The day started out early, and the weather at the house looked questionable. We ran through a few storms on the way to Greenwood, but as we got to start point the weather looked good. The downtown was still decorated for the Festival of Flowers, although many of the events ended the day before. This year the Bike Tour was moved to Sunday, and it felt like it was the final event for the Festival. I was a little disappointed that the local businesses were closed for the day. My family had come down to enjoy the festival as well as cheer on the cyclists. They got to spend time walking around downtown and taking in the topiaries and other sights, though.
|An early morning in downtown Greenwood, SC|
I knew that Aaron (from SteepClimbs.com) was going to be at this particular ride, as well as a few other folks from the Lexington and Columbia area that I had riden with at other events (including the Assault on the Carolinas and the Assault on Mt Mitchell this year). We ended up lining up near each other, so I had a chance to ride with them. This was fortunate, because I prefer to ride with folks I'm familiar with. It gives me a greater sense of comfort about what is going on around me, and I can get a good idea of the efforts required.
|Chatting before the ride start|
Faster it was! After we got out of the city, the pace worked itself up to a pretty solid 24-26mph on average, with all the climbing being small grades (1-3%), where the speeds would adjust only slightly. After a while, the front group, which probably had 50 folks in it total, started to work itself into a rolling pace line. For those that are not familiar, this is where you work through two lines of cyclists. In this case the right lane was moving faster, and when you reached the front of the line you'd move over to the left lane and slowly move backwards in the pack.
The goal of this type of pace line is to be able to keep up a higher pace without having the same people up front pulling (and dealing with being the wind break). I worked my way up to the front a few times, each time trying to work myself further back in the pack to recover more. One of my big goals for this ride was to make sure I was consuming more on the bike, but at the speeds that I was encountering I wanted to make sure I was paying attention to the road and situations more than eating per se. Even with that, I was consuming about a bottle an hour of my drink, so I felt I was doing decently with fuel as we went. I also made a point to have sports beans whenever I could snag them. I transfer them from the pouches they come in into a tube that is easier to open and close, so snagging a few at a time is relatively easy. Eating on the bike is going to be a skill that I have to actively work on to improve, so I'm not going to be overly critical of my performances in this regard on a ride by ride basis.
About 26 miles into the ride we came up to a water stop. Some of the folks I had been riding near in the pack had mentioned that they were planning on stopping to regroup and refuel at this point, leaving the main group. I decided it was a good place for me to catch my breath, and started to slow down. Most of the group that planned on stopping missed the stop, so I picked up the pace in an attempt to catch back on, but by then it was just too late. You can lose the pack in what feels like a blink of an eye, and once you are out of the draft, it's hard to keep the same pace, let alone a hard enough pace to catch back up.
|Slowing down for the water stop|
|The pack is gone!|
Once I was dropped, the only thing I could do was just work on catching the next person in front of me. I caught one cyclist, and we worked together to catch back up with Aaron (who had likewise lost the draft at the stop), and between the 3 of us we were working together for a bit. Jack, one of the other riders from Lexington SC, had gone back to help pull a few other folks he came to the event with. After a few minutes we met back up with the lead group, but not in the way that you want to:
|This is not how you want to catch the lead group|
The danger of rolling pace lines, especially with a group of folks unfamiliar with each other, is that one person not paying attention can be dangerous. This was the case in the lead group, as two riders ended up having wheel touch (the front wheel of one cyclist met the rear wheel of another). 3 people ended up having their day end at the 31mi mark, but thank God they only had minor injuries. Road rash is not fun to recover from, but at least they are recovering.
At this point we had about 6 of us working together as we took off from the wreck location. Without the large pack, our speeds definitely slowed down. That isn't to say that we meandered our way back to the start/finish line, though. We worked our way up to the town of Ninety Six, where we reached the final rest stop of the ride. We took a break here to refill our water bottles and find some shade. They had bananas cut in half here as well, which was a great snack at this point.
While we were refueling, one of the other packs of folks rode up, increasing our numbers slightly. We were all taking turns up front, keeping the pace moving. The next 15 miles sped by quickly, and we were making the final turn back towards downtown Greenwood. This is the point where the group broke up some, and it ended up as a sprint to the finish. We completed the ride in just over 3 hours, in fact my Garmin reported the total ride to be about 3 hours, 9 minutes. That is an average speed of 20mph during the course, and a moving average of over 21mph.
|Crossing the finish line|
While I was disappointed that the Festival didn't have more events for spectators (and cyclists) to do surrounding the event, the ride was very well organized and the route was fantastic. The course was everything that it was advertised to be, and the rest stops were well stocked and in great locations. I look forward to doing this event in the future, but I hope they decide to move it back to Saturday, so I can take in the rest of the festival after the ride.