Gary called me at 8:10 this morning to let me know that he + Wendy were going to about 10 minutes late, and ask if the rest of us would ride toward them. I got the message at about 6 pm this evening (or at least that is when I noticed I had a message). Luckily, Gary also called Levi to let the group (including me) know that they'd be about 10 minutes late. Unluckily, Gary did NOT mention that they were riding to the ride ... so we all assumed they were driving.
At 8:30, wheels-away time, Levi called Gary to let him know that we were going to ride back-and-forth between PUE and BJP. One problem, Levi actually said "we're going to ride back-and-forth on Mt. Vernon Ch Road." Since I thought G + W were driving, I didn't bother to intervene and correct the statement (click here for street-view of the MVC - PUCh Rd split). We actually rode back-and-forth on Pleasant Union Ch Road. But ... no one anticipated a problem.
We rode the 4-mile flat "loop" on PUCh Rd, and upon returning to PUE, found no sign of G + W. To shorten this prologue a bit ... G + W were riding on Mt. Vernon Ch Road. Sigh.
Each sub-group agreed to ride toward Peed Rd, thus modifying the AFR route by starting MVC-Peed-Ghoston (instead of PUChRd-SixForks. However, Cathryn decided that riding the first 4 miles, plus riding 7 miles back home would be enough for her as she hasn't been riding very much since December -- our loss.
So ... BigWaveDave, BobH, Levi, Gary + Wendy, guest Sean (pronounced "Shane", as in "Come back, Shane!") and I were finally underway ... not so much late as having already ridden extra.
After crossing Falls Lake on New Light Rd, the crew drifted apart on the climb(s) up to Old Weaver Trail, but the tail sub-crew picked up the pace when the slope lessened and the front sub-crew (Sean and Levi) slowed. They slowed too much, really ... and I, having gotten the flywheel fully wound up, was not of a mind to throw away the momentum, and since the road was continuing to flatten, I went around and kept going, expecting the line to come with me. They didn't.
Back-tracking a bit, near Old Weaver Trail, Wendy pointed out to Gary and me the evidence of the large brush fire that had occurred on the west side of New Light Rd. (I later found out that the fire had been two or three days previous. There was smoke still rising from some smoldering spots.)Returning to the main story ... no one had followed. What should I do? In the past, the crew leader has had to chastise me for dragging up the pace of the group beyond a sensible pace for all (usually, it is someone else that drags up the pace -- but on a couple occassions, the culprit has been me). I decided to keep going and deal with reprecussions from the "crew leader" later. As I neared the Granville County Line, I unclipped my left foot and coasted across the line, then stopped and waited for the group.
No chastisement from the crew leader resulted; however, as the lead riders of the crew passed me, Levi commented "it shouldn't count if you have to stop to catch your breath afterwards." I thought "we'll see, Levi, we'll see."
I dropped to the back of the crew to chat with BigWave Dave. There was actually much chatting amoungst the crew today -- everyone chatted with whomever was next to them (or just ahead or behind) -- that made for a pretty good dynamic. After chatting with Dave for a bit, I moved up to talk with Levi. We were having a good chat, following Sean and Gary as they led the "double-pace-line". Suddenly, however, S + G pulled out of the lead, complaining that Levi and I were sucking all the air out of the line, and therefore, we should go to the front to make sure that we had a continuing supply of fresh air.
As we approached and passed the May Store, I was figuring out my strategy for the Franklin County Line. I decided to wait as long as I could, and stay in an easy gear, before jumping at the last possible moment. However, the road tilts down after the May Store and I was induced to change to one size smaller on the cassette -- mistake, and Levi knew where the CL was located -- rats! Just as I was about to downshift back to the gear I wanted to be in, Levi says to me "don't even think about it", and he jumped. Half-a-second later, I jumped. I spent the whole "sprint" with the front edge of my front tyre even with the back edge of Levi's rear tyre.
Re-sorting after transiting Pokomoke, I asked Wendy if she was interested in adding a couple extra climbs to the ride. "Absolutely." So ... I made sure to be in the lead at the turn off Pokomoke Rd onto Gordon Moore Rd, and increased my pace a bit to lead us "off course" and onto Suitts Rd (not "Suitts Store Rd"), which would become Evans Rd after a mile or so. Wink, wink.
Since Suitts Rd was a nice downslope, an increasing downslope, I kept increasing my pace -- later, I claimed that I wasn't sure where the Granville County Line actually was, and that I wanted to check out the lay of the land (that was actually a truthful claim in that I didn't know EXACTLY where the CL was). So, I again rolled through a county line well in advance of the crew -- but I don't really think I should get full credit for a CL "victory".
