentum and began to pass a few, a guy suddenly swerved left to avoid a hole, rode up onto the grassy hillside and then rejoined while I braked and swerved to avoid the obstacle. Then, I and Ron got caught behind a couple of people and by the time we worked our way through this last impediment, we had lost the lead group. Our average at the bottom of the hill was 21.6mph. When we reached the top of the first hill, Rich Lewis and his 200 pounds had gapped the field and rather significantly so with Marty between he and the group of 7-8, then Ron and I and coming up from behind to join us was Mick, Lisa, Gus and Will. We reached Northridge but Mick had dropped off so we were down to 5 but these guys were driving the pace and our average had dropped only .3 by the end of Stone Q. We hung a left on Castle, crossed #37 and headed on Duncan Plains where we swallowed up Jon Sada so we were back to 6. We hung a left on #310 and a right on Miller and still there was no setting up with these guys, geesh.
We finally rolled into the parking lot with 38 miles, 1200' of climbing and a 22.2mph average. Yes, 22.2 and we couldn't sniff the lead group who finished at 23! Looks like the Tom's Trillion Tour is the place to be on Saturday, weather permitting. The start time is a little up in the air with those of us living in the north wanting a 9:00am start since we have a 90 minute drive. More on that tomorrow.