Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cramptown Races

This has become one of my favorite rides. After almost a week of being off the bike due to all the rain from Tropical Storm Lee, it was a gorgeous day.

Right from the start the road turns up with a seven mile climb through Catoctin National Park. Even riding at a comfortable pace I passed three riders in short order. Then a woman wearing a jersey from the Baltimore Bicycling Club just blew by me. Funny how these things work. Even if I thought about "grabbing her wheel" (following her) my body couldn't respond. Anyhow, I was here to ride comfortably. (Plus it may have been a bit creepy.)

Near the top, my friends Mariette Vanderzon and her fiancee, Rick, came flying by me but I was soon able to latch onto their wheels. And in short order we soon caught and passed BBC girl and never saw her again the rest of the day.

I was riding with Rick and Mariette, and the hill where I could hit 50 mph snuck up on me. Being in a group, and not recognizing where I was, I simply got in a tuck and didn't pedal. Although I hit 47 mph I was majorly disappointed that I didn't hit 50. I even thought about turning around and trying the hill again.

We were riding along at a comfortable pace when two guys passed us. Oh boy. I saw Mariette go and catch their wheels and then Rick followed. I couldn't. But I could watch this play out 100-200 meters ahead of me. There were the three or four of them. Then another rise in the hill and there was Mariette off by herself. Most surprising to me was on the climb to the rest stop at South Mountain I caught and passed both those guys. I wanted to say to them "you shouldn't have pissed her off."

I was refueling at the rest stop at South Mountain when Mariette and Rick left. I never saw them the rest of the day.

It was a strange day. Except for the brief interlude when I rode with Mariette and Rick, I never connected with anyone. Just a solo ride. I didn't even find a train to jump onto except for one brief one going into Gettysburg.
It was a peaceful ride from South Mountain to Antietam and from Antietam to the rest stop at Mt. Aetna.

After the Mt. Atena rest area I pushed off on my own, again, looking forward to or dreading the climb over the mountain near Fort Ritchie. Not sure if this is still South Mountain or not. I was entrenched at my own pace and wasn't about to join any group. Unless I had good reason.

Mt. Aetna Rest Stop. Three of the Four on course rest
stops for the century ride were at fire houses.

One group passed me but as the road turned up, I passed them, not to see them again. Except for the day I abandoned my climb to the Col du Galibier, I don't usually make wise decisions when I'm on my bike. Today would be another unwise one. I was cramping. Big time. Sometimes as the pedals moved there would be a sharp pain in the hamstring. Or quadriceps. Or calf. Yet I had lower gears to use.

Last year when I rode here I wasn't conscious of it at the time but realized at some point on the ride I never used my small front ring. So a goal for today was not to use the small front ring. Stupid.

I turned onto the climb on Ritchie Road and started passing riders. The easy ones were the ones walking their bikes but I passed a number that were still pedaling.

It should be noted these climbs are not the length of the Tourmalet (12 miles) or the steepness of Mt Washington (12%). I can do this. Even while cramping.

I descended to Fort Ricthie and rode ahead to Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.  There I stopped for a picture of my bike in front of the Mason-Dixie marker.

While I was stopped, four riders flew by - two couples, and I saw MY JERSEY! My Alpe d'Huez jersey of which I am so proud. Of which there isn't another one in the U.S. (so I thought).

When I bought my jersey, the Australian shop owner assured me that I would be
the only rider in the U.S. to have one of these. This is so embarrassing.

I immediately caught up to them and heard someone ask me if I rode it. Of course I rode it. I never got a name but the one couple had just been on Trek Travel's Classic Climbs of the Alps and of course, rode up Alpe d'Huez. We rode together for the next seven miles to the rest stop at Fairfield. Mugged for the camera never to be seen again.

Note to the yellow jackets at Fairfield: Seen you two years in a row now. Please don't come back.

From Fairfield I was off again, alone, when I had to stop at a stop sign. That allowed a small group of three to catch me. I gave them the clear sign so they didn't stop. At first I was going to let them go ahead but then decided to catch a ride. I linked up and sat in. There was a huge guy pulling and two smaller guys following. I assumed they had been working together but it became apparent that the two guys were simply wheel suckers. I sort of felt dirty being one myself although I'm not sure what work I could have contributed. I sat in for 2.5 miles until reaching the battlefield in Gettysburg.

I stopped, took a few pictures, then rode off again. I was hurting and may have been tempted to jump in a SAG vehicle had they offered one so close to the end. I didn't.

Riding through the Battlefield at Gettysburg is a surreal experience. I felt transported back to the Civil War. One could feel them singing the Cramptown Races. Doo-dah.

I got back to the start/finish and saw the line for Antietam Dairy ice cream to be too long. That was the best part of the ride. Got to my van. Stopped. Started to lift my leg over the cross tube and then let out a yell. Damn cramps.

1 comment:

  1. The last time I "grabbed a wheel and got in a tuck" was on a downhill following my brother, and he put on the brakes. I nailed his back fender, yes fender, and flipped over my handle bars. Our parents had to come find us, hose us off and drag us to church. I decided then never to go to church again. And I've never again flipped over my handle bars.