It had been awhile since I rode Dean's Tar Heel 200K. Since my last trip on this route they've paved some of the worst sections of asphalt, but not to worry- there's still plenty of roads that can give your bike a thorough shakedown to make sure every accessory is firmly attached! I met up with Mike, Lynn, and Jerry in Benson at 7am and I knew that I was in for a fast ride. I have trouble keeping up with these folks when they're casually spinning along and chatting about the weather! I told myself that it shouldn't be a problem, the Tar Heel is flat...
Sometimes flat is good. Sometimes there's wind. Today's wind wasn't that bad really- 8-10mph out of the south meant we'd have headwinds on the way out to the turnaround and then enjoy tailwinds on the way home. All I had to do was stick with them for the first 62 miles and I'd be golden. At first I was doing ok, but that was probably because they were just warming up. Before we got to Stedman I was feelin' the burn as we were cranking 17-18mph into a quartering headwind. I had to pull out of line and told them I'd see them at the control.
After a break and a snack we got back on the road. Everybody left before me, so I was riding solo a bit earlier than I had planned. For awhile I could see the group up ahead, but the gap was widening. I settled in for a 30 mile slog into the wind alone. As I've noticed on recent brevets, I actually ride pretty well when I get my rhythm going. I was averaging 15-16mph and keeping a steady tempo and effort. During this stretch I decided that unless I wanted to finish an hour or more after everybody else I'd need to minimize my time off the bike and keep moving. If I took the time for a sit-down Subway stop at Tar Heel I'm pretty sure I'd get dropped again and not see the others for the rest of the ride. I short stopped the control and saw the bikes parked at Subway. No idea how long they'd been there already, but I figured I could get 5 or 10 minutes up the road and they'd catch me on the way back to Stedman.
I really like tailwinds. And nice fresh pavement. The return trip was turning out to be a lot more fun than the upwind slog that I'd dealt with before. It seemed like it took very little effort to maintain 19 or 20mph, my arm warmers and leg warmers were off, and I was spinning a high cadence and really enjoying the ride. I kept expecting to see bikes in my mirror, especially when I got to the really long, straight stretches but as I entered Stedman I was still out front. Once again I made it a short stop, but just as I was ready to get back on the bike I saw Jerry and Mike crossing Hwy 24. They went to the Andy's instead of the convenience store and I thought about heading over to join them. I'd already had a snack at the store, so once again I figured I'd get a few miles down the road before they started chasing me down.
By the way, the nice pavement had run out and I was back to the bumpass asphalt with the tar snakes all over it. Even with a tailwind it's hard to maintain good speed on what one of my friends calls "speed sucking pavement." I was riding on a brand new rear wheel I had just picked up on Friday, and I was really giving it a good shakedown. It came through with flying colors- not even so much as a ping. I was keeping an eye on the mirror, but still no sign of the other riders. They must have stopped for awhile at Andy's. I got to the Short Stop convenience store and gave myself a longer stop, checked my phone and had a snack. Ironic that the longest stop of the ride was at Short Stop! There were only 13 or 14 more miles, so even if they caught me now I wouldn't be very far behind. Still no sign of them as I got back on the road, so I just spun an easy gear all the way back to Benson. I was surprised that they never caught me.
I went into the Burger King to get some food and have my card signed, and while filling my drink I heard someone call my name. It was Ian! He and Mary had driven down to Benson and brought a cake to celebrate Jerry's R-60. The other riders rolled into the finish about 5 minutes or so behind me and we all enjoyed a piece of cake in the parking lot. 5 straight years of R-12s, way to go Jerry!