Since I am still carrying around an enormous winter doughnut, I was hoping for a flatter route and my desire was rewarded. Craig produced a route that shoved the mileage over 40 for the first time this young season, taking us east of Baltimore before looping back. Prior to the ride, I saw more new faces, including one guy dressed all in white with yellow accents riding a very nice Merxx bike. Dennis gave me the head's up that this guy (actual name is Patrick) used to dominate the Hilliard ride and Poobah later informed me Patrick used to be a Cat 1 and rode on the ONCE development team in Europe.....great.
Pastor Mark, taking advantage of Randy Daum while he was under the heavy influence of pain medication as he awaits surgery on his back, recently bought Randy's Lapierre road bike with Dura-Ace components. Mark raves about the bike's feel and performance.
Also riding a new bike is Franz, this very nice Cannondale and....
Donna (Sarge) is riding a new Felt.
Around 50 showed for the ride and a group of 18 A's headed out, a group that included Da Boss, Steve O, Pastor Mark, Hans (guy has a pair of calves that rivals Jeff S but far more defined), Walker guy, Jeff S, Dennis, Mitch, Ryan R, Andrew (making a rare appeaance) Grand Poobah, Patrick, etc... On paper and in fact, a very strong group and typically, I wondered how the heck I could hang with this armada. We got onto Basil Western and the pace ramped up and in single file with everyone hugging the white line. We were to turn right on Bader and as we approached an intersection, I slowed anticipating the turn but it was the wrong road and in an instant, I lost the wheel in front of me. I drifted out of the line and felt badly for Mitch as he was forced to close the gap. I caught on but at the end of the line, not good.
After Bader, we headed east on Leonard and soon approached a longish hill punctuated by 2-3 steepish ramps. A guy in front of me dropped out and I covered the gap but then another dropped and I lacked the energy to close. Reaching the top, there was a group of 5 at the front (Boss, Patrick, Poobah, Steve O and Hans) a small gap and then 4 more, a large gap and then me and who knows what was happening behind. We all turned left on Basil with Dennis and Andrew forming up with me. We reached the foot of a small climb leading into Baltimore and saw the lead 9 stopped at a light. Of course, by the time we reached the top the group was well east on the main drag and I had mentally checked out of catching them but then, my hero, Andrew stormed by tucked in the aero position and I jumped on with Dennis and damn if he didn't pull us to the leisurely paced lead group. I had mixed feelings about this because my legs were fatigued and these guys were probably going to spit me out the back and soon. But wait....there was some disorganization at the front and the leisurely pace continued and I began to feel much better.
We headed out Canal and the same core group of killers kept rotating off the front and we were flying. There were some abandonments on this stretch and I barely hung on before a turn out of a modest cross wind on Canal brought us into a slight head wind on Lake and I now enjoyed the benefits of pure drafting with no freakin cross wind. We turned west on Bickel Church and after a few miles I thought I might survive this, having survived pulls by Patrick, Boss and Hans. It wasn't going to get any worse than that. The rest of the route was mostly flat and we finished with the aforementioned 40 miles, a 22.3 average and a scant 900' of climbing. With such a route, about 9 of us finished together at the end.
Other Notes: Roy and Amanda rode the tandem, probably killing the B group but can't under estimate the power of the Rossi's, who were on their tandem too. Margaritea Holt, made his first appearance after an enjoyable run as director of play that premiered last week in Newark. For those wondering about Retro George, he is gainfully employed somewhere and apparently unable to make our rides, thus denying us of one of the area's quirkiest personalities. Ginger has been promoted within the US Postal System and is now at an office in Marysville and unable to make our rides but no doubt riding very strong wherever she is riding. Jeff S is hosting a Roving Ride out of Canal this Saturday.