Sean caught me on the upslope after the creek (which is where the CL was located). He got to the stop sign first, but Levi was just behind. Levi voiced that changing the course to add CLs that others did not know about did not seem fair. After confirming that it was Levi approaching the stop sign, I hit the pedals hell-bent on the new increasingly downslope run to the next CL (Franklin County, again) only 100 yards (maybe less) from the turn. I was sure to point out the sign to Levi ... after all, I certainly want him to know where the county lines are next time we go out that way. Btw, Levi, I think the crew needs to revisit the "12 County Lines in 32 miles" route -- no cue sheet -- too many turns for that -- maybe ... reverse the course compared to last year.
We climbed back up to Gordon Moore Rd, and after a stop to water some of the flora, we continued, now back on route. I made sure that Levi and Sean and others knew where the next county line was. (Levi already knew -- he loves the "Assault on Flat Rock" route.) I had no intention of mixing it up for the next CL -- after all, all the guys climb faster than I do, and the CL is at the top of a considerable climb. Levi provided the details of what happened on Wes Sandling Rd.:
I definitely was giving it all I had at the top to try and hold off Shane/Sean? That is my favorite climb with county line finish. (Boyce Mill is 2nd favorite). Gary and Shane stalked/wheel sucked me the whole way after the turn on Wes Sandling and let me do all the pulling until the very last 30 yds. We were probably doing in the 20's up until the last part of the last climb? I could see the shadow of Shanes head/helmet bobbing around near my crank the whole way. I tried to quietly shift into higher gears as we approached the hilltop since Shane didn't know where the line was, but about the same time I saw the stop sign ahead sign I heard the tell-tale click click click click click from behind me signaling the attack. I did the same and Shane caught and passed me right at the last moment. Luckily for both of us, I learned that Gary popped out of his cleat he was trying to sprint so hard up the hill so he was immediately out of contention at the end. Or maybe he was just scared of the amateurs swerving around him.We regrouped at the stop sign just after the Granville County Line, and continued straight onto Grove Hill Rd. We did NOT turn left onto Grove Hill Rd. Strange ... I don't recall the descent on Grove Hill, nor the sharpish curve at the bottom of the descent, nor do I recall crossing the bridge. I do recall climbing back up the other side with Wave; and then turning around to go back looking for Gary + Wendy ... I didn't go more than 100 or so yards.
Gary, Wendy and I rode across Grove Hill Rd, Gary and Wendy recalling some tractors from a recent ride out that way. We found Sean, Levi, BobH and Wave at the corner with Flat Rock Rd. Levi was apparently dealing with sore leg issues and Sean was trying to convince him of he value of "Sports Legs". Gary produced a small packet from a back pocket; BobH decided to resume riding so that the ride did not become a "stop-fest"; I urged Wendy to start riding with me following after Bob (since we were the two slowest climbers); I thought Wendy was following me, but when I checked my mirror ... no Wendy. Almost immediately on the initial downslope on Flat Rock, I thought, "oh, a headwind; I don't think any of those five still behind me have ever done this road into a headwind; I wonder if Levi will still love this route quite so much after he experiences the 1.4 mile climb into a head wind?"
Regrouping at the corner of Flat Rock and Grove Hill (not Grove Hill and Flat Rock, which was now 2.8 miles behind us), Levi acknowledged he hadn't ever ridden Flat Rock into a headwind until today. I urged him to try it some time with a STRONG southerly wind.
We rode the intervening roads across to Bruce Garner Rd, and headed for "home". Levi asked me if I was going to go into "homeward bound pace"; I told him "no, I've got a bit of a strain working behind my right knee; I can maintain this 17 mph pace, but I'm not going to push any harder than this." After a bit, Levi came around and picked up the pace to 20 mph; then he commented that it was hard work into the headwind. I told him "well, I was going 17; you're going 20." When Levi started to flag on a little bump-up, Gary came to the front to return the pace to 16-17 mph.
Since the headwind was quartering in from the left-front, Gary drifted out from the fog line toward the middle of the lane to allow Levi and the rest of us some chance to "eschelon" off his right-rear-quarter. It was interesting watching Levi experiement, moving around, from directly behind Gary, etc., until he finally found the sweeter spot, slightly escheloned off Gary. Gary seemed to move over a bit further toward the center-line, allowing more of us inexperienced riders to eschelon, but as we approached the Wake County Line, I had a clear path on the right of Levi and Gary, and concerned that any amount of wavering about by either Gary or Levi would close the door, I hit the pedals. I expected Levi to respond ... he didn't ... guess he really was feeling the after-effects of the previous CL and "King-of-the-Mountain" contests. However, I was not to collect the last green jersey points of the day ... that honor fell to Sean, who had no trouble closing up and passing. I should have remembered the line that Raleigh Area RBA Alan used on me last October, and modified accordingly: "you have 19 years on me, Sean." (I only have 13 years on Alan.)
