For most of the early Fall I could not join a group ride on the weekends. Every Saturday I had refereeing, either mentoring/observing or attending clinics. I refereed travel games more this Fall than in the past so my Sundays were shot too.
Yesterday was a teaching day but today was wide open. Next weekend is the NVSC Fall Classic tournament and my referee assignments are from 8 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on each day. If I could get a group ride in it would have to be today.
I left the house at 8:30 to gas up, intending to head out to Middleburg for a ride in Loudoun Co. The wind was shaking the van and I hadn't confirmed with the ride leader. I was unsure whether once I got to Middleburg there would even be a ride. I filled up the tank ($1.779 per gallon) and the went home knowing there was another ride a little later and a little closer.
After getting home I got the information for the Mason Neck Meander. It is described as a leisurely ride through the Mason Neck area and surrounding neighborhoods, with only a few climbs. It was rated a "C" which is slower than I normally ride but you can't always find the perfect group.
We met at 11:00 a.m. at Gunston Elementary School. Temperatures were in the low to mid 40s and winds were gusting to 30 mph. The trip leader looked at me and said "you look like you ride faster than us so if you want to go ahead you can." I'd rather not.
Some people enjoy following cue sheets while I would prefer not to. I don't mind pulling (being the leader) if someone is behind me navigating.
There were six of us. I slipped in behind the leader and followed at second wheel for about eight miles. He then pulled over and three of us went ahead using our cue sheets. The route is a nice ride. It is mostly flat and in heavy woods. A lot of the road were covered in leaves. For much of the route we were next to the Potomac River, or next to homes that were next to the Potomac.
We followed a route that took us through the neighborhoods before taking us into Mason Neck Park. The three of us were ready to leave the park after a short restroom break when the trailing three joined us. We left together with eight miles back to the start of a 21 mile ride.
As I was leading I looked behind me to see who was on my wheel. To my surprise, no one was. I was riding a bit too fast for them to hang on and this was in the flat in the park. It was then my inner fantasy kicked in.
I've never won a race before and now I had a chance. They had the numbers and could switch pace-setting and taking turns and reel me back in. But I was by myself in the lead. I would have to solo home to victory.
I didn't want to signal my intention of dropping them by look back so I didn't. I just lifted the pace knowing that I was opening a bigger gap. And I would need it.
The last seven miles had some climbs and was all wind. The wind was strong and in my face. I had no help. I just kept working, into the wind. The wind was so strong that I could not hear cars approaching from the rear. Sometimes I thought there was a car behind me and it was just the wind. Other times the wind was so strong I never heard a car coming.
Once I had soloed for about four miles I took a peek. I couldn't see anyone. I kept going, even as I was picking up the pace. Thousands of fans were lining the route (it's my inner fantasy, ok?) as I pushed my heart rate into the red zone. I arrived back but forgot to celebrate as I was first across the line.
I probably then violated the unwritten rule of group rides. It's OK to solo ahead, even to victory, but one should wait and say goodbye at the end. Be nice and say thanks to the leader for organizing the ride. But I looked back, there was no one anywhere in sight, and football was starting in 22 minutes.
For a day, a cold and windy day, my breakaway worked.
Map of Route