Internal Detours
Thursday, April 13, 2006
  back on the bike

Tuesday I got to ride, which was delightful. We pulled out from the Y parking lot in a decent sized bunch and headed out Pine towards Deadfall Road. By the time we got to Dixie Drive, Joy had decided to bail and head back, the victim of a cold that just wouldn't quit.

Duann held up and let me catch her wheel. We watched Josh and the other speedy guys go on up the road. Rolling into Hodges, we commented on John Lake's car and wondered if we'd see him. Maybe three miles later we found him waiting along with David Knecht at the intersection of 185 and Blue Jay Road.

I was surprised when we hit the fierce second hill on Klugh Road. The grade on this rascal is brutal and steep, and I've suffered horribly on occasion. On the other hand, there was one Thursday ride in 2000 when we were fleeing a thunderstorm. I was at the bottom, behind several other riders, when there was this clap of thunder RIGHT over my head, and the air sizzled behind me like a lightning bolt was homing in on my rear hub. I'm a legendarily bad climber, but that day I flew up the hill, blowing past guys who normally drop me like a bad habit.

Anyway, Tuesday I charged along down the hill, then charged up the brutal one. Something was going right - I stayed on Stripe's 53T ring, shifting when necessary in the back but charging up the grade and passing everyone. We wound up coming back in via Dixie Drive, and I felt nicely worked over. It was only 20.6 miles, but that counts, right?

Today's ride went very nicely. I headed out a few minutes early, giving me a chance to warm up at my own pace. I got across the county line and climbed the mid-point of the old time trial course before I saw the pack rushing towards me. I tried without success to get a shot or two of them, then they were rolling past. The first trio blew past, then a minute later the main pack caught me. Tom said hello as he passed, as did clan Ronan, pere et fils. I took a deep breath, gritted my teeth and tucked in behind Josh.

Josh is tall, something over 6 feet. He's in good shape, broadshouldered - and ideal to draft off. So I did. I shifted up and hung onto his back wheel for dear life. I glanced down at the cycle computer a couple of times and discovered we were rolling along at 24 mph on the flat. I'm not used to that. I managed to hang with them to the end of Old Abbeville Highway, then let them go up the road.

David Strawhorne had decided to hold back and ride with me, so we slowed up a touch. By the time we made the turn off 72 near Ebenezer Church, John Lake and young Landon the Silent had caught us. We rumbled down the macadam to the bridge. Strawhorne charged the hill, Landon followed with John's encouragement, and John and I shifted down and sat up, rolling steadily up past the false summit and on towards the turn onto Stevenson.

I noticed the Fuji fork on John's Specialized Roubaix and got the story about Sunday's ride. He had noticed some slop in his steering out on the road but had attributed it to a need for adjustment. When he got home watched OLN and saw George Hincapie's fall in Paris-Roubaix. He thought about it, went out to the garage, and found a frightening crack in his steerer tube near the stem.

As we reached the top, David Knecht and Jim Cox rolled up on us - at least, until Jim dropped his chain. We regrouped at the intersection, and I snapped a couple of quick pictures. We rolled along at a moderate pace, for which I was most grateful. When we got to the Old Abbeville-Hodges road, we found Landon, Andrew Douglas, and John's son Speedy Young Zac waiting for us.

There was no stopping for rest - we churned our way up the first hill, then descended past funky little houses. Another climb, another long descent, down past a church and towards the bridge over the creek. I flashed on a memory of walking across on a girder while wearing Look cleats back when the bridge was being rebuilt in 2000 or so, then it was time to downshift and climb. I dropped off the back, but not too far, and David K. and I chatted and watched the speedier members of our gruppetto duke it out for the county line sign.

A little while later we caught up to John. "They out-maneuvered me," he said. "I wound up leading 'em all out, and at the end I just didn't have it. I burned all my matches."

By the time we got to 185, we were joined by Jim. We rolled up the road in a compact bunch, the pace picked up, and I found I was riding better than I had any excuse to. The last part of the climb is gentle, but I'm not used to doing it at 19 mph. Stripe was under me, though, and continuing to pull my aging body along. It's just a bike, but this one just feels like it wants to go, constantly challenging and demanding more.

Onto Dixie Drive now, and the pace ratcheted up. I looked down and found we were rolling at 22 mph, sometimes 23, which doesn't sound like much, but again I'm normally much slower. Halfway to Flatwood, David was falling off the back of John's wheel, so I cranked a little harder, came around him and pulled him back towards the group. Between Flatwood and Lagrone, I had to drop back, but the speedier guys were waiting for us at the intersection with Deadfall. We rocked along, past the flea market and the skating rink and turned onto Calhoun for the last run in. I couldn't hang onto the wheels long, but before they dropped me, I managed to come alongside Zac, David and Jim and get some action pix.

I settled in, running on the big ring and wondering how much of an effect, if any, new parts will have on Stripe. I concentrated on making perfect circles, then shifted up for the slight downhill section. I was glad I had sense enough to downshift for the right turn onto Beaudrot - for some reason, the tiny climb was getting to me - and then I was rolling into the parking lot. I had 25.66 miles and a 17 mph average on a course I normally do somewhere around 14-15.
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