Bridge-to-Bridge '97

Ride summary by Ed Downing

bicycle chain

Saturday afternoon(9/20), Rich Giroux and I drove to David Cole's mother's home in Statesville to spend the night. David and Mary were already there because Katie and Carson are in year 'round school and it's their vacation time. Robby and Jan Powell made a vacation of it in Boone so travelled separately. Sunday morning 4:30, David's famous pancakes in Statesville, then off to the start in Lenoir.

New starting location, Lenoir Mall, and :30 earlier time, 7:00, in 1997. The initial part of the route was reworked to fit the starting location, then it rejoined the traditional route for the rest. We started up a gradual one mile hill which spread the peloton back where Rich and I were. David and Robby reported that it was not so good up at the front; lots of severe accordioning. There was very little accelerating up the oncoming traffic lane by those not at the front trying to catch up. I felt much safer at the start compared to prior downhill starts across the Catawba River bridge in Hickory.

All in all, a day of suitable weather, if not perfect. We had an eye on the Weather Channel during breakfast as a cold front was to pass. We didn't know what temps or rain to expect; as it turned out, only an insignificant sprinkle. I was first heated by the effort to ascend NC-181 and then chilled by the screaming descents on the BRP. Grandfather himself was cloud enshrouded as we ascended but, from the summit, the surrounding landscape was visible. It continued to clear and cool off.

As always happens on these rides, packs form and packs disintegrate. Early on, I overtook Liz Crotty, a PBP brevet qual rider from 1991, and we alternated as engine to pull us two forward from one pack to the next. Finally, I accelerated, Liz didn't, and I never saw her again. I rode many miles with three riders who left me on NC-181, then stopped while I didn't, then passed me one last time on the BRP, and I saw them again only after the finish. Familiar jerseys and bikes yo-yoed endlessly until one of us faded, usually me. Then I passed several one last time as I rode unbroken to the summit.

I took several drink cups on the fly, something I haven't done before. I don't know why because it worked just fine. I set foot to earth only thrice: to clear a chainsucked chain, at AS#12 because I felt like sh*t and foresook my pretense of needing to ride it without stopping, and to pee just prior to Grandfather Mt (jettisoning weight). I was back on the road in less than 3 minutes each time. I had trouble getting a PowerBar down; it stuck to my throat. Hammergel must be washed down with water. One of these days, I'll eat right. Sure!

Attached is a photo from the summit looking down the final switchback of the access road. This view is not normally seen by a rider because it's at his/her back. Note riders 2 and 3 tacking up the grade. It's unquestionably the steepest grade I've encountered although my experience is rather limited. Were it not for the hoard of prior arrivees shouting encouragement and threatening embarrassment for your failure, it would be so easy to quit and walk up. Many do, even so, but none of us four. A few years ago, a young rider ascending directly in front of me stalled, standing full weight on a pedal and not moving forward one iota, and fell over on the roadway. You gotta maintain your momentum.

Robby finished sub-6, ~5:55, a new PR; I regard this as a great achievement for a rider as big butted as he is. David, who always rides on the brink of leg cramps, finished in ~6:12. I crested in 6:52:56, respectably close to my pre-crash PR of 6:38:19. Rich, ever the Aid Station visitor in quest of a glass of Chardonnay, crossed in ~7:30 and Ed Powell, Robby's father, shortly thereafter.

Because it's there, if you need to ask.

Page maintained by David L. Cole and last revised on Sunday, September 28, 1997.
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