I rode the Tour d'Abbeville today. Please note - Tour de Abbeville is just bad grammatically, despite the potential it yields for Bob Roll-esque pronunciation as "Tour DAY Abbeville." Despite my involvement for several years in TdA's predecessor (the old Lost Weekend ride), I'd never ridden it. In 2003 I was on my honeymoon; in 2004 I was recuperating; and last year we were off on an anniversary trip to the beach. This year the schedule worked differently.
I didn't pre-register, figuring it was best to play it safe. There's no telling what can come up, right? I rode Wednesday night, getting in 27.75 miles. Thursday it looked like rain, so I figured an extra rest day would be a good thing. Friday night I wisely prepped the bike and filled bottles beforehand.
I got up at 6:15, hoping the extra 15 minutes would be sufficient, especially if I skipped non-essentials like shaving as I got ready to go ride. I still had time for a good breakfast (the inevitable oatmeal with protein powder, peanut butter and raisins) and a cup of coffee on the couch with Hannibal the cat in my lap. I didn't quite get the timing right, though, and arrived in Abbeville just a few minutes before 8:00.
I threw my kit together and rode across the square to the Abbeville Visitor's Council to sign up. I said hello to David Knecht and Jim Cox on my way in. I could hear Scott Hines making announcements, including something about the color-coding of the arrows on the road. Alas, by the time I emerged, the mass start had gone, along with the folks I'd planned on riding with.
As I put my helmet on, I heard someone say, "Russ?" I looked up to see a distinguished looking guy. "I'm Jeff Ford. We rode together a few times a couple of years ago." And so it was. Jeff has been one of Lowry Parker's ride buddies for years - some time when we've got the time to do it, remind me to tell you about Lowry and Jeff and Look cleats in Godfrey's Market in Hodges, SC.
So anyway, I formed up with Jeff and his buddy (whose name I never caught) and we set off. Another rider joined us and almost immediately got upset over route markings. There were old markings on the road, but nothing indicating we should go straight. Only Jeff's comments that we were to stay straight until we made a left on Pecan Road kept us on track.
We rolled along and talked about vintage Steyr-Puch Sears 3-speeds, area roads and the headwinds we were beginning to encounter. The pace was sociable, but we still overtook several folks and passed them on our way to the first res
Several GCC riders were present - Connie, Donis and Vonona, who I'd ridden with recently, and Ann and Denise, who I hadn't seen in a while. After ascertaining that the rest stop had only one banana left, I passed. Denise and Ann were about to leave, so I joined them and we headed out.
We chit-chatted, and I was reminded that they routine did long rides together. They were familiar with these roads. After a couple of turns, I realized I was on roads I remembered from riding or SAGing Lost Weekend years ago. We passed a house I'd used as a background for a bunch of photos of riders in 2001; a little later we made our way through a headwind into Antreville and the second rest stop.
When I stepped over to the table, a nice lady promptly took my bottles and filled them with water for me. I looked over the food on the table and wound up taking part of a banana - most of the rest of the food was processed stuff, lots of cookies and such. I was glad I'd packed some pita with peanut butter.
"Which route markers do I follow again?" I asked.
"Green for the metric, white for the century," I was told. Hmm.
Wild Bill Reese showed up as we were preparing to leave. I'd ridden a bunch with his son Scott back in the '80s, and Bill had done a lot of club rides four or five years ago. We didn't have much time to catch up - Denise and Ann set a pace just a bit too fast for Bill, who hadn't ridden more than 25 miles at a time this year.
We were joined by a fellow named Lucky somewhere on Keowee Road. It emerged that he was doing the full English century, but his map was unclear. He made a phone call to a buddy of his who was somewhere out there and he was more confused afterward. We finally stopped at the intersection of Keeowee and 185 and c
ompared maps. Right about that time, Joy pulled up in a SAG wagon. There we learned that Lucky had been handed a map for a completely different ride, the Calhoun Falls Century. Uh oh. I looked more closely at my cue sheet. White for the metric. Ahhh ... fortunately, the routes were the same until the outskirts of Due West. Unfortunately for lucky and some of the other century riders, many of them had ridden part of other, older rides.
He went on up the ride, while we continued rolling along. It was getting hotter and hotter, with temperatures now above 90 degrees. Somewhere outside of Donalds we pulled off in the shade and took a quick breather in the shade before heading on out to Highway 178. About a mile later we made the turn onto 184. I dropped off the back again, really starting to suffer from the heat. I pulled off into the shade and ate another pita and peanut butter sandwich before setting off again. Denise met me about half a mile from the rest stop and mentioned they were going to go to the gas station. I stopped off at the rest stop and ate a fig newton and refilled my bottles before going to meet Ann and Denise. I wound up going in and buying some crackers to take care of my jonesing for salt. We sat on their porch under the overhang and ate and drank.
I looked at my cycle computer and saw it read 60 miles even at that point. Hmmm. This was turning out to be an extra long metric - we had another d
ozen miles to go to Abbeville. We rolled out on 185 and headed for 20 and the ride back in. The heat was brutal by this point, and I could feel myself bonking horribly. At Ann's suggestion, I held off from stopping until we reached a place that sold awnings. Two other riders had already taken shelter from the sun, so we joined them for a few minutes before doing the last six miles.
I'd avoided the granny ring until the very last hill, when I finally dropped down onto it to get up the last brutal bit. I had 72.4 miles, the longest metric I've ever done, and my longest day in the saddle so far this year.