Hey – It's My Ride – You Can't Drop Me

MARSHALL, VIRGINIA

I never envisioned myself leading a group ride for the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club. Time commitments with refereeing kept me from blocking out much time for cycling. In addition to not being able to commit the time, I suck as a group leader for rides.

On group rides I never take a cue sheet and rarely lead unless someone is willing to tell me where to turn. So I don’t make a great person to actually lead a ride. I’m good at wheel sucking. Until I get tired.

Last week I looked at the group rides planned for this weekend and they sucked. I didn’t see anything good. So I got on the Potomac Pedalers website and sent an email expressing my willingness to lead a ride on Sunday if they posted it. And they did. I decided that I would do the same ride I did last week — the Blue Ridger. Climb over Mount Weather and Naked Mountain.

Never mind that I forgot it was Palm Sunday. My ride went up on the web site and I found myself in Marshall waiting for people to show up. And hoping they didn’t. I wasn’t quite “feeling it” and it was cold with a forecast of rain later in the day. But either four or six riders joined me for our 55 mile adventure.

The four riders responded to the Potomac Pedalers website listing while the other two showed up on their own. They said they would go out on their own but they did sign in with me. We had a group of seven!

It was 43 degrees when the five of us left and we caught our two riders in Bluemont just as they were heading up the first climb. After our brief rest stop in Bluemont I was the last of the group up the climb and lost contact with everyone. For the next 14 miles I swore at Cancer for zapping me of my fitness for not being able to keep up with the ride that I was “leading.”

The temperature dropped to 37 degrees on top of Mount Weather. I rode in the clouds. Visibility was about 100 meters and the fog was so thick that water dripped from the trees onto the road.
Here were four of our six riders in Bluemont

I didn’t want to take chances but I descended at a decent clip. I forgot my glasses today so as at more than 40 mph tears were flying from both eyes and snot was running from both nostrils. Maybe that’s why they didn’t want to wait for me. As I came to the end of Blueridge Mountain Road I could see through the barren trees ahead two riders were waiting to cross Rte 50. I had caught someone.

I descended to Paris, jumped the guardrail (well, got off my bike and carried it over the guardrail) and caught the group at The Ashby Inn.

When we headed out on Rte 17 the winds picked up. I don’t know who was pulling but I felt sorry for him but not sorry enough to go to the front to take a pull. I was in front a lot in the first 23 miles before we hit the climb which I can blame myself for not being able to keep up once we hit the mountain.

Some rains hit us and may have had a bit of sleet. It was miserable. We were only in the rain about two minutes before we turned up Leeds Manor Road for the climb up Naked Mountain. Both the rain and wind quit as soon as we turned off 17. We soon split into three groups of two-three-two and climbed at our own pace. I was in the middle three.

The five of us regrouped but had dropped the two trailing riders. We started the eight mile finishing stretch back to Marshall together. The first couple miles were fine but when the road turned up I couldn’t quite keep pace. Eventually I got back in within 50 meters of the lead three and that’s where I would stay.

I was wiped at the end. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that I finished the parcours 30 minutes faster than last week. And while I whined last week that I was two miles per hour slower than when I rode last July, I discovered I got those two mph back. I rode today in the cold and wet the same pace as I rode last July. Even getting dropped.

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