Much to my surprise I awoke Saturday morning and felt overwhelmingly adequate. I bolted out of bed at 6:30 in a mad rush convinced that I could make the ride. Dark roast was brewed, gear was gathered, and tires were pumped in record time. Mary rose to my typical overwhelming self and started to plan her morning alone. As I drove through Keene I thought of all the messages I had sent the previous night. Suddenly as I finished off the last sip of Peruvian Dark Roast from Cafe Monte Alto I wondered if anyone was going to show up for the ride. It was after all early and cold with a bitter moisture in the air that made it feel colder than the thermometer read.
As I pulled into the lot at Cheshire Medical I saw Bill's bright yellow jacket and felt better about the chaotic last hour. After I unloaded the Tarmac with Jet 6's Dr. Tom came charging into the parking lot in his fancy minivan. Dr. Tom unloaded his sweet new custom ride with Sram Red and Renyolds 32 tubulars in super shiny black. One of the sweetest rides I've seen in the last month or so. With the arrival of Dr. Tom I knew that we were in for a solid ride. Our agreed upon loop would take us out through the flats of Surry, along the river into Gilsum, up and over the steeps of Mine Road, into Alstead, over the Walpole Valley climb, and back along the 12a time trial into Keene.
Heading out I instantly regretted not wearing my Craft Nordic jacket as the rawness in the air was cooling me to the core. I knew that it was going to warm up later in the ride but in the here and now I was freezing. Between the weather and the lingering illness it took me a long time to fall into a rhythm. Tom, Bill and I rode in tight formation all along 12a through Surry before easing up a bit for a chat on River Road. On the smaller climbs toward the end of River Road I made some power on the climbs to test my legs before the punch in the face that was looming in the form of Gilsum Mine Road. Through town we soft pedaled and at the foot of the climb I immediately down shifted to the small ring. The climb is nearly a mile and ramps up to nearly seventeen percent in places. A real kick in the tail for a first major climb of the day. We regrouped over the top and Bill mentioned how he had recently driven the climb and was ruing the day that he would get dragged up it on a ride. The rest of the Mine Road we worked a pretty tight paceline. On one of the later ramps Tom jumped out of the saddle and hit the power pretty hard. I immediately jumped around Bill and latched onto Tom's wheel. As the pace leveled out Tom told me that he was trying to stay warm. Apparently Tom hates riding in thick gear so he was in short tights, a light jacket, and gloves! No hat, no shoe covers! BRRRRRR! We made a quick stop at the intersection of 123 to check on Tom's tubulars before a rocketing and precise decent into Alstead. The tight configuration was a stark contrast to last weeks ride that was overwhelmingly sloppy. Bill took a long pull on the initial steeps before Tom further ratcheted up the pace. Heading out of Alstead along the river I took a looooooooong pull on the front to try and get in some work. As we eased up at the next stop sign Tom and Bill remarked on the strength of the pull and we plotted and planned for next summer and the Green Mountain Stage Race. The last major climb of the day was up Walpole Valley Road, a category three climb of nearly four miles with segments of climbing well over ten percent. This climbs reminds me a lot of the Fish Hatchery Road climb only longer and steeper. Walpole Valley is a good climb for me so at the base I went right to the front and made some power. The lingering congestion that I was feeling was holding me back slightly but my legs felt surprisingly strong. I was surprised to see at the conclusion of the ride that my time up the major climbing section was only thirty seconds slower than my best from earlier this year. Bill, Tom and I regrouped on the decent and it was decided at the intersection of 12a that we would make a go at the Time Trial KOM on the way back. We hatched a plan that Bill would take the first pull then try to grab my wheel as Tom and I passed. Bill was starting to feel pretty gassed and was unsure about how much energy was left in the tank. After a strong pull Bill momentarily clung to my wheel before getting dropped. I yelled up to Tom that it was down to the two of us and we got back to work. Tom was turning over a massive gear though the last of the rollers before pulling off. I jumped on the front and went to work dragging us up the long gradual climb to the Surry Mountain School. I needed a brief break close to the top of the climb so Tom went back to the front for fifteen seconds. I could feel the pace lagging so I jumped back around and pulled us into the flats. Tom came around and went back to work past Pond Road heading toward Surry Reservoir. Tom pulled wide and said that his legs were fried with two miles to go. I wasn't willing to give up the ghost just yet so I jumped out of the saddle and went full gas for the remainder of the segment. Given the wind and weather I was satisfied with my performance that slotted me in at 4th on the leader board. I wish I was an avid Strava user summer of 2011 when I was doing all of my TT training on this stretch. I'm very curious about what best actually is on that stretch? We regrouped at Darling Road and rode easily the last few miles to the hospital. Tom and Bill seemed extremely pleased with their rides and there was a good buzz in the air. I was thrilled that I even made it out the door so to have a solid ride was a huge bonus!
The ride wrapped up at just over 43 miles in two hours and sixteen minutes. Hopefully this post is making you want to get out for this ride! I'll be at Cheshire Medical again next Saturday at 7:30 looking forward to another awesome group ride.