Another beautiful evening for cycling and another good turnout with between 35-40, including making a first time appearance, Steve Oxley, he who sets a knee buckling pace during the Canal rides.
Nathan too was there, but only briefly. After bravely emerging from his car wearing a Michigan jersey, and receiving a lot of crap for that clothing faux pas, he discovered he had forgotten his shoes and departed. Or maybe he thought retreat was better than having a rabid Buckeye fan thrust a pump into his spokes.
I made my usual rounds to many of the cars, imparting good cheer and encouraging words. At Mark V’s van, I inquired about CFC sign-up. Mark said so far there were around 65, with I think today being the early sign-up deadline. Apparently most people wait until the end to send in their money so likely the quantity of cyclists putting themselves through the grist mill of southeastern Ohio hills will be around 200. After making my rounds I returned to my car in time to see Oxley fling a banana peel toward it…NICE! Not wanting to miss an opportunity to deposit the peel in someone else’s car, I noted Dennis still had his SUV’s rear hatch open. The trick was to get him away from the vehicle so I wandered over and suggested he should get signed up, thinking that would be my opening. However, he closed the hatch before leaving and upon returning to my car, I noticed a dirty paper towel had been tossed into my trunk!?
I had decided to ride with the A group, even though it’s more fun riding with the B’s at a less than hammer pace. Joining the A group was Steve of course, Mick, Dennis, Axel, Colnago Dude, Jeff S, Retro George and others, totaling 14. The route was very flat and with dwindling daylight, only 35 miles. I was disappointed that Steve would not be subjected to Col du Alward, Stone Quarry, Caswell or other climbs, just two longish but not steep climbs on the entire route; up Hardscrabble and later, Miller Road. We rode out Jug Street and Steve took a pull at the front into a strongish headwind with me glued to his wheel. Soon, apparently thinking the pace was too slow, riders bolted from the pack and passed, a shocking affront to someone of Steve’s stature. I thought I was the only one who routinely was subjected to the humiliation.
As we cruised through Alexandria, George made some heart related comments and must have dropped back at that point. We went east on Raccoon Valley Road and Steve turned his head toward me, to confirm I was back there and asked if there was a hill anywhere. I confirmed we would soon be turning left onto Hardscrabble. He said something but I couldn’t hear and yelled for him to say it again. He asked what the approaching hill’s profile was similar to but I pretended not to hear and forced him to repeat himself, louder each time, 3 more times….I can be so funny sometimes. Steve wanted to know if the hill was like climbs around Canal Winchester like Slough, Pickerington, etc… but I was stumped. Hardscrabble is a couple of miles of gradual climbing punctuated by a few ramps and false flats, a test of endurance more than climbing power and the group always gets thinned out along this road. We hit the hill and I survived to the top with a smaller group of approximately 7 riders. We headed west on Concorde, south on Castle and picked up a couple of B riders who had taken a shorter loop so our ranks had swollen again. There were numerous attacks by those coming from the back of the pack. We chased, caught and then inexplicably, the pace slowed dramatically. I’ve always thought if you bolt from the pack and jump the lead rider you should have enough endurance to sustain the pull, not sprint for 50 yards and then fall back into the pack, yet this happened many times on the return. The turn onto the long hill on Miller provided no attack, just a modestly high pace that kept most of us together and we worked our way back to the parking lot with a 22.3 average on only 975’ of climbing.
As we gathered for the usual post-ride chatter, we heard there had been a crash. Don’t take this as the official version but from several sources I was able to piece together that a B rider had touched the wheel of the rider in front, causing him to fall. A rider named Sean had no recourse but to ride over the head of the fallen rider, a maneuver that caused a broken nose and lots of blood. An ambulance was called and one of the emergency workers was talking in Spanish to the cyclist with the broken nose so perhaps this is enough of a clue to allow someone to identify. Apparently the other cyclist, who had also fallen, had a broken collarbone. If anyone knows more pleae post in the comments section.
I walked to Steve's car and apoligized for a less than challenging route. He said, "This ride is severely overrated". I had to admit, I can't blame him for thinking this since he had ridden off the front numerous times with no one able to follow....wait a sec.....actually, he had sat on wheels almost as frequently as me and taken few pulls. I think Mick had a similar reaction when he participated in a Canal ride, rode around with Craig for the entire route and left, less than impressed. It really all comes down to who shows and how challenging is the route. Clearly the Canal routes are much hillier with more skinny climber types and the New Albany routes are flatter and populated by heavier sprinter types. The rides are different, not inferior in my opinion.
Back to George now, he had not appeared by dusk. I drove the route back to the east but did not see him. Instead of a heart problem, his chain had come off and somehow he had made a right where the route had gone left and he ended up with 40 miles and a finish after dark.