Not only do the elite arrive late, they also segregate themselves rather than mingle with the unwashed.
One exception to the "weaker the rider the earlier the arrival rule" is Bill, who arrived about an hour before the start and patiently waited for his victims to arrive.
After three days of rain, today's brilliant sunshine and temp close to 80 was sure to make the Thursday New Albany ride a magnet and it did not disappoint with over 70 in the parking lot. Not only was the quantity impressive but so too was the quality. There are exceptions to the rule but early on, the parking lot is populated by the weaker of us and in the closing minutes there is a rush of the elite. By the time Jeff called us together for last minute announcements a literal all-star cast of group killers had gathered.
Red-head Bill, Green Machine (Echelon dude who rides the green Madone), John Morgan, Terry, Kyle Tygler, the Bill who sits on a Giant, Colnago Ron, Rich Harris, Paul Stock, Jamie Roberts, Dennis, more Walker and Echelon guys and a couple of new guys, all young, skinny and strong. Others preparing to ride were Flyin Tuna, Amanada, Catherine, SuperDave, Greg Hall, Recumbent Dude and too many more to name here.
The route was an ambitious 46 miles with my two least favorite stretches, pot-holed Cable and the long down hill on Jersey Mill. To Jeff's credit, he requested that we ease up on Cable but I was also prepared to pull out the wildcard if need be, "Neutral Zone" shout. We left the parking lot with only 18 A's but there were no A Wanabes in the mix for once, the guys who get gapped early and woe be you if you are unlucky enough to find yourself behind them. Every one of these guys looked like they could start and finish with the group, except for maybe Dennis, Jeff and me. Jeff was in the lead and as usual, he got in a pretty good gap before the group got serious and picked things up, going south on Babbitt and working our way over to Cable. There, the pace was moderate and I incredulous until I looked ahead and saw Jeff was keeping the pack under control. We got onto Headley's Mill and turned onto the first real climb, Patterson, where there was a furious attack but curiously, about half way up things moderated. I was thankful for the reprieve but also wondered what had happened and saw two of the sprinter types (heavier) had hung onto the front and no one seemed especially eager to go around. We hung a right at old 161 and then reached Jersey Mill. I drifted to the back in anticipation of getting blown out of the pack but Jamie was at the front and kept things under my 34mph limit, until half way down others tired of the slow pace and began sprinting, at which point I was alone. Reaching the bottom I hung a right and here came Dennis, Jeff and Colnago Ron from behind. Oh well, if I get blown out of the A group at least I had a great group with whom to spend the rest of the ride.
But wait! The A group soft pedaled through Alexandria and we caught back on at the last light, just as it turned red. There on the side of the road were two of Alexandria's finest, administering a ticket to a motorist. I noted they werre not watching and I sprinted through the red light and reattached to the group. Dennis, always mindful of our society's laws, stopped and waited for the light to change and we did not see him again. The pack went east on Racoon Valley Road but the pace not too bad as I suspect everyone was holding something back for the long climb up Hardscrabble, where we made a left, setting off a furious churning of legs. I hung on through this first surge and as we hit each ramp and false flat, of which there are many, I slowly worked my way through the group and actually was in the front 5 when we reached the top. I admit it, I felt good about my effort and I'd be lying if I also did not enjoy, probably for the last time, having watched Group Molester drop back. We were still averaging 22mph as the road turned left and we hit the flat part of Hardscrabble and then turned right on Northridge and another tough climb.
Our group was down to 13 and although I still felt good, one look at that first ramp and those attacking it seemed to sap me of energy and I capitulated with a hopeless feeling, coupled with legs that suddenly felt like rubber. I rode alone up Northridge, left on Sportsman Club, down Castle where I hooked up with some C riders, then out Duncan Plains where two strong B's came by and I jumped on with them. One guy was wearing the Navy jersey (Bill maybe) and the other had a yellow jersey with a Camelback. This was great and we exchanged pulls to the end where I finished with 46 miles, a 21.7 average and 1400' of climbing.
Sounds like most of us are hitting the COP Roving Ride this Saturday but may add a loop to get more miles. Jeff S, Steve O, Margarita Rick and Jimmy are headed to do Assault on Mt Mitchell. Although the ride is Monday, Jeff said they were driving down on Friday to stay at a bed and breakfast. Sounds romantic.