Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Pine Mountain Challenge 2017

It's hard to believe another Peach Peloton season has ended.  Yesterday was the grand finale, our annual Pine Mountain Challenge, about 125 miles from Barnesville to Pine Mountain and back.  Every year I look forward to it.  Every year I forget how hard it is.

Temperatures ranged from the upper 30s to mid 50s.  Although that's pretty typical for this time of year, it seemed cold because it's been relatively warm this winter.  Yesterday's winds were substantial, too, about 10 mph from the east.  We looked forward to a tailwind on the way out but knew we would have a significant headwind on the return trip when we were tired.  At least it was sunny with beautiful, blue skies.  I've noticed that we usually can count on fair weather for the first Saturday in February for the Pine Mountain Challenge.

Ten of us met at a parking lot at Gordon College in Barnesville.  Stony rode from his house and met us a few miles into the ride.  An hour or so into the ride, our new cycling friend Pete also joined us.  He rode from Columbus, where he was visiting his daughter for the weekend.  With Jake and John adding their power to the usual formidable mix, I knew that chances were great that I would ride a portion of the route by myself.  But I was determined to ride my best.

Also, a special shout out goes to Daniel, who volunteered to drive the SAG wagon all day.  That was really nice of him to devote his day to us riders.  The Pine Mountain Challenge is the one Peach Peloton ride we do with a SAG.  It's so convenient to be able to pack a lunch or extra snacks or to hand off extra layers as the day gets warmer.  A couple of times he motorpaced one of the guys back to the peloton.  Daniel looked like a pro!

I stayed at the back.  It didn't seem too tough at first despite our 20+ mph average.  I know how these things go, though.  For me, such intensity for an extended period of time is nothing to sneeze at.

About 25 miles in, we stopped for a nature break.  I shy away from bib shorts on Peach Peloton rides because it takes extra time for me to shed my upper layers to get the bib straps down.  Yesterday, however, I opted for my nice, fleecy bib knickers for their warmth.  I would have worn my new fleece jersey, but the forearms are a little tight - not uncomfortable, but it takes an extra few seconds to pull the sleeves off.  Every second counts for me at a nature break, and so I wore an older fleece jersey that is slightly looser.  I dashed into the brush to take care of business.  Inevitably, in my haste, I always get twiggy stuff inside my kit that I don't notice until I change clothes after the ride.  Ah, the travails of being the only woman riding with a bunch of guys...

As I was suiting back up, I noticed a lone daffodil blooming next to me.  I picked it and put it in my back pocket to cheer myself and hopefully my riding companions.  After all,

I grabbed one of my Clif Bars as I got back on the bike.  Soon thereafter, my energy level was great!  I knew it wouldn't last forever, though.  We were averaging about 21 mph.  Our one store stop of the day was coming up at about mile 47 in Woodland.  I didn't need a stop so soon after our nature break, and so I decided to keep pedaling and let the guys catch up to me.  That also gave me time to stop for a picture of this sign, which was a few hundred feet past the store:

Dude, guess I'll have to head back to Woodland next weekend.
Wow!  What a difference it made to ride at a more comfortable pace!  I took the time to notice my surroundings and enjoyed the sounds of birds and insects.  My reprieve didn't last long, however.  The guys caught me after only a few miles.  Back into the grinder...

I was doing OK but could tell I wouldn't be able to hang on much longer.  The climb up Pine Mountain was approaching.  I figured that the guys would attack up the climb, and I would get dropped there at the latest.  Also, like last year, the route had a second climb up Pine Mountain.  After the first climb, the route circled through the western portion of F.D. Roosevelt State Park.  From there, it's a second steep climb to get back up on the Pine Mountain ridge.  I decided to forgo the second climb, staying up on the ridge after the first climb and heading to our lunch stop at Dowdell's Knob.  It trimmed less than four miles from the route, and I didn't need to prove anything to anyone by doing the whole thing.

That turned out to be a quite a fortuitous decision.  While I was riding along the ridge, my rear shifter cable broke!  It would have been miserable to try to make the second climb up Pine Mountain with only my two front gears.  I had to really mash the pedals just for the rollers along the ridge.  I mentally prepared myself for the long, slow remainder of my day...

I got to Dowdell's Knob a few minutes before Daniel in the SAG wagon.  As soon as he got there, I grabbed my lunch bag, planning to dine and dash.  Amazingly, just a few minutes after that, Stony, Van, and Pete showed up!  Stony - whose shifter itself (not the cable) had broken early in his ride - was out of breath.  He's a beast anyway, but to see how hard he had worked, I had further evidence of the wisdom of my shortcut.

The others soon arrived.  Before I could get back on my bike, Daniel started checking out my broken cable.  It's internally routed, and so he was reluctant to work on it.  No problem - I was ready to two-gear it home.  Then, Jake started working on it.  He had an extra Campy cable plus tools.  (Campy cables are slightly thinner than non-Campy ones; therefore, Campy cables can be used in non-campy shifters but not vice versa.)

Jake fixed my cable!  Woo hoo!  Thanks, Jake!

With multiple gears again available to me, I decided to ride with the guys again, at least as long as I could.  I had a few extra moments to enjoy being at Dowdell's Knob:

See which way the wind is blowing the flag?  We were headed the opposite direction.  Sigh.

I hung with the peloton for about 12 more miles, until we got to Cove Road.  Cove Road is where the Pine Mountain Challenge always explodes if it hasn't already.  I got dropped on the first climb.  So did Chris.  We rode the rest of the way together.  However, the damage was already done.  We both had expended so much energy that we barely talked to each other for the remaining 35 or so miles.

I pulled a good number of the remaining miles.  I was trying to go fairly hard so that Robert wouldn't have to wait too long for me back at Gordon.  I was fried.  My mind couldn't think about much.  It was in this kind of pain management zone.  Not exactly unpleasant, but not easy.

Chris did great.  As we finally approached the parking lot, he told me that he had never ridden so far in one ride.  Trying to be encouraging, I assured him that the pace makes a big difference.  I never ride brevets at such intensity.  If you ride a an easier pace, it is much more sustainable.  Still, I'm glad for the Pine Mountain Challenge.  It's a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, and pushing myself like this does make my other endurance events easier.

I changed clothes, and Robert and I stopped at Jonah's in Forsyth for pizza.  (It's become a nice post-Pine Mountain Challenge tradition!)  Despite our warm, dry clothes, we sat there shivering.  We both looked forward to a restorative shower back home.

It's always a little sad when another season of Peach Peloton is over, but warm weather is coming - and lots more riding in 2017!

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