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


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.

Blue Ridger Proper


“You’re going to be hot in that,” the rider said to me as I was leaving the Park & Ride lot in Marshall. I thought it’s OK because I want to stay warm and as the temperature rose I could peel off the leg and arm warmers.

I’ve ridden the Blue Ridger route three or four times before but never solo. I thought I might see some riders in the parking lot who wanted to team up. Instead there were two parked cars then the one rider came as I was getting ready to roll. He wasn’t interested in riding 55 miles over two mountains this early in the season.

I headed north out of Marshall towards Rectortown and was immediately glad I had on the warmers. It was spring, the first full day, but winter chill was still in the air. The smell of wood burning was in the air but the birds were chirping their welcome to the new season.

I wanted to take my time to “smell the flowers” but flowers were hard to find. In some shaded areas there was still snow from the last storm four weeks ago.

It was a nice ride to Bluemont. I stopped briefly to remove my leg warmers. I began the climb up to Mount Weather (think X-Files) and slide the arm warmers down. Once on the summit I needed the arm warmers.

After a few miles of rollers on the mountains, I descended to Paris, Va., and then climbed up and over Naked Mountain. Five different times on the ride I went over 40 mph. The last 10 miles were rollers but the storm moving in later today presented some nice headwinds.

Top of Rte 7

Looking up Blueridge Mountain Road
Much steeper than it looks

My time was two mph slower than when I last rode it in July. Blame it on (1) Recovery from cancer surgery (2) no group to pull me along (3) early season out of shape (4) being another year older (5) I suck.

Ashby Inn, Paris, Va.

Garmin Map and Stats

First Day of Spring


After a winter of almost no group rides, we had our first one two weeks ago. But the temperature was 35 with a high near 50. Rain claimed the ride last weekend and with today’s forecast with a high of 70, it seemed like the first ride of the season. And it would be the first ride of the spring season since spring arrived at 1:32 p.m.

Today was simply on the best rides we had. It was a large group (I didn’t count but maybe 30) and we all stayed together. There was a bit of a split on South Lakes but I hung with the front group. Sweet.

It was also the first I saw Kelly Noonan and David Vito since my surgery. It was a great day!

Friends Kelley and David

Garmin Map and Stats

Rain? What Rain?

We have had some of the worst cycling weather this winter. Record snow falls and a slow melt kept the roads covered. When the roads were good, the weather was bad. Last week was still the first group ride I was able to join in Reston since my pre-surgery ride on November 7.
This weekend was no better. Rain since Friday canceled our group ride Saturday and most of what I could find for the Potomac Pedalers rides today.
About 2:00 p.m. I had had enough. I’ve been caught in plenty of rain storms but never deliberately said “screw it — let’s go riding in the rain.” Today I did.
The temperature was 49 degrees. It rained the entire time. I only went 11 miles but it was great to be on the bike. A little bit of rain wasn’t going to keep me down.

I’m Back!


Yea, I think I can say that. I’m back!

Many stores open days and weeks before their “grand opening.” Thus it is with my return to cycling. My “official” return from cancer is my own designed ‘Toona Metric Century which will be in Altoona, Pa., on April 3. But it would be foolhardy to jump into a 100 km ride with three massive climbs without riding first. So this weekend were my first group rides at pace since my cancer surgery on November 9, 2009.

Atop Birdneck, Reston, Va – March 6

The forecast for yesterday was a high of 50 degrees (10 C) — finally — but it was only 36 (2 C) when we left The Bike Lane in Reston, Va. And it was windy too. About 30 riders showed up. I felt good. Had no problems keeping pace with the group. In fact, one rider posted that the pace seemed fast for the first ride of the year (above freezing). Plus we had a catered breakfast back at The Bike Lane when finished. Life is good!

Yesterday’s mileage was a little less than 28 miles as we had to cut out the access paths due to snow and ice and stay on some main roads. In the afternoon I tacked on nine additional miles to Forest Park H.S. to see a college baseball game that didn’t materialize. Bonus Miles!

Barry – Inside the Bike Lane, Reston, Va.

Today was a Potomac Pedalers’ ride called The Hills of Ellicott City. Ellicott City is a historic railroad town, in Howard County, Maryland, adjacent to Baltimore County. It is deep in the Patapsco River valley.

B&O Railroad Museum, Ellicott City

This ride is simple. Ride 13 miles to Ellicott City, find a steep hill, climb, descend, repeat. On our first climb, two riders had gone 1/4 mile ahead so our group of nine hit the steep climb on Ilchester Road together. The climb had two steeps sections, one at 18% and the other may have pushed 20% (I was out of the saddle then and couldn’t read my Garmin display). I caught one of the two riders that had gone way ahead. And waited at the top for the group.

Ellicott City, Md.

We also climbed College Ave. (16%) and Westchester (an easy 12%). This is the place to find short punchy hills.

I wonder where the battle is

I was far back at the start of the climb on Westchester since rather and stop and put a foot down to make my left turn against the oncoming traffic on Frederick Road, I continued up the street and did a U-turn when traffic was clear. I caught and passed every rider on the climb until I integrated with the front group of four.

The ride was great. It was a friendly pace today and we tried to keep the group together. When our group of four reached Ellicott City we waited again to reform. We began our last climb out of the valley on Old Columbia Road as one unit.

Some of the riders of the Ellicott City group ride

The ride back had some “rollers” – no real hills – but on each one I kept pace with a leader or set the pace. The temperature was 46 (8 C) at ride time but warmed to the mid-50s. It was a great day for riding!!

The legs felt good today. Total distance – 44 miles. And I was the first one back. In a nutshell — I felt great.

Some of the riders of the Ellicott City group ride

More importantly, I met another cancer survivor on the ride. I had a nice talk back at the parking lot with David LeMond. And most importantly, although I’ve said it before, I think today I have really turned a corner in my cancer recovery. I hope so. It’s been a long four months.

Note: Oops. Turned off Garmin at Old Annapolis Road and didn’t get it turned back on until Montgomery Ave. (This was a feature of the old Garmin units which did not have auto-pause – the users often paused them, maybe not turned them off – then forget to restart them.)

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