We headed out from home pretty early yesterday morning. Our destination for the afternoon was north of Greenville, close to the North Carolina/South Carolina state line. We had ridden in this area back in May when we took a long weekend trip for our anniversary. We enjoyed it so much that we suggested to our teammates that we hold our team camp there this year. In preparation for our camp in October, Robert and I did a little recon yesterday. We did an out-and-back route that took us up Caesars Head, one of the southernmost peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The climb up to Caesars Head was about seven miles long at a 6% grade. It took us 42 minutes. I didn't try to race it, but I went at a good, steady pace. Back in May we climbed Skyuka Mountain to the east, which has a grade of about 8%. There's a noticeable difference between 6% and 8%. Yesterday's climb certainly wasn't as easy as lying on the sofa eating bonbons, but it was easier than climbing Skyuka Mountain.
Robert had planned our route. After the significant climb to the summit, he knew that we would want some food and/or beverages. This was the first time either of us had been up Caesars Head. That's why I was rather baffled when he asked me, "What's on top of Caesars Head?" I replied, "A laurel wreath."
|For a little while, I was on top of Caesars Head|
After our ride, we drove south to our hotel in downtown Greenville. It was nice to have plenty of time to clean up, relax, and wander around before our 7:30 P.M. dinner reservation. Greenville has numerous good restaurants, and thanks to Internet, we've found a couple of really good ones on our two visits there. Last night we ate at The Lazy Goat. How can you not want to eat at a restaurant called The Lazy Goat? Actually, it appealed to us because they serve tapas. Even better, it's right next to Falls Park on the Reedy River. Greenville has done a spectacular job of renovating its downtown, and Falls Park with its impressive suspension footbridge is the focal point.
We were able to get a seat outside. It was a beautiful evening, warm and sunny. Our seats were in a quiet corner of the patio next to a lovely water feature.
|Robert enjoying some Spanish sparking wine|
He can always make me laugh by saying just one line from a particular joke. It's not even the punchline. The joke comes from the Prairie Home Companion Pretty Good Joke Book, Volumes 1-4:
A man was very unhappy that he had no romance in his life whatsoever. So, he went to a Chinese sex therapist, Dr. Chang, who looked at him and said, "OK, take off all your crose." Which the man did. "Now, get down and crawl reery fass to the other side of room." Which the man did. "OK now crawl reery fass to me." Which the man did. Dr. Chang said, "Your probrem velly bad, you haf Ed Zachary Disease." The man said, "What is Ed Zachary Disease?" "It when your face rook Ed Zachary rike your ass."
Several years ago, Robert and I went camping near the Okefenokee Swamp with our friends Ron and Shannon. We were sitting around the campfire one night and started telling jokes. When I told this one, Shannon and I got so tickled that we couldn't stop laughing. For weeks afterwards, when I called her on the phone and she answered, I greeted her with "OK, take off all your crose," which would send us into fits of laughter all over again. So, now if Robert wants to make me laugh, he just has to say, "OK, take off all your crose."
That was a delicious dinner at The Lazy Goat. All of the dishes are Mediterranean. We had a couple of tapas to share: 1) garlic shrimp and 2) mussels and chorizo served with crostini to sop up the savory juices. We also ordered an entree each. Robert had some kind of delicious fish served whole, and I got some Moroccan chicken with couscous and a tahini yogurt sauce. I rarely order chicken in a restaurant, but this was incredibly flavorful. Oh, we also ordered a whole bottle of wine instead of just a glass each like we usually do. Having walked from our hotel, we had to take advantage of not having to drive anywhere.
It was only a little after 9:00 P.M. when we finished dinner, and so we decided to stay out a while later. We went to a coffee shop and sat outside to people watch. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I did enjoy a smoothie. They had a seasonal muscadine flavor. I absolutely love muscadines, which are a wild grape native to the Southeast. I haven't yet had any fresh ones this season (I plan to pick some after work one day this next week), and so I figured that this smoothie would be a good preview. It was tasty - not as good as the real thing but enough to sharpen my anticipation.
