Centuries are for Sissies.
Well, not really. But on Saturday morning I wake up without a single butterfly in my stomach. And for a girl with an award-winning capacity to worry about big rides, that’s saying something.
Breakfast is Sal’s classic pre-ride masterpiece: buckwheat pancakes and eggs, black coffee. Bags and bikes in car: Project Portland Velo Century is all systems go!
The roll out: Perfect and fast.
The first climb: Early and painful. Popped off the back of the main group of the race team.
The chase: Not very impressive since I descend almost slower than I climb. Kristin comes back to me slowly. I think she waited.
The road to Hagg Lake: Lonely. Until I see Sally up on the right side of the road. Pulled over. Waiting for me. I’m half-mortified and half-relieved to have him back. I don’t tell him that he didn’t have to wait because I’ve told him this one-thousand times in my life and I’m tired of hearing myself say it. He knows. Sal rides a sweet 20mph tempo to Hagg Lake. Drops me on the climb.
Halfway through the Hagg Lake Loop: Entire race team on the side of the road. Man down. We pick up a few and form a nice grupetto. Sal is riding tempo again. His "shecko" nickname is catching on. Matt D is just behind me yelling, "Haw! Haw!" and making whip-cracking noises.
Rest Stop Number One: I am officially a rest stop pro. Devour one bag salty salty chips, refill water bottles, pee. Eat cookies and bananas. Steal one clif bar for the road. Grupetto sets out again. It’s getting bigger.
Mile 50-ish: Half the ride has gone by. Sal looks over at me and says, "Jesus – I feel like I just started riding!" It’s the brevets, I tell you. 100 miles is a lark. Our group is great – we’re working together and chatting. This is how a century should be – a party on wheels – enough slipstream to go around.
Headed out on loop from Hell: Out on one of the worst roads I’ve ridden. Small shoulder and craploads of speeding rural traffic. I lose track of how many times we get buzzed, flipped off and generally maligned. We’re all holding on for dear life, strung out and mashing pedals just to get off the thing. When we turn off, there is a collective sigh of relief and a long string of expletives from Kender.
Headed back on loop from Hell: We try to find a way around the Road from Hell, but we can’t work it out, so we set off again with our resolve set and speed in our legs. Cars are passing for 5 minutes or so and by the time I’m able to see around the wheels that are in front of me, a huge gap has opened. Sal, Javad, and Kender are way off the front. Disaster! Those are the diesels! We’ve got to bring them back. I jump around the slower wheels and rock the drops until I pick up Matt D, who is already chasing. He hauls us back to Javad’s rear wheel, which eventually leads to Sal’s.
Final rest stop: Amazing pasta salad. More chips. Lube for Sal’s chain (thanks Veloce!!!)
The Final Twenty-Five: Before we leave someone in the group laughs and says, "Just under 25 to go – we can do it in an hour!" That’s a funny joke until I realize that we actually might make good on it. 22-23 miles per hour all the way home, swooping on quiet farm roads. Just enough rest after the slight rises to let you recover. I miss my first pull as the rider in front of me lifts the pace on a small climb just enough that I start to lose contact. I’m gritting my teeth trying to stay in touch when Matt D comes to my rescue and takes point as the lead rider pulls off.
My computer is on the fritz so I’ve got no idea how many miles are left – I just keep telling myself that I can hold this pace for another 10 miles. I sit in the top five and eventually my pull comes up again. It’s short but sweet and I keep my eye on the speedometer, holding as steady as possible at 22mph. The final few miles at the back of the group is ridiculously sweet. Soft-pedaling at 20+? Brilliant.
The ride is over seemingly before it started. We roll into the post-ride party to applause and beer. Someone puts a cup in my hand.
Beer + endorphins = ecstasy so I begin the mandatory photographic torture of my compatriots.
I’m going to go ahead and take the liberty of calling this one a slam dunk. Booyah!
A few party snaps:
Lovin’ this muppet dog.
Matt D looking like Gilligan.
Sweet, sweet nectar.
Sierra and Sherry toasting after completing their first century!