A couple of weeks ago, someone mentioned to me about the 7:30 am group ride out of Gus' Bike. I work nights and don't get home until around two o'clock in the morning, so I said I wouldn't be able to make it. Some cycling gaffer griefed me about it--a young guy like you, complaining about being too tired to ride, huh!
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Touché, Gaffer, touché. Accepting the challenge, I set my alarm for six, hazily woke up with under four hours sleep, got breakfast, and left Portsmouth (A) at about 7:00. A good warm-up spin before an official ride is good, so I was feeling alright by the time I got to Gus' (B).
We started off with nine riders, and headed down Rt. 111 towards Amesbury. It was a fairly normal pace, we weren't killing ourselves or anything. We made our way up to Powwow Hill (C) which is the highest point in Essex county, Massachusetts. I couldn't tell you what the altitude gain on it is, but I can tell you that it was steep, and had deceptive turns--I wasted myself sprinting up the hills on the big ring, then made the next turn, only to find a longer, steeper hill. And the next turn. And another one. It was pretty intense. I suck at hills--not in terms of strength, but in terms of discipline and energy conservation.
After that, we cruised down the hills and undulations with relative ease, a couple guys peeling as they headed home, since they lived closer than Gus', where we started. Somewhere along the way, there was some yelling from behind me, and the group had spread out a bit. I launched up to the guys at the front, saying "hey, I think we missed a turn."
"Oh, we'll just take the next turn," was the reply. I think you can tell where this story is going.
Several miles later, we roll in to Haverhill (D). Someone yells to a passerby, "Hey, where's Rt. 110?" Apparently we had missed it by quite a bit. Screw it, we're going forward and we'll find the right turn--there'll be no back-tracking for us, no sir. We head on in a direction that vaguely feels right. Eventually we did see a road sign for Rt. 108, which heads back in to Exeter. I like Exeter because it's a town I've heard of and been to before, also it's in the same state as I live in.
Tired and way off track, we take turns taking exhausted pulls on the front. One of the guys takes a nice long pull right after me, and when he drifts off, one of the guys says "I have to be at work at noon" or something, and other three guys pick up the pace. The guy that just drifted off gets dropped, so I drift back with aspirations of pacing him back to the group, but I just don't have enough left in my legs to do it, and we get dropped. A few miles later he says "thanks for hanging back. I've got to go home to South Hampton. You take a left here; follow 108 to Exeter." We're in East Kingston (E). He peels off and it's just me, the road, and two empty water bottles.
The rest of the way wasn't hilly or anything, and I wasn't under any pressure to keep up or take time on the front, so I took it as an easy cruise. When I finally made it back to Gus' Bike, Nick, the ride leader was still there, getting smoe work done on his bike. "Hey, we yelled to you guys at that turn; you looked back but kept going. We waited for you for several minutes before going on." Oops!
I went the rest of the way home, rolling in about twelve o'clock--five hours on the bike before noon. On four hours of sleep. Total Mileage: about 68 miles, 30 of which were solo. I am exausted, trashed, and feel like a some kind of horrible, soulless, bicycling automaton.
It was awesome.
One thing I want to say about this ride, as a qualifier: this is a no-drop ride, and I only got dropped because it was an emergency situation--the guy was running late for work or whatever. I'm not kvetching--I don't mind riding solo; it's what I've always done. Just, you don't have to expect to be dropped on this ride. Also, it was our own fault that we missed the turn--we had gone ahead of the ride leader. Powwow Hill was intense, and this is definitely a good ride if you need some work on hills. On the other hand, you can skip the hill and just make a fairly long (expect about 50 miles) undulating ride of it for your baseline training if you like.