Keen followers of this blog (you know who you are!) will recall a post titled "Frozen in Fayetteville" from about the same time last year. When I rode the 2010 Club 300 Fayetteville ride with David it was 33 degrees at the start and 34 degrees at the end. The weather looked a lot better last Sunday when Kevin C. and I rode the same event - clear skies, cool at first but warming, but they never tell you about the wind when you hear the weather forecast on the radio. Sure enough there was a blustery wind from the North/Northwest to make life a little more interesting on this quite hilly ride.
The organizers laid out two loop routes - a 17 miler which everyone started on, and an optional 28 mile slog for the masochists - and let's face it, every cyclist has a little masochist in them somewhere.
The first few miles of the 17 mile loop had either a cross-wind or for short sections a glorious tail-wind and we were flying along in fine style, screaming down the descents and practically coasting on the climbs. Then we turned into the wind and it was a different story. This year's route took us up the dreaded Rek Hill - a longish, steepish climb into Fayetteville that you hit on the MS150 at about the 80-mile point. There are guaranteed to be riders pushing their bikes on Rek Hill on the big day. No walkers today, but an already tough climb was not eased by riding into a concrete head wind. Kevin normally out-climbs me with ease, but he was feeling the effects of a recent trip to Malaysia, and dropped back. I got as low as I could and ground it out, reaching the crest well ahead of him and a few others we had picked up.
Pretty quickly I found myself back at the start in Fayetteville and began to wonder if I had missed a turn somewhere. I stopped to strain spuds and then rolled over to Kevin's car, where he was waiting for me, having got in about 30 seconds behind me. We both took the opportunity to strip off some gear (my base layer was dripping wet!), hydrate and rest a little before heading out on the 28 mile loop.
We couldn't quite work out the route from the map we had, but got some guidance from another rider and set out with some misgivings. We saw lots of riders going in the opposite direction, which made us even more concerned that we had gone wrong (we wondered if they were from a different group!) but then saw a route marker and relaxed a bit. Kevin decided that we had indeed missed a turn on the 17 mile loop. I'd probably gone right by a marker, with my head down into the wind, and he had followed me.
Conditions were getting tougher and tougher, and we were both getting tired. We arrived at the break point and stopped for water and a much-needed breather. I asked another rider to take a pic and here it is. We look pretty happy, don't we?
On the road again, and yet more vicious climbs, culminating in a real killer that just about did for us. Normally you get a bit of a descent before a climb, and you try and build momentum to help you up the other side. We approached this one on the flat, into the wind, struggling just to keep going. Ominously, there was a ride marshal and a SAG wagon parked at the bottom of the hill, looking like vultures waiting for some road kill. As we climbed in a group with some other riders I yelled out "Granny ring!" (a cycling term explained in a previous post) and grunted my way to the crest with only one gear left. At the top I took it easy for a while, trying to get my heart-rate and breathing under control, and waiting for Kevin - but he didn't appear. I wondered if he had got in front of me but that didn't seem possible, so I turned round and rode back to see where he was. Soon enough the SAG wagon rolled up with Kevin on board. He had missed a gear, causing both legs to cramp up, hadn't been able to get his shoes unclipped and had fallen over on the side of the road. SAGging seemed like a good idea, although he was a little embarrassed.
I declined the offer of a lift and turned around to resume the ride. The climb had just about done me in though, and I opted to take a short-cut that lopped about 6 miles off the route. Pretty soon I was back in Fayetteville, feeling about as bad as I ever have after a ride. Kevin and I loaded up his jeep and headed out. We stopped at Hruska's for a sausage wrap, a bad idea as it turned out. Back home I promptly retired to my bed for a two hour power nap, and woke feeling much better. I'm glad I don't have to do that again.