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Saturday, August 23, 2008

What a beautiful ride!

When I woke up this morning and looked out the window, I could see the window turning the leaves on the trees upside down. Hmmmmm, maybe I should just climb back in bed. I knew I needed to ride, so I started to pull on my riding clothes.

As soon as I got on the bike and rode out of my driveway, I knew I had made the right decision. The sun was just beginning to rise above the trees and while there was a wind, it wasn't so gusty that it made riding technical.

Pulling into the parking lot at Sunshine Cycle Shop, I found a mix of riders. Most all of the riders had done the ride before, but some of them less than most of us. The variety in rider abilities led to a stop and go type of ride.

I was supposed to just lead out on the ride and not attempt any sprints. So, I tucked in behind Peter and Tony and just followed them along until we neared Reid School Road. John came up along side and we rode across the line two-by-two.

This is the first place we stopped to wait for a mechanical issue for one of the riders. While the ride can be fast and furious, there is still a "no man left behind" rule. We got started and rolled on to the next sprint zone.

I didn't try on this one. I had the opportunity to watch other riders go for the line. John stood and best I could tell he won the sprint to the line. It was kind of nice to be a spectator on that long stretch!

Next up was the quarry road. There is a long lead up to that climb. We take a left onto a long relatively straight stretch of road and then another left that follows a winding road to the bridge where the road kicks up for the climb.

When we made that first left, I slipped in near the end of the line and settled in. Unfortunately, I looked up after we had ridden for a bit and realized I was behind a slowing rider. A sizable gap formed between me and the group ahead.

Rather than try to make it up all at once, I tried to pace myself back to them knowing that typically the group slows after the second left turn. By the time we got there, I (along with Art and some others) had caught the tail of the group.

What we didn't realize was a bunch of Les Amis riders kept going. I saw John up ahead and figured he was planning on doing another breakaway win up the road like he did the previous week. I hoped maybe I could catch him.

I followed Peter and Tony down to base of the climb and kept my big gear and momentum as far as I could into the incline. Then I shifted into an easier gear and tried to stay consistent.

Slowly I gained on the Les Amis riders. Matt was there trying to encourage a couple of young junior riders. I went around them and could see I was starting to close on John. I hoped I might be able to sneak up on him.

It wasn't to be. While I continued to close the gap, he finished about 50 yards ahead of me. Suddenly I started questioning why I made that attempt. The effort took a good bit out of me.

John was there again when I pulled off the front to head to the fire hydrant sprint. I led off pretty well, but realized when I started the climb after the bridge I had used up my juice. Sure enough, John came around me and beat me to the line by about 15 yards.

My next concern was the Paris Mountain State Park entrance. This was the one I wanted. My Spinner teammates, Tony and Peter, were in front of me. John and Matt were talking with the junior guys again to see if they could teach them a thing or two.

Tony led off while Peter and I moved to the back of the sprinters. About 100 yards of so from the entrance, Peter motioned to me that he was going to break out of the line and pull me past. We shifted and rolled.

The sprint wouldn't be nearly as fun without Peter leading me out. I feel like I can't help but take the sprint when I'm sitting on his wheel hardly having to work at all. He moves over and I have incredible momentum while feeling great.

Before we got to that point, we had to get around the other guys. As we came around Matt and John, who was following him, I heard John call to Matt, "Matt, Go!" I knew there was going to be competition.

We reached the bottom. Peter moved over. I launched. I think I went off a little to hard, but I figured some Les Amis guy was going to come around me. I tried to pull everything I could out of that bike. Then I heard John behind me, "Pick a sprint lane." Thankfully, I made it without taking the two of us out.

My training must be helping me. I thought for sure Oak Leaf was going to kill me. It wasn't so bad, John climbed to the top first, but I was right there with him.

Nature Trail? As I coasted down to the beginning of the climb, I told myself, "Just set your own pace. Don't try to react." The two Les Amis juniors had built a pretty big gap. Matt was up there with them cheering them along.

Suddenly a rider in front of me dropped his chain. He stopped dead. "Sorry, sorry," he started saying. I moved around his left. John who was behind me had to put a foot down before going around his right.

That messed up our momentum a bit. About time we got back on the pedals, we had another break in momentum. I didn't see it, but I heard it. A pit bull came out of a nearby yard dragging a chain. I kept expecting to hear the chain go taut. It didn't! The dog was dragging a broken chain. Everyone split and dashed away.

I pulled over after that and eased my way to the top. I'm not sure exactly if John finished first of the junior rider he was trying to encourage up the hill. I was too far back.

We rolled back into the shop about two hours after starting. What a beautiful ride as we watched the clouds blow across a blue sky. Won't be there to enjoy it next week. The crowd might be smaller as people go to the South Carolina Road Racing Championship.



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