I got a good night's sleep. In fact, Robert was surprised that I didn't hear the rainstorm lashing against the window in the middle of the night. Fortunately, the weather was clear as we ventured out of the hotel for breakfast. We tried another coffee shop. As we waited for our food, I was amused by this coupon:
|I'll come back next week; I want 100% of my order|
As Robert and I waiting for the race to start, I did a little Googling to learn more about para-cycling classifications. Each classification has three parts. First is M or W, which refers to gender. The second part indicates the type of cycle used. There are four divisions: C, H, T, and B. C is the cycle division, which includes athletes on bicycles pretty much like those that people without disabilities use. H is hand cycles, used by people without the use of their lower limbs. T is tricycles for people with balance issues. B is for blind/visually impaired athletes, who race on tandems with sighted pilots. (I was interested to learn that the person in front is called a pilot rather than a captain, which is the term we recreational tandem riders use for the person in front.) The third part of the classification is a number indicating the severity of the athlete's impairment. It ranges from 1 to 5 with 5 being the least impaired.
The first group was the MC4 and MC5 racers and had about 50 competitors. We could differentiate between the men's classifications because the MC4 men wore white helmets and the MC5 men wore red helmets. Some of their impairments were obvious, and others weren't. Overall, they had the same air of confidence that elite cyclists always have at races.
Rick, Robert's coach, gave an example of a type of injury that might not be noticeable. He told us about one racer who has had a traumatic brain injury. He seems fine on the bicycle, but if you ask him to walk backwards, he can't do it. Also, an athlete's classification may or may not stay the same. Obviously, an amputee's condition doesn't change, but other conditions may improve or worsen over time. These athletes can have their classifications changed a number of times as they are re-evaluated over the years.
One of the racers that I particularly noticed was a man missing his right arm and left leg. I've done yoga twice in my life, both times in the last several months. I have difficulty with only one move. I don't know the name of it, but it involves kneeling on your hands and knees and lifting one hand and one leg on opposite sides. For some reason, every time I try this move, I lose my balance and crash into my mat. Therefore, I imagine that this para-cyclist with missing opposite limbs must have exceptional balance.
Here are the men at the starting line. You can see a good variety of nationalities. There were cyclists from five continents: Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.
The WC1, WC2, and WC3 road race started two minutes after the men. Although there were only 11 women in this race, they were just as tough as the men. These are the two WC1 women who competed, one from Australia and one from China.
Both of them had conditions that caused them to shake noticeably, likely muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy. Rick said that the Chinese racer shakes so much off of the bike that you wonder how she manages at all. It's amazing that there's something about cycling that allows them to control their muscles better, let alone well enough to compete at world championships! The WC1 women did several fewer laps than the other women; I assume that those with more severe disabilities don't race as far. These two women were close together throughout their race. It was a photo finish; Jieli Li from China eked out the win!
The race course was a loop approximately 10 km long, which the racers completed a number of times, up to about 100 km in the men's race. Robert and I had a great vantage point as we stood near the start/finish in the median of a road shaded by crape myrtles. We could watch the racers approach on one side of the median and see them again a couple of minutes later on the other side of the median after they made a turn at the end of the course.
Here's a little video, too:
Just as in any cycling race, mechanicals are always possible. This Slovakian had a flat on his rear tire. Someone from his team car jumped out, swapped the wheel, and adjusted the chain - all in about 30 seconds. Isn't it ironic that this occurred right next to the Bike Lane Ends sign?
Between the men's and women's groups, a few breakaways, and a few people who went off the back, the intervals where we didn't see any racers weren't too long. Announcers and a live stream that was projected onto a big screen helped us keep up with the action on other parts of the course. Some interesting dynamics were happening in the WC2 and WC3 races. Allison Jones, a WC2 racer from the U.S., broke away from her group early on. It was obvious that she would win her race. Joining her in the breakaway were the two WC3 racers, Jamie Whitmore Cardenas from the U.S. and Denise Schindler from Germany. Allison and Jamie were not competing against each other, but they were on the same U.S. team. Therefore, they worked together to make things more difficult for Denise. They repeatedly allowed gaps to form in front of Denise as they took turns pulling, forcing her to put out more effort. Their team tactics paid off; Jamie and Denise battled it out to the finish, but Jamie took first!
Robert and I needed to get on the road home, and so we didn't stay all the way to the end of the men's race. On our way out, we walked by the podiums, where the winners would be announced later in the afternoon.
I noticed that the podiums are much shorter than the ones I usually see. As I continued walking past the stage, I saw that not only are they shorter, they have ramps on the back:
Although it's not something I've ever considered before, this makes perfect sense for the para-cyclists.
Robert says that I'm the one that always comes up with the fun and interesting things for us to do. I beg to differ; this weekend was completely his idea, and I'm so glad he came up with it.