Sean continued to lead, followed by Gary and Levi, until that bump-up just before Stony Hill Fire Station opposite Purnell Rd. They were not carrying enough speed into the bottom of that bump-up to suit me, so I went around and went quickly up the bump, instead of slogging up.
Sean re-took the lead (he is a pretty strong rider, certainly compared to most of the Irregulars). On the downslope that goes past New Light Baptist Church, I told (I have to admit that I didn't ask) Sean to use the downslope to build speed to help get up the ensuing bump-up. Sean replied that he was not good at descending quickly, and moved over to let me build speed ... and the front of the crew went over that first bump-up in excess of 20 mph. Build up speed on the swoop-down and start the immediately following larger bump-up (just before Holly Point State Recreation Area) at 25 mph and top it at 15+ mph. Then swoop down to the lake.
Just before the turn onto Ghoston, I called back to the rider immediately behind me, "Sean, when we turn onto Ghoston, you'll go around me like I was standing still." The rider behind me responded, "it's Levi, but message received." Levi, Sean, BobH and Wave all went around in nothing flat. Gary and Wendy were close enough that Gary called ahead to me, "Wendy managed to hang on to the group on that long downslope run." I called back, "that's great!", but turned my attention to the task at hand ... getting into the proper gear and cadence to climb Ghoston.
And then ... IMHO ... the best part of the entire ride occurred:
On that second steep bit of Ghoston, I realized I was catching Wave, Levi and BobH. I had found the right gear and cadence! On the third bit of steep, I went around Wave as he called out one of his nick-names for me. I went around Levi and started to go around Bob. However, Bob picked it up a smidge, and held me off. I dropped behind Bob and I said, "Bob, you are not Norris; he would not have been able to hold me off." Bob chuckled. And then, when the slope relaxed a bit, I went around Bob. (Sean rode the entire climb off our collective front, as if lolly-gagging up the climb. Where are the Mallet and Tito and Smitty to provide a little competition? (One had family obligations, two were off playing on some mountains.)
Across NC-98 to Peed Rd and another swoop downhill. I climbed the steep on Peed pretty well, but BobH got his revenge on me for having had the audacity to pass him on Ghoston. Levi also passed me near the top of the Peed steep. Then we discussed that the more insulting part of Peed Rd is the nearly mile-long false flat from the sharp curve to MVC Rd.
Down on MVC road, then the final climb back up to PUE. Sean and Bob arrived before Levi and me; Wave finished another minute or two later. The five of us were milling about in the parking lot, chatting, when Bob waved over our shoulders ... Gary had waved from the corner of MVC and PUChRd ... he and Wendy had another 10 hilly miles to ride home.
I wonder ... if I knew I was going to do those particular extra 10 hilly miles ... would I have worked as hard as I did on Ghoston and Peed?
Levi sent a link to his Garmin stats. Or, as he put it, his new toy. Thanks, Levi.
I stopped by the Bayleaf Fire Station and chatted with Lt. Dave and 37-years-as-a-volunteer-fireman Bob. When the alarm for Bayleaf to respond went off, the chat ended PRONTO, as it always does. I watched Dave's crew suit up, load up, and leave the station. I followed and rode back "home" into a stiff southerly wind that crushed my avg speed for the day.
Good day. Good people. Good ride.
You'd never guess, after reading the above, that I intended a poetry-like post for today's ride. Essentially one line for each of the above paragraphs. But somehow, "wordy guy" overcame "less is more guy".
--> PUE: modified "Assault on Flat Rock" -->; 66.9 m.; 4 hrs, 20 min in-motion; 15.3 mph.
Jan tot: __9 rides; __671.4 m.; _46 hrs, 38 min; 14.4 mph.
Feb tot: __7 rides; __606.0 m.; _41 hrs, 18 min; 14.7 mph.
Mar tot: __1 rides; ___66.9 m.; __4 hrs, 20 min; 15.3 mph.
YTD tot: _17 rides; _1344.4 m.; _92 hrs, 17 min; 14.6 mph.
Did I mention that I passed Wave, Levi and BobH on Ghoston?