The forecast couldn’t have been better. 58 degrees at the start, rising to 80, mostly sunny and a whole 1 to 3-mph for the “wind” all day long. We couldn’t even call that a breeze. It was the perfect day for a 100 mile ride…
We rolled out at three minutes after 8, heading for Gaines and a few friends who had rolled early. I told them we’d be passing through at 8:34. We had a massive double-paceline eleven deep and most of us were not only experienced pace-line riders, we’d ridden together for years. And thankfully the Elite riders were off of a race the day before – they didn’t have any desire to hammer the pace. The cycling of the pace-line was smooth and efficient.
And the breaks between pulls were huge. Not only that, with almost no wind, it doesn’t matter as much where you are in the pace-line (in terms of which lane), you get a great draft. Best, everyone in our group took their turns up front. The elite guys a little more frequently than some of the A guys, but there wasn’t much wheel sucking to speak of. And that makes for a smooth ride.
The clock hit 8:34 twelve seconds before we rounded the corner to the first stop – that, we skipped. Twelve miles in is way too soon for a stop.
And so we hammered on, down through Byron, then toward Bancroft. Greg, one of the elite guys, had lamented a week earlier on the pre-ride that we’d changed the route to skip the sod farm leg of the route due to road construction in Bancroft because we’d miss the sunflower fields. The powers that be decided it would be safer to bypass that part of the route so riders wouldn’t be confronted with having to cross a road that had been ground up, with only dirt and gravel remaining. I asked Greg as we rolled on if he wanted to do the original route by the sod farm. I wanted to get that shot, anyway, of the group hammering by the rows of sunflowers, and we had the sunniest day possible. The decision was made on the fly to do the original route.
Sadly, as sunny as it was, the sunflowers hadn’t had time to look up yet. We were simply too fast. We were sitting on a 21.8-mph average at this point and the mood was jovial throughout the group. We talked and caught up with each other until we were third bike or so, when the draft wasn’t quite the help as it was further back. Then we’d get to our turn up front and head back to strike up another conversation. d you’ll see an intersection up ahead. We make a right there and head down, then up a short, shallow incline before we hit a long stretch with some downhill to it.
I came off the back and worked up the group, taking a photo of each pair all the way up the line so I could send them to my friends later. Halfway up the line and I’m thinking, “This is so cool! Charging to the front of the group at near 28-mph, snapping pictures of my friends… I’d always wanted to be able to have the strength and confidence to do this”… as I snapped the last photo, I was ready to head to the back and cough up the rest of what was left of one of my lungs.
I drifted back and took my place in line.
We stopped for the first time at mile 29, just long enough to get something quick to eat and use the portable facilities. When we were all topped off and relieved, we rolled out easy and steadily picked up the pace till we were back to our 23 to 25-mph. At the back it felt like you could hide a truck in the draft. With the decent group we had and everyone taking their lumps up front, we didn’t have the same yo-yo effect you normally expect at the back with a big group, it was just smooth.
I was on the Venge for this one and I won’t lie, there wasn’t one solitary thought of wishing I’d brought the Trek… and on this route, the Venge could have had a 1x drivetrain. I didn’t drop out of the big ring once.
We stopped for lunch at the 55-mile mark with a 22-mph average. I didn’t eat much, a peanut butter & jelly sammich, a pickle, and drank some Gatorade. I was feeling quite spectacular as we rolled out but I didn’t want to get too cocky… we had a gnarly hill coming up and I about want to lose my lunch on that hill every year.
Except this year. We were down to 15-mph by the time we got to the top, but I quickly caught my breath and we rolled on. After I recovered so quickly from that nemesis hill, I knew I had a special day going. I took my lumps at the front and enjoyed my rests at the back. I’ve been on this kick lately, thinking about how my best days in my early teen centered around riding my bike to a friend’s house to hang out for the day. He lived seven or eight miles away, all on dirt roads.
Here I am now, and not much has changed, though the bike ride is the fun part. Oh, and the bikes are vastly superior next to what I had as a kid.
We skipped the rest stop at mile 72. I wanted to stop but the elite guys were starting to get a little antsy. Heading through the town of Owosso, they raced through a couple of lights with surges from 22-mph to near 30. A few of our guys got stuck at one of the lights, so we decided to just let them go.
And this is where this story gets a little dicey. I knew what they were doing and I was with the lead group that made it through the lights – I’d managed to go with the surges. And I almost went with them. Looking back, I think I had the legs, but not with the surging… and when those guys have one of us on and they don’t want us there, they have a tendency to keep surging till we’ve had enough. Well, I didn’t want to put up with that, either. I chose to stay with my normal riding friends and call it good… after all, we were sitting on a 22-mph average.
The remaining 25-miles were excellent once we got a few issues sorted. Enjoyable, even. The best I can remember feeling on the homestretch of the A-100. Turns up front weren’t too difficult but they weren’t easy, either. Even so, we had at least ten in our single-file pace-line to share the load. They were also slower, so that 22 average slipped to 21.9, then 21.8 as we were approaching Lennon, seven miles from home. We were nearing the Tuesday night sprint point at around 22-mph when Mike says, “Well, go on and get that sign”. I’d planned on sitting in, but you can’t sit still on a prompt like that. I upshifted and hit the gas ramping it all the way up to 32 (52 km/h) and crossing the line before checking to see if anyone had come. I was up the road by a massive amount so I took it down to about 14-mph to let everyone catch up. I went a little too hard and put myself in a bit of a hurt locker. I recovered quickly, though, and we pressed on. One in the group didn’t approve of my sprinting for the sign, but I took it for what it was… we were all a little tired and cranky at that point. Anyway, with six to go, Chuck took a monster pull into the little, baby headwind and we crushed it. Stuck at a stop light with a mile to go, we were looking up the last hill of the day. You can hardly call it a molehill, but that freaking hill will suck the life right out of you that late in the day. I passed the parking lot with 99.7 miles and tacked on another two tenths before turning back. 100.1 Miles in 4:37:06. I was pretty sure that was going to be a PR as I thought my old century record, set in 2013, was 21.6-mph.
After looking it up, that one was at 21.7, also. I missed a PR by 8 seconds (though I really didn’t learn that till Monday morning). The important takeaway is that I felt great when we finished. I had more than the normal fumes I’m running on at the end of a century, and I wasn’t cramping or struggling to catch my breath. It was one of the best century rides I’ve ever been a part of.
I headed home after getting something to eat and showered up. I’d hoped to take a nap but was soaring a little too high. I couldn’t close my eyes, so I got back in the car and headed back to help with the cleanup effort. We finished, dropping off the last truck at 6:45. My daughter, who had been helping since before dawn, was passed out tired in the back of my car. I dropped my wife at her car and went to pick up the pizza, letting my kid sleep. Pizza was the perfect capper to the perfect day. I even remembered my sunscreen so I didn’t get burned. Heh.