I have consistently thought the Tuesday Canal rides are the best combination of route quality and strength of cyclists but this year, that is no longer the case. More on that later. First, around 45 showed for another interesting route produced by Jeff S (NOTE: There will be a summer solstice New Albany ride on the 24th). I cruised the parking lot with Dennis doing warm-up laps that don't seem to help us prepare but do allow us to verbally spar with the usual hapless subjects like Flyin Tuna.
The turnout was light to start but as usual, closed at the end and produced the usual strong crop of A's, led by Billy Campbell, Red-Head Bill, Paul Stock, John Morgan, Dave Chesrown, new guy in OSU racing kit, Mick, Colnago Ron, Rick (Savage Hill), Dave Tygler, Gus, Jamie Group Brawler and other young and fit guys. Dennis, Jeff S and I headed out too for a total of 18 A riders.
Also at the start were Tri-Mike, making his first appearance this year, Dan, Kenda Paul, Gary, Reckless Amanda, Roy, Tuna but no SuperDave and curiously, still no sighting of George and where the heck has Grand Poobah been?
We worked our way over to Beech where Group Brawler and Billy C rode took a pull at the front. It was my misfortune to be immediately behind them as they seemed to fight to see who would fade first and the pace was torid. Finally, just before turning onto Miller, they peeled back and so did I, completely gassed and unready for a pull. The pace was well, pitiless, out Miller as first one and then another different guy took turns with no let up. The route so far had been flat and I needed a hill to recover a little. We rode east on Duncan Plains, crossed over 37 to Castle and soon, Jeff S sat up and so too did Dennis and I. Seems like we three are always riding together and we overtook Colnago Ron and soon thereafter, Rick from Savage Hill. I took a turn at the front only to be passed by Jeff with, "You're hurtin our average." comment to add spite to the humiliation of being passed while pulling. I shrank behind him and suffered silently but eventually his pace slackened and I yelled, "Jeff is starting to suffer. Who's going to take his place." and Ron took off and we finally reached Dutch Lane, turning right. At times, it appeared we were gaining on the front group and I thought about sprinting from the group with a, "We can do it" yell but decided to preserve the energy.
Somewhere along Dutch Lane, everyone was pooped and I finally took another pull, this time staying up front for a mile. My hard work was rewarded with these historic words from Jeff, "Nice pull." I shall remember this night long after I have forgotten nearly everything else in my memory. I glowed with the rare recognition from Pull King. We kept a high pace down Louden and prior to turning onto Stone Quarry, our average was still in the upper 23's. I took advantage of my girlish weight to create gaps on each of the hills, rest and then jump on when the four came by. Reaching Northridge, we turned left but then went east again on Hardscrabble and roared toward the stop sign at Racoon Valley Road, where Jeff overcooked the approach and went into a semi-controlled slide as a car passed inches in front. In my typical spot directly behind him, I too slid but we both stayed up. If it's not Amanda with her car or Jeff on his bike, my safety is under assault.
We reached Alexandria and out Jersey Mill where it became clear our pace on our little group was taking its toll but we maintained a strong effort and lit out on old 161, finally reaching the parking lot, chests heaving. 44 miles, 22.2mph average and 1550' of climbing. The lead group's average was 23.1 and Group Brawler, who had hung on until Stone Quarry finished with a 22.6 average. Jamie, having ridden both Canal and New Albany rides several times noted the Thursday ride is much harder than Canal. Canal has one Criag Butler but New Albany has like 9 of them, as each pulls off the front, another just as strong takes his place and you must be able to maintain a remorseless pace throughout.