a coupla club rides
Sunday I was pleasantly surprised to see a large and diverse turnout for the club ride out of Hodges. We had the usual fast guys, guys who want to be fast, and some slower folks as well. Even better - the pace leaving town wasn't brutal at all.
I rode Stripe again, and again thought to myself, "I need to get a better saddle." The eBay-scrounged Vetta worked all right for a while, but I find I want to ride this bike further, and a Brooks Pro or Swift looks like the answer.
We went out 185 and took the usual left onto Blue Jay, staying the course as it became Old Abbeville-Hodges. Vonona hadn't been riding much this year and started falling off the back. I dropped back a couple of times, and the group stopped at McIlwain before going right towards Due West. When we hit 203, Vonona announced she wished to head back. Landon the Silent's father, Larry, also felt like heading back, so they rode off. I paced Donis up to John Campbell Lake and David Craig, who were trailing Landon, David Strawhorne, Bradley and newlywed Big Ring Jim Cox.
When we hit the intersection with 20, John suggested we take Central Shiloh a little further and take in some of the dirt roads I'd missed a couple of weeks back. Landon and Donis were game, so we rolled out, while the others did an out and back.
"It's Stump Road," Campbell said. "Or Strom, or Sharp, or something like that. It'll be on the right."
I looked at him.
"I think," he said. "I think it'll be on the right."
Sure enough, Sharp Lane emerged, and I pointed Stripe in the right direction. It's a narrow road, complete with pasture fences right against the shoulder. I could have reached out and scratched several of the cows as I passed, but decided the barbed wire was something I wanted to avoid. Young Landon surged ahead a couple of times, while Donis and Campbell took the pace at an easier pace.
The asphalt-bound were waiting at Sharp's terminus on Strawhorne Road. I stopped and took a long pull on my water bottle and watched Donis and Campbell appear. Doing that may have jinxed them - Campbell announced he had gotten a flat in the last 20 yards of Sharp. For once, I stayed out of the way and let other folks replace a tube, which probably sped the process up dramatically.
We took the shorter route back to 20, then hooked around to ride 185 back to Hodges. Campbell and Donis had ridden to the start, and they peeled off for their respective homes. When we crested the first hill on 185, the pace got picked up dramatically. I found myself chasing David Craig's wheel with Strawhorne sitting on mine, at one point pedaling down a slight incline and hitting 34 mph. I decided that was enough and settled down a bit. All the same, Strawhorne and I made good time past Porky Pine Acres.
Landon and David were waiting at the intersection with 203; Bradley had forged on ahead, while Jim doubled back, not realizing that Donis and Campbell had headed for home. While we waited for him to return, I heard a commotion in the woods across the road. A moment later, a German Shepherd, a Boxer, and a bulldog emerged, crossed the road, and headed on down the shoulder for a ways. They were expensive looking dogs, it seemed to me, and I always worry when I see somebody's pet close to the highway. About the time I thought that, they ducked into the woods.
Jim returned and we headed back in. By the time we were at the cars, I had 24.1 miles for the day.
I've been meaning to put more miles on Belle, because even though I haven't decided whether I'll do the metric or the English century, that's the bike I intend to ride in Vidalia in a couple of weeks. I walked out to the garage today, looked at my blue Rivendell for a minute, and set it up in the little Nitto rack. Three minutes later I had removed the fenders, shedding about a pound and a half and the winter look. I mean, it's late April, right?
We had a diverse group gathered at the Y. Vonona and Donis were there, Connie was back for the first time since her crash, and Larry joined them, completing one bunch. David Knecht was there as well, in addition to a bunch of fast guys.
I felt brave, so I left with the faster guys, getting one shot over my shoulder as we rolled through the neighborhood. The large pack held together down Pine Road and onto Dixie, but shortly after the split with Deadfall Road, a couple of the tri-guys went off the front, Fuji Norm went after them, and suddenly the spend went way up. I looked down, saw 28 mph on my cyclo computer, and sat up. Fast Fred was just ahead of me, and appeared amused when I said, "They don't pay me to ride fast."
I found myself riding with Fred, David and Landon. Fred sent Landon to the front to pull, and the pace hovered around 19-20 as we headed out to Hodges. A couple of times David and I fell off, Fred brought the pace down, and we reformed. We blew through town and headed out 185, passing Blue Jay for a change and taking Pickens Creek/Klugh Road for a change.
I found myself at the front, and called over my shoulder to Fred, "I'm not in contention for it. I'm just leading y'all out."
"You're doing a great job," he said.
A minute later the county line sign appeared. Landon made his move off the back earlier than I expected, actually taking the sign from Fred. David and I watched, neither of us in any mood to race around at that point. I reminded David that riding in this direction, we'd get to do the brutal climb on the second hill.
I felt good going up the hill to the first intersection, managing to stay on the 50T ring for the duration and using fixed-gear-strengthened back muscles to get me where I wanted to be. I didn't shift down fast enough on the second hill, and stood on the bike with my hands in the drops and muscled up it.
On the drops. For the zillionth time in the last couple of weeks, I was aware of how much more I'm using the drops these days. It felt right, and every time I started to feel tired, I settled down near the ends and dug deep and felt better immediately.
Down the length of Old Abbeville we rode, taking it easy. Fred went to the front, Landon followed him, I sat on his wheel with David on mine. When we started down the descent, I could see Landon peering around Fred at the signs approaching.
"Yes, it is," I said. That was all it took. He launched his attack, Fred responded a touch too late, and Landon had two signs for the day. We made him pull up the next hill, occasionally asking him to hold up his pace. We took the long way in, going out to Beaudrot and coming back to the Y by Cambridge Academy. I had 22.5 miles at about 16.6 mph average, and felt well and truly exercised. It was a good ride, and I look forward to Thursday.