Considering the weather, it was a decent turnout of around 25 shivering cyclists. Meanwhile, two Walker Dudes showed up and bravely exposed themselves to the elements while the rest of us sought shelter in or around the cars. Walker Dudes are good guys but some of them have a curious M.O. of drilling at the start, blowing up and leaving the route. Will this year be different?
Todd Lee and Mitch were bundled up and refusing to ride. Can't blame them as I gave serious thought to leaving too but what else would I do that would provide the calorie burn my fattiness requires? Joining me were Steve O, Jeff S, Ryan R, 14-year-old phenom Nick, Amanda, Margarita Rick, Eve, John S, Recumbent Dude and others who I missed as they were hidden from view.
Here, Nick and dad preparing for the ride. Nick won a race last Saturday and currently rides in the Cat 5/Junior division. I suspect his placement in Cat 5 will be short-lived.
Mitch gave us a hilly route of 38 miles with a 34 mile option that we decided was the way to go with the strong northwest wind inhibiting our normal speedy pace. Not much of a warm-up as the Walker team went to the front and rode hard. Prior to reaching Winchester for the crossover, Steve O and Ryan had let the Walker guys go. I asked why and got the replies, "They don't know where the route is going" and "The peloton has finally matured". I thought that funny that we would not needlessly chase, knowing they were likely going to abandon the route. We crossed Winchester and continued on Waterloo and that long slog to Slough. Margarita Rick, riding an old relic, reached down to shift and simultaneously shot out the back of the group, nearly taking me with him. The pace was high, into the wind and at Slough I was cross-eyed from the effort. We turned left on Slough, wound our way through the dips and reached the foot of the real climb. My freakin chain dropped at that point, threw it into the large chainring then shifted to the compact and continued but a little behind.
Steve led the charge up the hill. Meantime, one of the Walker guys was struggling and had moved to the left edge of the road. Kind of a dangerous spot heading toward the crest of the hill. I sneaked around Steve at the top and blew him a kiss as thanks for gifting me the win but I was utterly burned out as we coasted down the hill and once Slough sloped up again, I was in trouble and proceeded to be passed by many. The prolonged intensity was a shock to my system but thank goodness for the stop sign where I was able to rejoin. We headed out Winchester (Walker Dudes had turned off after Slough) and the pace slackened a bit so I could recover. We turned right on Kauffman, worked our way over to Lamb and then Rockmill. Everyone appeared to be riding effortlessly while I was all over the machine trying to hang on. It didn't help that Steve would make frequent references to how slow we were going, "Maybe Rick wiped out the B's and that's why they have not yet caught us." Steve works the psychological game as well as anyone and it further darkens my plight, which I suspect he knows. We turned left on Crumley, left on Mt Zion and then left again on Royalton....groan, there is a debilitating hill followed by a steep one. By this time, our group was at 7 with Steve, Ryan, Recumbent Dude, Jeff S, John and Nick. We crested the first climb, zoomed down the hill and started up the steepish portion. About 3/4 of the way up, Steve smoked by me. I got the sense he was holding back all the time but did not leave the group since probably no one could go with him. We regrouped on the down hill going toward Amanda Northern, turned right there, left on Marcy and right on Siterly. Here, I goaded Ryan into staying at the front, questioning his manhood should he fall back. He was rescued by Jeff who moved forward to pull us to the top. After coming through Lithopolis and cresting the hill, Steve took a sign sprint that is not really a sign sprint. He claims the sign that warns of the stop sign is the real finish line. The city sign of Canal is a secondary finish line and no one pursued Nick as he won that one. We finished with 34 miles, 2000' of climbing and an 18.8mph average that seemed a lot higher than that.