Travel seems to affect me more than a hard effort on a bike. In the past three days, I’ve been to Altoona, Somerset, New Brighton (all Pa.), and now Harrisonburg, Va. When I arrived yesterday it was in the middle of Tropical Storm Ophelia. I had ridden daily since returning from Europe on July 4, a streak of 81 consecutive days. But yesterday was a washout and I viewed that as good. My body would rest.
The weather was unsettled as to whether the remnants of Ophelia would still be giving us rain in the morning. I had looked forward to my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters to be on course on U.S. 33 to cheer me on. As for the latter, the rain convinced them not to come and for the former, it was gray but mostly dry.
My Whoop Band provides biometrics and I looked at my data. My overnight recovery was at 24%. The suggestion was to stay in bed for the day. (Not really – but to rest and not take on any strain.) Whoop did not know that I planned to ride 80 miles including two huge mountain passes.
It was cool, 57℉, plus a chance of rain. No kids on the mountain climbs to cheer for me and the thought of riding on U.S. 33 wasn’t appealing. My Whoop said not to push the strain. I decided that I would ride with Robert Warren Hess, the founder of the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project.
Robert and I rode near the back as he was riding the shortest route available, 36 miles. I would ride the Metric Century, some 62 miles. That’s not a lot different than the original 78 miles that I planned to ride but a significant difference in climbing.
Robert and I rode and caught a couple from Greenville, S.C. The wife was telling me that her husband wanted to ride the Metric Century but would ride with her on the Valley View Challenge, the 36-mile route. I suggested to her that her husband could ride the Metric while she and Robert stayed together for the Valley View Challenge but he decided he would stay with his wife.
After Robert and I rolled out of the rest stop we came to a split. The Metric route included a 27-mile loop back to the rest stop. I wished him well when a woman came flying up between us. She asked which way we were going and I replied “Whatever direction you are.” That wasn’t creeping on her, it was acknowledging that if she went straight Robert would ride with her and if she went right I would ride with her. She went right.
Robert and I were last on course for these two routes that didn’t go over the mountain. As the founder of the PCAP, he spends time talking with every rider at the rest stop. And I also spent time meeting some Trek Travel Guides for the Shenandoah Valley Gravel Bike Tour. So we were quite surprised someone came up from behind us.
Wilma started at 8:30 and missed our roll-out at 8:00. Her husband was also riding but he opted for the 36-mile route. I sensed she wanted to beat him, i.e., ride 62 miles faster than he could ride 36 miles although she never said that.
We rolled together back to the rest stop where we had caught a number of the Metric riders. Although they left while we were still at the stop, I told Wilma that we would soon start catching riders. And we did.
When we came to the sprint section I asked Wilma how her sprint was. She said not very good. I believe that today I could compete for age group winner in the sprint but at registration, I was told by a person handing out the chips that I didn’t need one. Indeed I would not be competing on Allegheny Mountain or Reddish Knob but this one I could have. But I had no timing chip.
I thought about how I would handle it and told Wilma to hold my wheel and I would try to tow her to a win. We went but I never was at 100% effort and frequently backed off so she could stay with me. And I still set a PR. I think that had I had a chip today I could have gotten it. Oh well, my bad for not pushing back on the chip issue before the ride. (Note to self: Strava winner today was 1:50 which will be my target next time.)
Wilma and I continued to catch and pass riders. We made a turn and up the road about 100 meters and saw a guy pedaling. She said, “There’s my husband.” And she blew by him. Not even a glance back or slowing down to ask him how his ride was going.
On a climb on Swope Road, I caught an Amish horse and buggy. It had caught three cyclists that I knew I would be passing. But I did not want to pass the horse and buggy. Eventually, the driver saw a place where he could pass the cyclists and I followed. The horse took off up the hill and I followed, blowing past the cyclists. I matched the speed almost as if I was drafting the buggy. I wasn’t, I swear. The kids in the buggy would wave to me and I would wave back. What fun. Probably some of my Wenger cousins (at least 7th).
We avoided the rain. I listened to the Whoop. I had a companion for 100% of the ride to the split (Robert) and one from the split back to the finish (Wilma). For a day of rest, it was very enjoyable. Another great Alpine Loop Gran Fondo.
A SPECIAL FEAT – As Robert and I rode I told him about my decision to ride the Metric Century, adding that it would give me all five routes. Early on I rode the Alpine Century Loop with its gravel. I rode the Full Century on pavement. Minus the 25-mile loop, I’ve ridden the Shenandoah Mountain adventure. In 2015 I did the Gran Fondo but opted for the 36-mile ride so I could hurry to Richmond to see the UCI World Championships. And today I would ride the Metric. Robert told me that Jeremiah Bishop had told him that no one had ridden all their routes. And so I would complete that. I also told Erin Bishop that after my ride and she found it “interesting.” (My quotes)