Flight of the Dove, 2013, Clinton, SC

Tri City group shot

Of all nearby metric rides, Flight of the Dove probably has the best reputation. I’ve heard many people tell me that this is their favorite ride, either because of the organization, the social interaction, or the opportunity to ride extremely fast without stopping. This year I finally had a chance to see what all the fuss was about.

My local riding group, Tri-City, drummed up participation and we had a sizeable turnout. Note the terrific group picture above. This was a good start, as it’s always nice to ride with familiar, friendly faces pretty much everywhere you look.

This year they implemented a little something different – a shooting range. Yes, you are reading correctly. They had a shooting range at a bike ride. Yes, shooting. With guns. Rifles.

Only in South Carolina, right?

You had 5 shots for $5, which would take place at the mile 38 rest stop. Having never fired a gun in my life, I took a pass lest I accidentally endanger nearby cyclists. Berry, a friend of mine, gave it a “shot” and showed off his impressive accuracy after the ride.

Berry, locked and loaded.

Berry, locked and loaded.

I was looking forward to a fast and fun ride. As they made the pre-ride announcements, they warned of some rough roads at mile 19. Noted. I lined up near the front. As we rolled out, I did my best to navigate through the pack to stay with the lead guys. The weather was cloudy and in the mid-60s all day. That didn’t give us much opportunity to see the sights, but was perfect for riding

As a small group of maybe 25 emerged out front, the pace picked up. I had forgotten my heart rate monitor, but I know it must have been through the roof. We were tearing it up, and I was doing everything in my power to hang on. After we would turn a corner, the pace seemed to accelerate.

This was not sustainable. I held on for 5 miles and then purposely backed off. We had been at around 25 mph by that stretch. Too much for me.

I slow pedaled to wait for the next group. I found two triathletes, both of whom were strong riders. We rode as a threesome for a short while, but I could tell that my cold remnants were started to come back, so after putting in a pull, I bid them adieu.

The next group was the big one. I heard the rumbling behind me and waited to be enveloped. As the first few riders past me, I saw familiar faces. “Jump on in, Aaron. We have a good paceline.” Gladly. It was with them that I cruised for the next dozen or so miles.

Remember that warning about the rough road? I had sort of forgotten, but never would have expected it to be this bad. Entire sections of the road were missing. People screamed like bloody murder as we got closer, and the only way to avoid the bad stuff was to veer carefully into the left lane. That’s not an easy task when riding with a 50-person pack. I managed to get into the other lane, but that was not enough to avoid catastrophe.

Pffffft, I heard from my tire. In an instant, I knew I was flat. I saw another guy just a few feet away, also flat. Apparently about 5-6 guys got flats on that same section.

The SAG guy was right there, and he changed our tires in haste. He must have been expecting this. As he noted, until recently this road was among the best in the area for riding. All this mess just appeared in the last week. It was not the fault of anyone but the weather. This type of stuff happens when you have the wettest season on record.

Thanks for fixing my flat!

Thanks for fixing my flat!

As I recovered from my flat, I looked for a good group to ride with. I found one at the next rest stop. Jack, Ricky, Vince, and Jim were waiting. We rode the rest of the way together as a group of five.

Even though this is a fast ride, it is a surprisingly challenging course. There are some hills, and they get fiercer as you get closer to the end. In the last 10 miles, they keep coming and coming. On their own, they are not so bad, but one after another while trying to maintain a brisk pace makes things difficult.

To make the ride a little more interesting, we saw two hand-cyclists and a skateboarder doing the shorter route. Yes, a skateboarder rode 30 miles. We saw him finish later and he practically collapsed. Kudos, dude!

This guy skateboarded 30 miles. Now that's hardcore!

This guy skateboarded 30 miles. Now that’s hardcore!

Believe it or not, I felt great. I could have gone much faster if not for the flat. Maybe not as fast as the lead group, but probably in the 21 mph vicinity. I settled for just under 20.

Our ride ended with a sprint section. I was feeling good and gave it a go. Thinking I had won, I eased back. Then came Jack Daniel, who had previously been complaining about cramps to take the sprint at the last section. “Sandbagger!,” I yelled out. We had fun with it. Always a pleasure to finish a long ride with a few laughs.

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