New Year's Day Metric (1/1/2004)

Tom Sheffield

bicycle chain

What a beautiful day for a bike ride!

Over 50 cyclists departed from Pleasant Union Elementary shortly after 10am. Nearly everyone was invigorated by the unseasonably warm (50F) weather, so the pace was brisk from the start. As usual for this time of year, the ride attracted cyclists with a wide range of fitness. However, the majority of the group was unwilling to let the "hammers" escape without putting up a valiant effort, which kept the group more or less intact for the first 18 miles. The 21mph pace during this segment of the ride resulted in a few casualties, but that's not unexpected at this time of year.

Shortly after crossing I85 the hammers decided that they would like to be first in line during the break, and left several smaller groups scattered in their wake between Hester and Wilton. The last group reached the break (29m) with an average speed of a little over 20mph.

For those who are not familiar with the New Year's Day route, the 29 miles before the break are relatively flat for this section of the Piedmont. The route was designed that way to attract cyclists with a broad range of abilities. The 33 miles after the break are much more difficult, with several long, leg-breaking, muscle-cramping grades. This was also by design, so that even the hammers will start out the New Year with a good, anaerobic buzz.

There was no rest for the weary during the break, and the stragglers had barely enough time to replenish their fluids before most of the group was heading east on NC56 to start the second half of the ride. This is the first year that more than half of the cyclists completed the full Metric. Such a phenomenon can probably be attributed to the fantastic weather, since the temperature had risen to nearly 60F.

The first 5 miles after the break are mostly down hill. In fact, by the time you begin climbing again, you'd swear that you had been through one of the lowest points in North Carolina. That's not quite the case, but even though we didn't come close to the Great Dismal Swamp, we were very close to the Tar River (which certainly must be a close relative). The pack began to disintegrate once we began climbing "UP" Grove Hill Road toward NC56. From there the route includes some challenging segments on Long Mill, John Mitchell, and Woodland Church Roads before you're back on Bruce Garner Road with only a few hills in the Falls Lake watershed between you and the finish.

As we soft-pedaled our way back toward Pleasant Union Elementary, the "sweepers" picked-up a few stragglers who had been shelled out of the groups ahead of us. On one occasion we passed a cyclist who had flatted (accompanied by a "good Samartan"), which gave us the opportunity to observe that time-honored tradition of yelling "You OK?" and getting the expected "Yeh!" in return. Don't they always say "Yeh!" or is that what "No! my spare was bad - I'm out of CO2 - my legs cramped when I quit riding to change this flat, and I'm out of fluids." sounds like when your cruising past at around 20mph?

The parking lot was almost empty when the "sweepers" arrived after averaging a little over 19mph. A few cyclists were still hanging around, swapping stories (aka lies?) about their experiences during the ride. It's a wonderful feeling when you hear "friendly" voices saying "There you are! We wondered when you'd finally get back."

Happy New Year!

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