I got to the start in Sealy at about 7.30. A group of riders were getting ready to start but I got out in front of them and almost immediately found myself battling the wind. The lead riders from the group caught me pretty quickly, but they stopped at one of the turns to regroup, so I got in front again. The first half of the ride is on fairly rough country roads and runs roughly east, so the wind was on my right side, which made it much more managable. I rode past the ramshackle old trailer where I usually get chased by a dog. I wanted to see how long he could keep up with the Plastic Fantahstic, but he wasn't around - maybe he chased one bike too many. The dynamic duo caught me again but I kept them in sight on the way down to Bernardo, where I normally take a break as it's about 20 miles into the ride. They had pulled over too, waiting on their SAG wagon.
After a bite of apple, a slug of water and a good stretch I headed out on the next 5 mile leg, which runs past a very impressive looking spread with a big house and a lake. My buddies caught me (again!) and this time I jumped on a wheel and drafted a bit. We turned east and had the wind on our backs for a mile or so and really accelerated. Back on to the main road and they dropped me pretty quickly. It was quite a struggle working my way north into Cat Spring but I used my gears and made it reasonably comfortably.
The next stretch is the toughest part of the ride - 10 miles of very rolling terrain, with several nasty climbs and one double climb, where you think you've made it to the top but you have to do it again very soon after. Fortunately the wind had veered west enough that much of the section was down-wind, but it was still tough. I got a good work out with the gears, and realized how much harder this ride would have been on my old bike, with its down-tube hope-you-can-find them gears.
Through the hills and on to the least enjoyable section, the 7 mile run down Hwy. 36 back to Sealy. The speed limit on 36 is 70 mph and it's pretty busy, but it has a wide shoulder so it's safe enough. Unfortunately the road surface is very rough, and the Plastic Fantahstic is a very harsh ride (like all carbon bikes - the only real drawback) so my teeth were shaking all the way. I found out that the white line was much smoother and rode on it as much as I could, but that put me too close to traffic so I had to keep ducking back onto the shoulder. By the time I got to Sealy I was afraid to get out of the saddle in case my bum fell off. The road quality is much better for the last mile and it felt like I was riding on silk.
Back at the start, and the two hotshots have clearly been in for some time - did they do the full ride, I wonder?
So overall I passed the test pretty well, although we'll see what shape the legs are in tomorrow -