Monday, May 18, 2009

The Slower Century

Saturday, as the rain began, five of us from Nashville loaded up the RAAMinator at 6 am and drove up to Hopkinsville, KY, to ride the Little River Cycling Club's century.

We thought we were insane, but it turned out that we were just plain lucky.

The lightning started as we were loading bikes onto the RAAMinator in the parking lot of the Target on Old Hickory Blvd. Well, to be honest, we really think of it as the parking lot of Panera, since they are open at that time of the morning and sell us hot coffee and pastries. With a tandem on the roof and four singles on the back, we began the hour-and-a-half drive, with the rain starting to come down hard, realizing just how much trouble we were in.

You see, if you drive 15 minutes to a ride and it's raining when you get there, you can turn around and go home. But anything over an hour and you are committed. There's just no way to say, "Oh, well, I'll drive an hour and a half back home and go back to bed." When you get home, everyone else will be up anyway, so why even try?

And if you do that drive with four other people, you now have witnesses if you wimp out. And the drive north doesn't go over any rivers, so if you kill all of the witnesses you have nowhere to dump the bodies.

This is what I'm thinking Saturday morning, in the driving rain, heading northwest on I-24. The rain slacks a bit, and then starts up again even harder. And then, just before we get to the start of the ride, the rain stops.

And it never really starts again.

It's cloudy and the forecast is dire, so there's less than 20 of us at the starting line for the century. It's also really windy, so we were all happy to let Jeff Bauer and Freida Barry on the tandem pull us for the first 27 miles, until we hit a steep (15-degree!) hill and all of the single bikes go crazy heading for the top.

Okay, I'll admit that I was in that group. But up at the top, the winds have really kicked up, and it's starting to spit a few raindrops, and I think, "Ooh, it's gonna get nasty now."

So I rode another half-mile to the rest stop and pulled over. Four other guys kept going, and I was tempted to go with them and try for a sub-five-hour century. But that wind was blowing hard, and I knew that Jeff and Freida would be along in a minute and that they might need to hit the rest stop. So I waited up and let the fast four go.

A couple of minutes passed, and then Jeff and Freida came by and we skipped the stop. For the next 45 miles, it was just the three of us -- Jeff and Freida pulling me along in their wake, averaging right about 20 mph. I kept expecting to catch the lead group, but we never did. At the mile 70 rest stop we were joined by Kevin Warren, who designed the route, and he finished up with us.

We got back to the start after five hours and 35 minutes, which isn't bad for a pretty hilly route on a windy day. Although we never had more rain, we got a lot of road spew from shady lanes soaked by earlier showers, so we took the corners and downhills pretty easy. The fast group, which included fellow randonneurs Peter Lee and George Hiscox, got in at 5:21.

It was a beautiful route, with minimal traffic and great views. Kevin comes down regularly to do our Ultra rides -- often with fellow Little River Cycling Club member Barry Meade -- and the City of Hopkinsville should hire him to be a tour guide. Every road we were on was virtually perfect. Maybe it was because I had the chance to enjoy it more by taking the extra 15 minutes and staying with Jeff and Freida, or maybe it was because the weather had turned out so much better than expected. But next year I'm going to get more Harpeth Bike Club members to come up.

The lead group worked hard, and they are all strong riders who will be stronger as a result of their effort. It would have been fun to try to hang with them. But I'll take my slower century this time.


  1. It was great riding with you Robert. The weather held up well for a nice century ride in Kentucky. -Jeff

  2. Thanks for Jeff and Freida the first 27 miles strong pulls. I finished faster than I had expected. That is a very good story. I'm going to share your story to the Chinese cyclists if you don't mind.

  3. For you century riders, randonneurs, this past Saturday, awesome riding. I, too, made the drive from Nashville thinking, "What am I doing?" Yet, I rode the 30 mile route and had a fantastic time! I cannot imagine riding 100 miles, however, next year I plan to be in condition to ride the 60 mile route.

    Great job!