Today was an awesome day for a ride. A HUGE group of peeps from Greenville headed up to Chattanooga yesterday to participate in today's 3 state 3 mountain challenge. This ride is a metric or full century put together by the Chattanooga Bike Club. It was a very well put together event and a great route.
Today was my first time on this route, and I have to credit my friends Nikki and Bo for suggesting the weekend get-away. Nikki did a great job hooking us up at the Doubletree hotel in downtown Chattanooga. We all drove out yesterday. Some arrived earlier than others, as some of us had to get some work done before heading out. Regardless, my friend Jeni picked up some awesome chow from Tony's and I happened to be pulling into the parking lot when they returned from the restaurant! Perfect, I just had to find a place to sit down to eat.
This morning, we all met for breakfast before heading out for the ride. Because I'm such an idiot at times, I left the hotel before our guides (Nikki and Bo) came down from their room. I went the completely wrong direction and ended up about 2.5 miles from the hotel with only about 15 minutes before the ride started. Thankfully, I realized my mistake and turned around immediately.
I retraced my steps and found myself pulling up to the starting line just a few moments before they released the riders. Since everything was so packed at the front of the group of riders, I decided to simply go forward on the route about 2 blocks. Once they released the riders, I pulled out and started riding. I was pretty surprised that the peloton was not going harder - I ended up leading the entire ride for about 3-5 miles. No problem really, I wasn't trying to do a breakaway, I just wanted to be near the front.
They finally ramped up the pace and caught me just a short distance before we started up the 1st main climb. I did my best to hold their pace, but wasn't surprised when a pack began to pull away from me about 2/3rds of the way up the mountain. I hooked up with a couple of other guys who fell off the lead pack's pace and we worked together to get up the mountain.
On the descent, we managed to reel in some others who had also fallen off the lead pack's pace, and I had an awesome time maximizing my descent skills to make that happen. It was a lot of fun. The descent was pretty straight, so I had to minimize my distance by trimming every corner. I had three or four guys in my sight, and by riding the white line for right hand turns and the yellow line for left hand turns, I was able to pull them right in.
What was the coolest, about the time I caught them, we entered a section with some tighter turns. This is where my motorcycle road racing experience came in handy. I actually managed to pull a gap through these turns. It was a blast, but of course, they brought me right back when we hit the base of the mountain and got into the flats.
Shortly after hitting the flats, we ended up with a group of maybe about 15 riders. Maybe 6 or 7 of these guys were from the local racing team Krystal. These guys were great riders and they really deserve the credit for keeping the pace high. The Krystal team came up on us like a freight train, and I simply jumped on to the caboose.
We rocked the flats between the bottom of the first hill and up until about mile 45 or so when the 2nd mountain began. Again, I did my best to hold the pace, but there was some really strong riders in this group and they began to pull away as we made the ascent. I made the decision to stop for a nature break about 2/3 - 3/4 up the hill, and thought I'd seen the last of them.
After that very short nature break, I got back on the bike and found myself reeling the pack back in. I worked as hard as I could and just managed to reach the tail end of this pack when we came upon the 60 mile SAG stop. I checked my computer and found that we had averaged exactly 20mph for that 60 miles. Of course that means we pulled into that stop at just about 3 hours. All of the guys who I had been riding with also pulled in for that stop.
After refilling my bottles and grabbing a half banana, I started off again. I expected this crew to catch me, so I just wanted to spin and keep the blood flowing.
Sure enough, it wasn't long before the Krystal team came by like a freight train. They still had a half dozen or maybe more other guys riding with them, so I pulled into the line and we started making rotations. We kept the pace high but started dropping some guys as the miles clicked away.
As we approached the 80 mile mark, which happened to be just before the final climb of the day. We still had about 6 or 7 Krystal guys, several others and me. As we turned onto the final climb, I actually thought I'd seen the last of them. Although I'm a pretty strong climber, those guys were stronger and I thought they would be pulling away from me.
The final climb was very tough. It was steep for about 2 miles, then it got even more steep in the last 3/10ths of a mile. I somehow found some strength to pull back a few guys in those last tenths, but was very glad to see a SAG stop at the top of the climb. We all stopped to refuel, and again, I headed out before the pack.
As I expected, here comes the freight train again. The Krystal team had a guy who I started to call 'Locomotive'. He was a bigger guy, so he was wicked fast on the downhills AND he had some killer bike skills on those downhills. However, so many times I saw him, he was out in front on the flats or the rollers pulling those guys along like a big diesel locomotive. He is a wicked strong guy. Once again, I latched onto the back of this freight train and tried to fit into the rotation.
About mile 88, my right inner thigh started to cramp. Unfortunately, it happened to be when I was in 2nd position with my pull rotation coming up. I had to get out of the line and let those other guys pull through. I dropped back a little while I tried to work out the cramps. By mile 89, I found myself pulling up to the back of the pack again.
We kept our rocking pace, which on average I found had dropped a little on that last climb to something about 19.3 or 19.4 mph. We were trying to pull that pace back up, and succeeding ever so slowly.
As we pedaled through the rollers, two riders had formed a break from our small pack. Although I had cramped a little before, I tried to keep a strong pace to stay with the pack. I found after a while that I had started to reel those two guys in. What I was most stoked about was I caught them just before we started on the last descent. I pulled out my descending skills and led these two guys down the hill. I even pulled a gap up to the point when we were back into town. At that point, we formed a small group and rode in together. The other Krystal guys were a little back from us - especially after that hill.
The three of us rocked the pace into town, and came in pretty much together. I crossed the line at 5:13 total time. My computer showed 5:07 ride time. I knew I wasn't going to beat 5 hours, but I feel really good about this ride today. My goal was to ride as hard and as long as I could. In the end, I managed to reel in the 2 man break and put a gap between me and the pack I had been riding. We averaged 19.5mph for the 100 miles.
It is probably the last hard and long ride I'll do before Mt Mitchell. I'll begin my taper, although, stay tuned, there is another ride scheduled for next week. That one is going to be a fundraiser for one of my P3C3 peeps.
2 years ago