There is something comforting in the familiar hum of a paceline, the click and clanking sound of shifts as it gets copied down the line, the ticking hum of freewheels as passangers coast buffeted by the rider in front, wheather you are the driver eating the wind highly motivated by the fact that your work is literally pulling a string of fellow riders in your wake or the guy sitting in the back barely hanging on and dreading his turn in the wind there still exist that assurance that comes with being in the line. Today I was reminded of how much I love group riding better yet in the group amongst whom I experienced my very first paceline.
Usually I am the late guy or should I say one of the late guys to the group ride. I either show up late or go to the wrong meeting point so my plan was to break that streak, a greater motivator however was that this group of late has been going wheels up right at the posted time and I sure did not want to have to try and find them if I got left behind so I got there early – a little too early. I got there an hour early and watched the group trickle in, after minor fat chewing we were off.
Ride starts with a fast descent down Chestnut Ridge road for about half a mile then veers right unto Meadow Lake Dr a short steep climb that hit about 12% at one point… great way to warm up I might add…Not! I was at the tail of the group and quite impressed with the speed with which the group went up that climb even without any significant warmup. We made a couple turns going through quiet country roads typical of Garrett county, most of the houses built to provide the best views of the valley or hillside they face. We rode through fields just cultivated, farms with the cows ignoring us while performing morning libations and ablutions, we rode by hay fields with the rolled up bales AKA golden circles so close you can touch them. The smell of life lived at a slower pace was in the air with a hint of cow manure on some sections of the road.
Otto Lane was the first regrouping spot, here also Rich Bartlette another perpetual group ride late-comer (actually the sets the standard in tardiness) and also happens to be the resident group route diverter. I am not sure if all groups have a Rick who always seems to want to change the route and pick one that goes just a “little” further and climbs just a “little” higher? His knowledge of local routes though is amazing so if you have the legs it is always a much more rewarding ride to jump on the Rick option – If you have the legs or extra gears… Rick catches us here and the first break away of the day is established.
At the head of the ride now is Rick, Richard, myself and Brian (neo transplant from Ocean City Maryland – flatlander). We layout a steady pace swooping through the wide turns and maintaining a high cadence through the shallow rolling hills, all of us but Brian have a 11-28 cassette or higher, Brian had a 11-25…around here you are either really strong and showing off to ride that, suicidal or unfortunate but Brian was able to hang on to the group till the last climb Maynardier Hill before the regroup point where gravity greatly exceeded available cadence and VAM for him. He clawed his way back to second regroup spot.
The rest of the group trickled in and we listened to Richard and Rick compare which of their posts was longer, enlighten us on the things women look for in a man (apparently that he rides a bike is number one) and some other life lessons all in all it was the most educationally stimulating rest stop I think I have ever had on a bike ride anyways. We head out and Brian elects the stay with the group but I look back to see Tom and Scott sit in for a little bit then back off. I figure this is going to be the A group today only to see the resident mountain goat John who also just bought a new bike silently infiltrates the group. We turn onto Maynardier Rd and enjoy the shaded empty road then take a Ricktor (Rick’s Detor) onto Foy road a small beautifully shaded climb. The weather today was just perfect mid 70’s, slightly overcast with the occasional solar spurt and light breeze. At the top Rick gives the signal for pace line (rotating index finger pointing downward) calling for 30second pulls, it was one of the better paclines I have been on this year though I had to lobby to sit behind the 6.3″ Rick as opposed to the significantly “smaller” other guys John and Richard.
We rode this to Subway in Deepcreek where the group had lunch
After lunch we headed to US 219 N towards Bear Hill Rd and as expected there would be some ricktors on the return leg of this ride. I put in a plea to Rick that I was looking for an increase in distance and not necessarily elevation he said ok and I prayed he meant it. I was already experiencing some “lunch legs” which was quickly shaken off once we were on Rock Lodge road, (the best part of the Gran Fondo as you are about 95 miles into a 102 mile ride and it’s relatively flat). About a mile into this stretch Rick had to adjust his breaks, any other good person would wait but I put down the hammer a little just so we tire him out a little and he doesn’t decide to guide us up Bowmans or some other ridiculous climb like Killer Miller or something…I don’t think he had too much trouble latching back on. We rolled all the way to Springs Md where I was ready to head back in.
The final stretch from Springs to Chestnut Ridge road was beautifully rural. John showed us the farmers marker and site of the fall Springs festival, there were beautiful banked switchback turns and a dirt road section. I was beginning to suffer but the climbs did not exceed 5% and the group was moving at a accommodating pace, we were moving at a high enough clip that a very nice draft was still available, we crossed a closed bridge where I found $10 on the floor, I turned it into the nearest police station…I mean gas station. We turned onto Rt 40 which was the final climb up… This climb was exposed and one too many for me. I got dropped when Rick whose wheel I was sitting on put in an unexpected might I add unnecessary surge (I think he intentionally tried to drop me). I lost contact, shifted into my easiest gear and limped back in.
I met with the rest of the group for ice cream before we disbanded. This was an incredibly unbelievable ride. Before we started the day Silvester the fearless leader of our ride today told me “This is a “Heads-up” ride, if you sit in the drops and power through it you have missed the point. It was a beautiful ride that I felt it was fast enough and I truly experienced and shared it with friends.