Friday night we had our second Oddball Friday group ride. There were three of us. So all total there are now four in the Oddball club. Hopefully that number will grow as time goes on. The ride was good. I’m not going to go into great detail—not because it wasn’t a good ride, but because I want to talk more in detail about my road ride over the weekend—but suffice it to say it nearly turned into a night ride and young master Jack (Rob’s son) was in full stoke mode the whole time. Even when it started raining on us. We started the ride at the intersection of FR 227 (Marble Yard Rd) and FR 2056 (Branham Ridge Rd?) on the Powell – Estill County line. We rode over to FR 230 (Horse Ridge Rd) first, and toiled through the deep leaves along the stunning ridge to its end where we played in the rocks for a bit before returning to Marble Yard and then making a token run out FR 2056. It got dark fast and then we split and headed to our respective homes.
|Rob and Jack on Horse Ridge, Estill County|
I’ve put off returning to the road for far too long. For whatever reason I’ve been a bit gunshy. It might be recent encounters with dogs or a general aversion to dealing with motor vehicle traffic as a motorist myself. But I haven’t really been much of a road cyclist since Trump took office and it worried me. I know that sounds silly, and some of you might be thinking I’m a milquetoast snowflake, but I gotta tell you that there was some incredible off the couch kickassery this weekend in the Red River Gorge.
I took an early morning ride east. My intent was to ride the Gorge loop from home. Two years ago I was riding that route regularly and had whittled it down to a 53 mile sub-three hour jaunt and the norm was a no-foot-down ride with two water bottles and a couple Clif Bars in my jersey pockets. I didn’t know if I was up for it, but I was game to try.
The ride started off slow with a headwind from the east. I fought it all the way to Nada where I turned onto 77 headed toward Nada Tunnel. As soon as I passed under the parkway overpass I saw another cyclist ahead of me. It looked like he was on a mountain bike. In about a half mile I overtook him and asked if he was riding gravel. He answered that he was sticking to the pavement and bade me a good ride. I took that as a sign that he didn’t want to chat. I returned the sentiment and pulled away.
When I reached the tunnel he was just a little ways behind me. I circled around, called out to ask if he had a light (I did) and he replied no and asked if he could ride through with me. I slowed, let him catch up, and we rode through together without much ado. On the far side I slowed to switch my light back to strobe (rode the entire ride with it and a rear blinky) and to put my sunglasses back on. It took me til past Martins Fork to overtake him, but once I did I left him far behind.
Once I was cruising along the river I finally felt my legs under me. I was standing up for the short punchy hills and holding a fifteen mph average pace. That seemed low to me, but I wasn’t shooting for a particular time or pace for the ride. I just wanted to set a baseline to measure progress as I start ramping up for the Mohican.
There had been little thought for how I would approach Sky Bridge Hill or if I would even be able to ride it in my flabulous state. I’d not climbed anything that hard in a very long time. Most recently I’ve plied Furnace Hill a couple times on Ol’ Fatter Than Average, but it has a nice 42t climbing gear (even though it’s only a 1x11) but I was untested on a true Cumberland Plateau testpiece with roadio gearing.
I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t stop to empty my water bottles. I just climbed Sky Bridge Hill. In fact, I got a PR on the Skybridge final Pitch segment and a second fastest time on THE Sky Bridge Hill which is the full monty from the old campground to the top. As I climbed I felt like I was going slow. There was no drive to go fast or push hard. I just wanted to get to the top of the hill without blowing out a knee. I can’t say I’m unhappy with the result.
Sky Bridge Ridge never disappoints and I was flying along in the moment surfing the ridge and enjoying the fine weather and bright sunlight as I drove the bike on toward Pine Ridge. Then I noticed that I was painfully close to the right pace to reach Pine Ridge for a sub-three hour finish. Painfully close; but not close enough.
When I turn right onto KY 15 from KY 715 at Sky Bridge Station it’s twenty two miles home. With the Slade Hill descent and a favorable wind I can make it home in an hour from that point. I was just over two hours when I got there. I knew there was no hope for a fast return, but I knew there was no reason not to throw down a respectable effort. So I lay over the handlebars and raced for home.
I was down Slade Hill and through Slade proper like a freight train. Usually the last dozen miles or so feel rough, but for whatever reason my legs felt better and better. Don’t get me wrong, this ride wasn’t a cakewalk. My saddlesore area was raw and my feet were numb. My back ached and my left knee sang its off-key anthem. But in the end I felt pretty darn good.
When I got home I went crazy stretching my legs. I made sure to do it really well, and then Mandy and I took about an hour and a half long nap which I am hoping will promote better recovery. The ride took me three hours and twenty four minutes. The first time I tried to do that ride for time I managed three hours and fourteen minutes and I was in much better shape. Maybe I ain’t lost it all yet…
So, Mohican here I come!