Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Adventures Of A
Michigan Cyclist in Tennessee
- ms

I will start this recap to the event with my foolishly taking sinus/allergy medicine the Friday before to combat a sinus headache that I was experiencing. Now from experience I knew that this results in a very poor performance the following day. It was risk that or suffer through the 8-10 hour ride to Tennessee. I took my chances and the results were pretty bad. The first 20 miles were tolerable but the last 40 were a continuous
sufferfest. With this being probably the warmest day that I've ridden this year and the terrain being rather different than the "rolling hills" that we have in Michigan, (meaning they had some killer hills and they were stacked one after another), it was a struggle to complete the entire metric century. I thought I was suffering up Roan Mtn. in Tennessee/North Carolina. Every turn of the pedal required a great deal of effort.

On a more positive note the MDCC led by Eddie Sloan had a real nice pace line going after the start but we didn't realize how nice it was until we started dropping back. I was first to fall off the pace at about the 10-15 mile mark shortly before the first rest stop. As I pulled off to drop back and ride at a more comfortable pace a continuous line of riders came floating by. I counted at least 15 folks that had jumped on our train. The line was so long that I almost had enough time to recover and hop on the back but not quite. As I understand it Larry dropped shortly after myself and was getting thank you's for the strong pull when he rolled to the back.

There wouldn't be a ride with a story of misadventure. Shortly before the final rest stop I had just crested a long climb and was enjoying the descent when I heard "car back!" being yelled behind me. I going to attribute what happened next to my state of extreme fatigue. I ventured over to the right to give the vehicle passing room only I ventured a bit too far and was suddenly off road. Unfortunately there was about 6 inches of gravel next to the pavement and next to the gravel was an incline of grass leading to a ditch. Now all this wouldn't have been so bad had I not been going 30+ mph. To complicate matters there were driveways approaching fast with mailboxes. I had 2 thoughts at this moment and 1 verbal reaction.
The 2 thoughts were:1. I'm going to crash in an out of state tour wearing my club uniform and 2. These mailboxes are fast coming pretty fast! My single verbal reaction was: (repeated over and over) Oh darn!

The positives from this experience are that I didn't crash nor did anyone I know see all this happen. One of the few advantages of getting dropped. I still felt compelled to confess what had happened first to Eddie who graciously fell back and rode with me all the way to the end of the ride and eventually to the rest of the crew. Which was good because shortly after I admitted to my attempt at cycle-cross, several ladies that witnessed the entire horrific event rolled into the final rest stop to recap this embarrassing experience from their perpective behind me. They did happen to compliment me on my bike handling skills and felt the need to call me Lance (ala the Tour 2003) which I felt was very nice of them to try to boost my morale in this time of utter embarrassment.

The rest of the ride was simply a continuation of everything else the preceded this event with continued suffering and struggling to make some of the steep climbs that I still wouldn't have described as rollers had I been in better condition.

Again Eddie was there with me giving advice (breathing techniques, climbing etc...) and motivating me probably out of fear that I would be ending up in the sag considering the snails pace that I was forcing him to travel. The final climb into the parking lot was in itself a monumental struggle but I still had the strength (or insanity) to challenge Eddie to a sprint to his van to which he humbly declined saying he was too tired (likely that he was so bored that his legs had fallen asleep from near pedestrian pace). I thanked him for turning down my ludicrous challenge and I made it without the sag. A major accomplishment considering how I felt for more than 50% of the ride. Thanks again to Eddie for escorting me and the same to Larry who did the same for a portion of the ride.

The next day was planned as a laid back recovery ride...............until Eddie led us to this hill that had me saying in mid-climb "I'm heading back to the house" and Larry to murmur "Darn Eddie". The worst thing about this hill was where it was in respect to the total miles (mile 3 at most out of a total of 30 for the day). After this wake up climb Eddie says this hill he uses to warm up. I was just seconds earlier saying I wish I had brought my windvest. So steep and long was this climb that had you been a bit chilly before this climb you were definitely unzipping your jersey, clicking to your easiest gear, and out of the saddle throwing your bike from side to side to keep from rolling backwards. This hill made the rest of the ride seem like a piece of cake.

We rolled to our midpoint rest destination where we were immediately greeted by the friendliest pit bull you'll ever want to see. Of course the meer sight of this beast made Brian do an amazing disappearing act. The rest was brief but we decided to head back by way of a "swing bridge" that Eddie wanted us to check out all the while with the friendly pit bull following for at least a mile all the way. He had taken a definite liking to me much to Brian's annoyance. After a brief photo opp on the bridge that traversed and beautiful stream we headed to a friend of Eddie's who had crashed the previous day. He's the owner of an extraordinary lodge that I could not describe with any degree of justice. The climb up to it itself is challenging enough. The owner has ambitions, being an avid cyclist, of making it a cycling haven, running tours and rides out of it on a regular basis. The general area surrounding this location is a cyclist's heaven, unless you're a flatlander then you'll probably consider it hell. There are relatively flat routes that run along beautiful babbling brooks and streams but there is almost no way to avoid some steep climbs.

Heading back we were rolling at a moderate pace and I was feeling pretty good. Eddie was no longer doing all the pulls and had rolled to the back leaving Brian up front after sharing the front with Eddie. I thought it only right to give the guy a break and do my fair share. Big mistake. I took my brief turn on the front and had purposely had the speed on my computer turned off thus I had no idea what speed we had been traveling. Apparently Daryl and the rest took this as a challenge and I must have increased the tempo because once I pulled off the rest of the group came blazing past me and it took everything I had to hang on for the brief time that I did. It was like they had opened the gates at the Kentucky Derby. I made a mental note to remind myself why I hate doing pulls with these animals. Upon catching back up with them (minus Eddie who again graciously rode with me) which was inevitable because they didn't know where the hell they were going, I let Daryl and Brian know what a dirty deed that was to which they replied "What?" "Who me?". We were all anticipating the climb up Eddie's driveway (17% grade) to his house which can only be described as the type of climb that has you leaning so far over your handle bars that your nose gets burnt on your front tire. It’s so steep that if you're weight is distributed too far forward your rear wheel will begin slipping. Well as we approached Eddie's driveway I made sure I was in my climbing gear so that I wouldn't be doing any shifting during the climb. Daryl was out front with Brian behind him. They seemed to hesitate just as the turn into the driveway got closer so I went wide. Brian announced "let me get out of you guy's way and he seemed be almost going straight because I was coming around in front of him making the turn on to the driveway. Daryl I later found was in the wrong gear so I went by him right at the base. I was leaning over my bars trying to get some leverage when, due in part to the moist pavement my rear wheel began to slip so I had to redistribute my weight to the rear and keep grinding away. Suddenly Eddie comes smoothly cruising by me, still in the saddle mind you, and I thought very briefly of trying to beat him to the top but thought better of it and continued at my current pace till I reached the chairs outside his garage where I dropped my steed (I actually laid it down) and collapsed into one of his chairs. Eddie, once again was so kind as to pick up my bike and move it out of harms way, which I really appreciate. The perfect end to another great cycling adventure with the fellas.

Let me add that the hospitality was like a four star inn with wonderful breakfasts and a delicious spaghetti dinner on arrival night. Thank you Kathy who fed us so well and made it difficult to leave the table to get on our bikes for the rides.