The plan this weekend was to do a trial run from Marion to Mitchell. An ominous weather forecast scared me away, so I decided to do the Tour de Lake ride again. I remember from last year that it is an exciting, scenic and challenging ride. The ride has three options. The full century circles Lake Murray via Peak, Little Mountain and Prosperity. The 40 and 62 mile options take you about halfway around the lake, and then return you via boat (with food and beer!). The boat was tempting, but I opted for the mileage.
A funny thing happened before the ride. There was a reporter from Columbia’s local paper, The State. Columbia. She was asking the riders questions as they were getting ready. I rolled up to the area to ask a friend to pin my number on my jersey. Apparently the reporter had questions about speed, so a number of the riders pointed her in my direction. She was a nice lady, but I was little caught off guard. She asked me a few questions and I rolled away to finish getting ready. A few minutes later I was back near the starting line and she flagged me over. She started asking more questions about speed, like how long it would take me and what would be my fastest time. I told her that I was shooting for a relaxing 6-hour pace, but probably in best conditions, I could manage 4.5 hours.
Moments later the ride started and I gave it more thought. Four and a half hours? What was I thinking? I mentioned the exchange to a rider friend, who thought it wasn’t completely unreasonable, but we laughed it off, thinking it wouldn’t be printed. Well guess what, she printed that quote and the main picture is me getting my jersey pinned on. Here is the article.
Truthfully, after another heavy week, my goals and expectations were not high. I didn’t intend to ride this one fast, just take everything in stride and see how it felt. Turns out that was somewhat fast.
The ride began in confusion. It had been foggy, misty, and we left under heavy cloud cover. Someone (or everyone) near the front missed the turn out of Saluda Shoals Park. The entire ride found itself at a dead end within the first mile and had to turn around and find the course. This scattered a lot of the riders and there really wasn’t a sprint at the start.
I just went at my own pace until I settled into a pace group. A relatively quick one was established within the first five miles and I stuck with them. That turned out to be the lead pack.
One thing I noticed was that every time this one guy got in the lead, the ride became more of a struggle. I met him later. James Tobias, who also happens to read the website. James is a beast, pure and simple. I realized I was dealing with a serious cyclist when he told me his Mitchell time of last year, 5:30. Wow! He was shooting for a top 10 finish this year. Wow again! I think he has a good shot.
Also in the pack was local bike shop proprietor and a previous top-ten Mitchell finisher, Brian Curran. He said this was an off year for him. I saw evidence to the contrary.
As we maneuvered out of the hills of Peak and Little Mountain, I noticed our mileage per hour gradually increasing. By the time we first stopped, we were at 20.5. That 4:30 comment didn’t seem as unreasonable. Problem was, all of my mileage from earlier in the week was starting to catch up and the hills were starting to hurt, especially when James was on the front.
At around mile 60, we hit a patch of rough hills. There was one short hill that peaked at a 12% grade, which pretty much broke the group. Three of the riders were all of a sudden at the top, two of whom were Brian and James. The other two were back with me.
We pushed to catch up, taking turns pulling. Through a combination of our effort and their slow pedaling, we finally caught them. Almost immediately the road turned up and we had to fight another hill. This one was a little longer with maybe a 5-6% grade. We dropped again, and this time I was ready to give up. But they waited again. Appreciate that guys. We would drop for good around mile 80 as we were traversing busy Highway 378. We never saw them again, which was actually a relief because we were chewed up at that point.
Us three remaining victims rode in together. Ben and Jennings were very strong riders, but had not done a lot of long rides. Once I had recovered from the James/Brian onslaught, I felt pretty spry again and tried to take some longer pulls.
Even though we slowed down at the end, the final time was 4:53. Phew. My off-the-cuff remark to the reporter was not too far fetched. On a better day with a little taper, 4:30 would have possible.