Photos by Phil Horne @phil_bones
This past Sunday I set out to do the second of our 200km (124.274mi, ca.) group rides for the year. After quite a bit of forecast flip-flopping, the weather seemed to settle with “overcast, damp, and (most importantly) cool”.
By 8am twenty other slightly crazy souls had arrived to join in. I had a hunch the front of the ride was going to be a bit spicy when two certified bad-ass endurance racers were among the crowd.
I wasn’t wrong.
After a fairly tame, albeit wet, roll through downtown Richmond and out through Mechanicsville, the pace started to ramp up. The group quickly formed into a few cohorts of riders with the same goals in mind and I found a nice spot behind the front few riders and settled in to take advantage of the draft.
Between the cool temps and muted sounds of crushed gravel churning under our tires, I could not have asked for a better moment on the bike.
If you have never ridden in eastern Hanover and into King William county, you should make a point to do it. Rolling hills and bucolic views abound. We were uninhibited by wind and the cloud cover made for pleasant cruising. In past years this ride always seemed to fall on a blazing hot day and with little tree cover on much of the route, I was always a bit overcooked.
With Chris T. in the front driving the pace we were quickly ticking down the miles. At mile 45 we hit the one gravel sector of the ride. Between the cool temps and muted sounds of crushed gravel churning under our tires, I could not have asked for a better moment on the bike.
With about 4000 feet of elevation over the whole ride, there are few “free miles” of coasting or soft-pedaling, but somehow I was feeling great. Maybe it was the snacks, maybe it was the temperature, maybe it was the company; regardless, I was having a great day.
Drawing on the guile that only comes from often riding with faster riders and trying to hang on, I made the call to forge on ahead up and over the bridge knowing that there was a 7-11 at the bottom of the hill.
At mile 63 the route turns onto route 30 and heads 7 miles straight into West Point. With a planned store stop ahead the pace ramped up and fatigue was starting to gnaw at some of my comrades. When Phil dropped a bottle and turned back to get it, I quickly decided to sit up and wait for him. Just ahead I could see that Mish had come detached from the main bunch at that moment as well. I soft-pedaled to let Phil get back on then we rolled up to Mish so they could latch back on. Our trio continued along the final miles into West Point and saw that the main group had stopped just before the bridge crossing at the Dollar General. Drawing on the guile that only comes from often riding with faster riders and trying to hang on, I made the call to forge on ahead up and over the bridge knowing that there was a 7-11 at the bottom of the hill.
We charged ahead, pulled into the parking lot, and barged into the store. I barked to Phil and Mish to not waste time and in their caloric-deficit-induced haze, they looked confused but complied. After hastily grabbing some cookies, a Gatorade, and some water I all but shoved them back onto their bikes and said “let’s go, you can eat on the bike”. After all, I had a plan.
I knew that with the larger size of the main group, their store stop would take far longer than ours and the more time we had riding ahead of them to take on calories and pedal our own pace, the better off we would be. I’ve always found that long store stops just make it harder to get into a good rhythm when you finally start to pedal again.
As we worked our way through the 30-mile section between West Point and the next store stop, we kept expecting them to come charging by.
Our gambit paid off. We passed through more beautiful twisting back roads through New Kent as we did our best to stay ahead of the bunch. As we worked our way through the 30-mile section between West Point and the next store stop, we kept expecting them to come charging by. But with each mile, we were feeling better. When we arrived at BP in Providence Forge they still hadn’t caught us. Just as we were wrapping up the main bunch arrived.
While I can’t say it was either for me, it was certainly a difficult but extremely rewarding day.
Once again all rolled out together and the pace was started to pick up, the three of us decided to join forces with Joe and George to work together the rest of the ride. We bid farewell to the front group and settled into a smooth and steady pace for the remaining 36 miles back to Richmond.
When the 5 of us arrived back at Outpost some of the front group was still there. We had managed to make it back less than 20 minutes behind them. The collective feeling of accomplishment among us was palpable.
For some in the group, it was their longest ride ever for others, definitely their hardest ride of this kind. While I can’t say it was either for me, it was certainly a difficult but extremely rewarding day.
I spent the next hour snacking as the remaining riders behind us trickled in and we shared our experiences.
I’m already looking forward to the next ride.
*Thanks to Phil Bones, @phil_bones for all the photos.