Yesterday I tried to decide if I would do the Sunshine Cycle Shop ride or the Upstate Winter Bicycle League ride. After stopping into the shop to have some adjustments made to my Draft, I got the impression that there wouldn't be a lot of riders out for the shop ride. I decided on the UWBL.
This time I wasn't rushing around at the last second to get there. I arrived in plenty of time to get signed in and see if there were any other riders I could connect with on the ride. Barry and Owen were there, but they were going to ride in the shorter distance group.
Jimmy Helms was there and I spoke with him a bit. He said he was going to ride in the fast group, but he would probably climb into the truck the Cyclone coach would be driving. There were a few Cyclone riders and alums there.
So, I was left kind of to ride alone. After some announcements I rolled off with the group. This time I determined I was going to get closer to the front. The last time I did this I spent more time braking then pedaling.
It worked out great. I was up in the top ten about ten miles out. I stayed there up to about 20 miles. Then we came to a stop sign. Just about that time, it was my turn to pull. So, after we crossed the intersection I pulled for a bit. Then I went back to about 20th.
It was nice up front. You could get on someone's wheel and pretty much not worry about having to brake or take evasive action. From the front row back to about 12th, everyone was riding two-by-two.
As we neared Ware Shoals, it was time for the first sprint. The attack zone was about five miles. This was all new to me the last time I rode this ride. I have never experienced riding in attack zones so long. This time, I was going to play it smart and just stay with the front pack and see what would happen.
I was moving along pretty well. We were over 30 mph and I found myself on the wheel of George Hincapie who was along for the ride. I was feeling good and went to give myself some more gear... there wasn't any. I had as much as I was going to get.
I looked down at George's wheel. He still had about four gears to give! Ha, it was pretty obvious he could crush anyone out there should he decide to give it a serious try.
A little later in the attack zone I found myself overlapping the wheel of the rider in front of me. He decided to move across me and I had to brake and move to avoid getting clipped. I know it didn't make the guys behind me very happy, but they would have been less happy had I gone down and taken them out!
I regrouped and just rode along checking out the action in front of me. I had no idea where the line was. I couldn't have any strategy. My idea was just to stay close to the guys in the team kits cause I figured they would be the ones going for points.
I looked up while in about 15th place and noticed a marker for the Ware Shoals city limit. That was the line. It was really too late for me to react and some riders got around me. I crossed the line in about 19th. At least I felt that had I tried to go for the thing, I could have gotten 10th. I was certainly in position and had the legs to do so.
From there it wasn't too eventful. We did our stop there at a station and then we headed out again. I had never been to Ware Shoals. There appears to be a cool park there I'd like to go back to sometime.
Coming out of Ware Shoals we started a climb. I moved my way up into about sixth place. Once again, I found climbing to be where I could move up. It wasn't like I was trying to race or anything, it was just that my comfortable cadence was taking me around some riders who would slow on climbs.
The road was rough! The whole bike was shaking as we climbed. Then it started feeling really rugged. I heard someone behind me say, "You've got a flat." I looked down and sure enough, my rear tire was down.
I think it was the extra light Michelin tubes that I was giving a try to do a review on for my GreenvilleOnline.com cycling blog. Not sure they are going to get a very good one!
I had the rear wheel off by the time the SAG got to me. Cindy pulled over and opened the minivan door. I climbed in and started to change out my tube. It was interesting going around the turns while trying to fix the flat. I got it done though and was ready to get back at it.
You would think it would be nice to take a break and have a ride in the van while the others are pedaling away. Not so. When I got out I was stiff and my energy was way low. Of course, I was put out behind the group and had to catch up. So, Cindy let me draft off the back of the van until we caught back up.
From up front in sixth place to dead last with dead legs.
I never felt right after that. I did work my way back to the front -- which didn't help matters either. Just as I was reaching back into the front 20 or so, we had to do a U-turn because we missed a road. I was able to turn around and get up on the front.
I stayed up there for awhile. Then I pulled over to let fall back into the group. I was about 15th when we turned onto the road where there is normally an attack zone. Today it was inactive but still the pace picked up. Hincapie and his posse seemed to be wanting to sprint even when they didn't have to!
I hung on for a bit and then realized how stupid I was being. I eased off but I could tell that things were probably going to go south from here. My confidence was high and was sure the ride wouldn't kill me. At that point, finishing outside the main pack wasn't crossing my mind.
Once again we just rode along after the unofficial sprint ended. Nothing really to write about until we reached the final attack zone. Hey, can we just end this post now?
Hincapie and his group was right up front again. I was right behind them. The ride leader - who was next to George - said, "Now we blow the whistle." I said, "The whistle means 'stop', right?" "Riiight," he replied.
Off we went. I knew this was going to be a LONG attack zone. I let the group in front of me get away and just decided to hang with the mere mortals who were coming up behind me. My heart rate was around 160, but I was feeling some lactic build up in my legs.
It was weird. I was breathing just fine. My heart rate was great. My legs were not cramping or really hurting that badly. They just wouldn't push without me summoning a great effort.
With about 15 miles to go, negative thoughts started attacking my mind. "Oh, I just want to stop," the black angel said. "Don't stop idiot. It is going to be a lot harder to do it by yourself!" said the white angel. "Man, this is embarrassing!" was the primary thought.
After the flat and working my way up toward the front again, a Ryobi dude (that is what I call them) came by and said, "You're having a really good ride." That felt really good. Now I was hoping he was up there with George and didn't see me dropping off the back.
"Okay, we'll use this as a character building exercise," I told myself. "Don't quit. You can come in dead last, but don't stop trying to finish pushing strong." I really did try. It helped that the broom wagon came by and allowed those of us falling off the back to draft.
I suffered until we made the turn onto Augusta Road. Once at Church Street, we had to stop for a light. At that point I seemed to recuperate and I left the group I was with behind and rode in alone.
Hey, 85 miles with two attack zones. The more I think about it, the less bad I feel about it. I stayed at the front most of the day and I really think that if I didn't have that flat, I would have been able to finish a lot better. No way would I have kept up with that last sprint group, but I think I could have stayed near the back of the main pack.
Sorry for the long posting... but it was a long ride!