Unburdened of his toe clip hybrid, Steve O showed up in Monterey, VA with the "Race Competition" version of a new BMC bike (some say he did not buy the "Team Competition" version because he didn't want anyone to think he was riding for anyone but himself). Riding unfettered by the weight of the steel hybrid, Oxley was, as Phil Liggett would say, "Free to fly" and fly he did, passing all of the Ohio boys and girl and storming to a 3rd place finish and riding away from Dustin on the final climb. For Dustin, he was left to wonder, what one or two fewer Old Chubs could have done for him, finishing 4th. O's time was 5:23, almost besting "Da Boss' time set in 2010 of 5:19.
For the rest of us shleps, it was the usual story but we had a few newcomers this year, Ricky G, Rex and John Day. Although I did not see Day all day (I heard he was late arriving), I spent quality time with Ricky and Rex. At 7:45, the Flyin Tuna group of Cindy, Mark C, Rex, Ricky and me shoved off. Quite a few people leave early because the first climb begins within the first mile so there is usually a mass of cyclists on the first descent and it can get kind of hairy in there. A few years ago a woman went left of center on the descent and died, after running in to an oncoming truck.
Mark C and I arrived at the top and figured the rest of our group would catch on the descent but half way down, the two in the front (image), Tim and Cynthia, rode by and so I jumped on and enjoyed being pulled around with Rex catching on too. Eventually, Ricky also caught us and we hung together for a couple more climbs, stopping at the 2nd rest stop. Climbing the 3rd hill, probably the most difficult up to Moyer's Gap with several steep pitches and an average grade of 7.3%, 2 miles long, I heard someone coming from behind and a guy in a VA Tech jersey flew by. Soon, so too did another and then I was harassed by Dustin and Steve, a few more and things became quiet again.. I spent the 8 miles prior to the 50 mile rest stop in a group having Rick Miller and Joe G. While resting a bit at this 3rd rest stop I did the usual check of my condition and determined, as usual, the next 50 miles was going to be horrid. Also as usual, I had reached this point well under 3 hours so let's see, 3 hours in 50 miles, do that again......forget it. The back 50 is just brutal, 5 climbs, 3 in the last 18 miles and they are the hardest climbs save for the Moyers Gap climb already climbed.
So, turned on to the Snowy climb, about 4.5 miles and kind of cool to eventually break through the tree cover into open fields as we near the top. I was thankful for the cloud cover and cool temps that persisted all day. The next climb is about 9 miles, not steep but come on, 9 miles with an average grade of 5.6%. Some where in there, Ricky G caught and passed me and I did not think I'd see him again. I stopped at the 4th rest stop (mile 66) and saw Rex steam by and I began to wonder if I would be the last Ohioian, I began to wonder where Flyin Tuna was and panicking, jumped back on the bike. Riding at a speed that is best described as plodding, I got to the top of the next climb and did not pedal on the descent, just sat and coasted to rest the out-of-shape legs. I had plenty of fluids so I skipped the 5th rest stop where I spotted Ricky G and as it turns out, Rex too was in there.
Grinding up climb #7, Allegheny, I began losing my mind. I thought I saw an oasis on the horizon, I saw stars, well actually, I was just a broken man. If being interrogated, at this point you spill the beans but I didn't even have that as an outlet to remove the pain. A quick descent and then.....yep, Allegheny 2. I don't remember much other than Mark C overtaking me. That he was the only one to pass me on the hill speaks much to how everyone else was struggling. I wondered what Rex and Ricky were thinking and always, I wondered if Tuna was gaining. Having her catch me would cap a perfect day. I stopped at the final rest stop at mile 94 and a final climb, Monterey Mountain, to go with an average grade of 7.8% and 2 miles. On the first ramp I glanced back and speak of the devil!!!!!!! It looked like Flyin T was back there. Not wanting to look a 2nd time, which would appear that I was panicking and only spur her to ride harder, I went through a couple of switchbacks before looking back again.......hmmmmm......could be so I took a harder look but no, it was Cynthia, the woman in image #2 above. Whew. I reached the summit, experienced the sense of euphoria, descended through Monterey, finishing with an overall time of 7:14, 9980' of climbing and look at that, 6500 calories burned. I'll have to eat hard to make up that deficit. Rick Miller called later and said he'd try to get Marty, Jon Morgan, Craig Rice, etc... to come next year.