Paddy wanted to ride the 100-mile Bellville Cheeseburger Classic from my house last weekend. I wasn't sure I was ready for the distance, but having done it before I thought it would be ok, especially if we had a good group of Mules to hide behind.
Saturday morning rolled around and the only riders were Paddy, Kevin and me. This should have set off alarm bells as Kevin is very strong right now and Paddy has been building up his mileage consistently, but as the host I couldn't very well bail out at the last minute.
We set off before dawn on a cool but oddly humid morning. I led the guys out of my neighbourhood and onto Eldridge, where we joined the MS-150 route, and we settled into a paceline. The wind was mostly behind us and we made good time, each taking two miles at the front. We decided to ride 30 miles before stopping and that took us conveniently to the diner at the intersection of FM529 and 362. This was where we stopped the last time, but the place was under new management since then and had been spiffed up quite a bit. It was still a good ol' taco truck, but a covered deck had been built around the service hatch, and there were tables and chairs, so it felt quite posh for a roadside joint in the middle of flippin' nowhere. We picked up water and gatorade and headed on.
The wind had got stronger was out of the south-east. The next few miles were dead down-wind and we flew. The road turned west and we had a powerful cross-wind but we were still doing OK. We reached the Brazos, which marks the start of Austin County and the end of the flatlands. The stretch into Bellville has a lot of rollers and a few good climbs. Paddy was suffering a bit, Kevin was as strong as an ox and I was somewhere in between.
Bellville is getting very familiar! We rolled through the Downtown area and on to the Hill restaurant, formerly the home of the best burger in the County (or so it said on their marquee). That honour appears to have gone somewhere else as they were no longer claiming it. Paddy and I had the eponymous sandwich but Kevin opted for breakfast wraps and pronounced them excellent.
Back on the road, and the first few miles back to the Brazos basically did for me. The climbs and the wind together completely sapped my energy, and I couldn't find a comfortable position on my handlebars, which further drained my reserves. We stopped on the bridge for an all-too-short break (no smiles or photos this time) but I was now almost completely dead in the water and had to stop every few miles. Kevin ushered me into place in his wind shadow (a strong cross wind was not helping) but my bike control was weak and I didn't want to get too close. At one stop, when I was lying in the roadside ditch, a motorist stopped to check that we were OK. What a nice surprise - a random act of kindness out in the wilds of Texas. At that break I decided enough was enough, and called Susan for a SAG pick-up (only 30 miles from home).
I was tempted to stay where I was, but Paddy and Kevin cajoled me back into the saddle and then dragged me back to the roadside diner (only one lie-down in the ditch on the way), where I flaked out on the floor, under the eyes of the very kind and concerned proprietors. Paddy and Kevin still had 35 miles to run, with the wind blowing hard and traffic getting heavier, so they set off. Susan showed up (despite me giving her the wrong directions in my addled road-side condition) and we headed home.
Lessons learned: don't try to jump directly from 45 miles to 110 miles, and you can find kind-hearted, hospitable people in unlikely places.