A Thin Strip of Paint


I came to Florida to escape Virginia’s Fall temperatures and ended up with Virginia’s Fall temperatures. It was 55° when I rolled out of the hotel for Waterfront Park. I put on long-fingered gloves. There were three rides today and this was the last one scheduled.

Registration Check-in

We rolled out at 9:00 a.m. for a 42-mile ride, not including my hotel miles. The organization for the Horrible Hundred offered these “familiarization” rides the day before the event. Our group, about 14 riders, at first looked to be mostly equal in ability. But quickly, one noticeably overweight cyclist dropped back. I love riders riding, of all abilities. So I dropped back to talk with him.

He was from Winchester, Va. which made us practically neighbors. Really, he would have been fine except he kept talking about his domain is the mountains so he can’t go as fast as the flatlanders can on these flats. Saying nothing would have been fine. We’ve all been the slowest or fastest. No excuse is necessary.

The rubber band broke and he lost contact with us although one of the leaders stayed with him. There was a four-mile loop before a turn so we went ahead and when he arrived there he would turn and be in front of us on course.

Riders at the start

At Mile 30 we stopped at a gas station. Ever mindful of lactic acid building up while standing around, I announced I would keep going and soft-pedal. The group could catch us. My friend came with me.

I had to soft-pedal and wait a little on some inclines but I was keeping us together. I saw a port-a-john at a boat ramp and pulled over. He did too.

Now with 10 miles to go, we pulled out onto the main road. Except he didn’t come. I pedaled slowly for 1/2 mile and never saw where he went. Then I decided just to ride.

I doubt I was the oldest in the group but was far from being the youngest. I was sure the group would catch me. But then I didn’t want to be caught.

It’s a funny thing, this sport. You tell the group you will ride ahead and they can catch you. And after a while, when they don’t, you become determined not to let them catch you.

Some of our riders

I picked up my pace and occasionally looked back the road to see if they were coming. It was almost “time trial” mode for the last 10 miles although I don’t have aero bars on my bike. Some did though.

They never caught me. I was first in this group.

I went to registration and signed in for tomorrow’s ride. I left and backtracked 1/4 mile expecting to see my group. I never did.

I hope they did not suffer any mechanicals or accidents. I was sure the group would catch me but of course they didn’t know they were chasing. And maybe today I rode faster than the group behind.


My ride home took me on St. Rte 50. Six lanes of traffic and a designated “bike lane” on either side.

And there you see it. Cyclists’ deaths are up this year. The NTSB says cyclists should wear helmets. And be more visible. But this is infrastructure. A guardrail protects pedestrians from out of control cyclists but cyclists get to ride side by side with traffic that is signed for 50 mph (actual speeds usually higher) and we are protected by a four-inch strip of paint. Bigger vehicles. Smartphones. Crappy infrastructure. We get a strip of paint. That is why cyclists’ deaths are up.

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