Having been victim of a flat at the beginning of the first dirt road section (!!), I know exactly what Jeff means. It was nice to have wheel car, but it took me a minute to realize it was 100% self-service, including finding the trunk handle, finding my wheel, etc, while the driver sat in his seat verifying that indeed I did have a wheel in the back. In addition, I assumed that it wasn’t going to be me who needed my wheel, but some other bozo (I had upgraded to tubulars for that very reason – “no flat” insurance), so I put a nice little paper tag tied to a string in the axle. As a result I had the pleasure of listening to flap, flap, flap for 57 miles on my old clincher. If that was not enough, I was worried the whole time – what if I got another flat? I was now behind the wheel car, and had nothing, no spare for either tubular or clincher tire, no cell phone, nothing!.And 58 miles of Battenkill to go. In retrospect, I was very lucky.
OK, I had achieved my first objective – first through the covered bridge and first onto the dirt road. But, I hadn’t travelled all this way to go on a charity ride. I knew I was stronger than most of the Cat 5 field, so .. . on my new hybrid wheel combo (two more different wheels you could hardly find), I found some undiscovered time trial skills – an hour at 98% of threshold (according to my power files) and caught up to the second group of five from the front at mile 28, after passing a bunch of Cat 5 stragglers that were of no help whatsoever. One rider even offered to work with me. Guess he couldn’t hang on with my first pull.
When I asked my new of buddies about who was ahead, they thought there were six. The next 16 miles was a big of a rest time with only a few pulls – I think the other Cat 5 55+ folks felt sorry for me having to climb back – of course I let them of my f__ flat. Or maybe they weren’t experienced enough to get off the front too quick. Some guy (#596) pulled the whole way on Cheesecake (I was second), with its very loose rubble of a dirt road surface and absolutely no line out of it – with wind to top it off. That was painful – thank goodness for pavement again. When we turned back onto dirt on Wright’s road, it was head’s up and total concentration to negotiate the 3 – 4 inches of sand in several spots. No way around it! Slipping and sliding – just power, power, power. Was that also a hill? – I honestly don’t even remember.
Next was Meeting House Hill with its big rollers, more sand and dust everywhere. A car went by, and you couldn’t see it from behind – just dust. Head down, follow the guy in front of me. Go fast on the down hills, hope for the best. We got to the top of the last hill and there was no one in sight behind us – just us two. Working together we had no intention of letting anyone catch us. Turn onto Stage Road, which I had scouted the day before – right after passing the second covered bridge. I liked this hill – packed dirt, nice incline – and long. Just my kind of hill. Cranking up it, I took the lead. I love hills, they give me new energy. And the pain disappeared. Wait, did I just past another one from my group? (#579 – appeared beat and broken) No sense thinking about it now. Got to the fallen tree on the right 20 meters from the top – that was the sign to step on it (as Hank taught me during his training week). Lo and behold, looked back as I crested and my buddy 596 was nowhere to be seen. Hmm, not really a climber? (afterward he told me it was fatigue). OK, having read Hank’s report from last year, I knew it was time to take no chances. I would lose a sprint if it came down to that. Back to the time trial mode and the pain – down the hills peddling hard, taking the corners clean and fast, and then to the 3 miles of flats. It was at this point I learned how I could rest my elbows in the top bar and get REAL aero – easy to do since it was straight. Sort of a relaxed upper body while the legs (actually feet) were in serious pain. Shut up feet! Do as I tell you! Around the corner to the last 400 meters – looked back – there was a guy that looked just like my buddy -only 10 meters back. OK, I don’t sprint real well, but I do have power for 400 meters. Through to the finish, clean. Actually, it wasn’t him after all – 579 ended up 35 seconds behind me. No idea how I did until they reported – fifth! Satisfying . . . given the flat. Guess there were five in that first group with the one I passed (596 – came in seventh) on Stage Road Hill.
Upon inspection, my tubular tire had a nice, serious gash near the rim. Now, how the heck did that happen?
Thanks for all the coaching, guys. I am hooked for good now. And I learned a lot in an unexpected sort of way.