The event was the Save a Limb Ride, a fundraiser for The Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics which, I think, is primarily at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. I left the house at 5:00 a.m. to get to the start line on time.
As I was leaving registration I saw Ben King and then Jens Voigt. I went to the car and got some Sharpies. I was wearing my Shut Up Legs t-shirt. I really haven’t been following Jens around the world for this moment. It just seemed that way.
In 2011, Adrian Register and I were at the team bus for Leopard-Trek in Saint Gaudens, France. Adrian had his Shut Up Legs t-shirt but when the team exited the bus they had to get to the starting line quickly. I’m not even sure if I owned my t-shirt at that point or if I bought it later.
Ducking back inside registration I asked Jens to sign my shirt. He willingly obliged. I was a happy camper. No matter what would happen on the day it would be a good day.
At 8:00 a.m. we gathered at the event start. The good doctor who was the emcee referred to Jens (pronounced Yens in his native German) as “Gens” (as in more than one girl named Jen). And said he was from East Germany. “I guess it’s all one big Germany, now.” I sort of giggled. Cyclists all cringed as the doctor mangled his name.
As we rolled out it was a cold 48℉. It was ard to believe it was summer just two weeks ago. Plus it was windy too.
The course was somewhat difficult. The event website warned: “Please be aware that our Metric Century ride is a difficult and challenging ride with 5,400 feet of climb.” Actually, for 60 miles, nearly 6,000′ of climb is a lot. Generally, anything more than 100 feet per mile is mountainous and this approached that. I hadn’t read the warning or maybe I would have used the small ring on my triple. I stayed in the 39-tooth middle ring on all the climbs.
I rode for a while with a guy from Fairfax Co. who wore a full FDJ kit. Remember Kentucky Fried Chicken? It was rebranded as KFC to avoid that awful word “fried.” This team was named FDJeux.com in 2003 and 2004, then renamed Française des Jeux, supposedly to avoid bad luck, until July 2010, when the name was simplified to its initials. (Source: Wikipedia)
I never got his name. He was perhaps 10 years younger and we seemed to match up in power and speed. Around Mile 30 it seemed on every climb, and there were lots of small ones, he dropped back. I always waited. I believe three times he asked me to ride ahead but I was comfortable shepherding him along.
andBut as we were “climbing” up around Prettyboy Reservoir we were joined by two guys who were methodically, but slowly, making their way up the climb. I stayed with them then soft-pedaled at the top but FDJ-guy never did rejoin me. Ever. Even at the end. I think I spent almost an hour at the festival. I never saw him again.
The route was through rolling country roads. The cues were painted on the road. On a group ride, I tend to follow: (1) people; (2) cues; or (3) maps, in that order. Early in the ride, we came to an intersection on a descent. Normally a four-way stop, it was missing the stop sign. Following the wheels of other riders, we flew through it and kept going. About a mile later I saw cyclists coming in the other direction. Another half mile I see 10-15 cyclists all looking at maps. Oh oh. Bonus miles!
The last 10 miles I was pretty much in “no man’s land”. I rarely saw anyone on the road up ahead and was not caught by anyone. I had to follow the cues. They were well-marked until the end. I was navigating by feel as I often didn’t think I was on the right course. But I made it.
Back at the finish I went to the festival. There, Jens, Ben King, and Robbie Ventura were signing autographs. I thought about getting them to sign my race bib but what would I do with it? Some had them autograph their event T-shirt, but again, why?
I was just looking at the autograph table with Jens and Ben and it was as though Robbie read my mind. Actually, he did one better because I never thought of posing with Jens and Ben. Robbie took my camera and told me to get in the picture with those two. After snapping a photo of us, a volunteer took a picture of Robbie and me.
Weighing heavy on my mind was the recent accident by my friend, Scott Scudamore. Hope and prayers were the best we could do and I wanted to deliver hope. I asked Jens and Ben to make short greeting videos wishing Scott well and they did.
Robbie’s take today on the course was that it was quite difficult. He said it is much easier to have two or three hard climbs and then flat, unlike this undulating course. “Anyone can ride 100 miles on flat” (uh, no they can’t), he said, “but you really have to be fit to ride a course like today’s.” He’s right. My legs feel it.
EPILOGUE/COMMENTS – I look back almost 10 years ago at this ride. The biggest thing that has changed is the course route directions. In 2013, the events printed cue sheets. Savvy riders, of which I was never one, even had a plastic holder on the front of their bike to slip in the turn-by-turn directions and/or course map. The event also painted arrows on the road or erected signs at the turns.
Today many, if not most, riders have bike computers that will show the turns on the bike’s head unit. I was one of the worst at following cue sheets. I put them in my pocket where the paper soon disintegrated due to sweat. I often told riders I would ride in the front position as long as they would tell me where to turn. Now, almost all events provide the course maps in electronic form so riders can upload those to their bike computers.
Lastly, that picture of Jens and Ben. Since that time I have been able to do rides with both riders. And my expectation is that I will ride with both guys again. — March 6, 2023