Randonneurs pay special attention to the weather forecast. Usually when it calls for rain or cold we just bundle up in wool and soldier on, but that was not to be the case for last weekend's NCBC 300K Brevet. A line of dangerous thunderstorms was bearing down on our area and had already produced tornadoes and damage west of us. Some discussion ensued about the safety of holding the ride anyway, and eventually RBA Al Johnson made the decision to postpone the brevet by one day. It turned out to be a VERY good decision as the Triangle area was hit with a reported 62 tornadoes on Saturday that led to over 20 deaths.
Sunday was a much better day, and about 20 riders lined up at the start. It was a tad cool, but we warmed up nicely as we left Morrisville as one big group. It was an easier initial pace than the 200K a couple weeks earlier. As we approached the Chatham County line I heard Martin behind me say "I guess since Jerry's not here nobody's going to go for the county line." I hadn't been paying attention, but since I had a reminder I jumped and took the "sprint" uncontested. I took advantage of the small gap that I had on the group to get my point & shoot out for a video.
The usual suspects who always push the pace seemed to be absent, but Annette kept speeding things up on the front as we approached Jordan Lake. I got on her wheel and soon I noticed that there were only a couple others with us. She pulled all the way across the lake and almost all the way to Lystra. I took over after she pulled off, but Lin passed me on the downhill so I got on his wheel. Once the road turned upward again I was back on the front, but before I knew it Tom passed me with no one on his wheel, so I jumped on it. I was getting pretty much a free ride to Jack Bennett with the front group! Once onto the climb on Jack Bennett I got into my climbing rhythm and found myself out front solo. I wasn't surprised though when Geof showed up to join me at the top, and there was a group of front runners just behind him.
We kept rolling and enjoyed the nice fresh asphalt of Andrews Store Rd. Shortly before we got to Frosty's Kim told me she'd forgotten to put any food in her pockets, it was all stashed in her seat bag. I rummaged around in my front bag and passed her a chocolate chip Clif bar. Always nice to have some good karma to cash in later! Up Chicken Bridge, Castle Rock/Old Switchboard, then past Lindley Mill and we were on the rollers to Snow Camp.
It was a short stop at the control at Snow Camp, but still the Camms took off before the rest of the pack. Then Tim left, saying he had a front tire going soft and hoping there would be a volunteer with a floor pump at Siler City. The rest of the group was leaving and Geof wasn't quite ready yet. I was kinda waiting, but didn't want to get dropped if he put the hammer down to bridge the gap, so I took off. I knew he had the ability to catch, so I was just worried that the group would get too much of a gap on me. I caught them in short order and it wasn't much longer before Geof was back in the fold.
At Siler City the Camms were almost ready to leave just as we arrived. I was still filling bottles when they took off, and I saw Tom go with them. Tim had replaced his leaky front tube and was ready to join the main group again. I went ahead and took off with a small group, knowing that some of the strong riders who weren't yet ready to go would catch us on the hills to Seagrove. If I want to have a good time on one of these brevets I have to minimize my time off the bike. Sure enough, the hills took their toll on me- Geof, Mike, and John caught us shortly. I got dropped on the way into Seagrove and was the last of this group to arrive at the control.
I needed a break and some solid food, so I ordered a ham & cheese and had a sit-down. Unfortunately that meant that everyone left except Mike and John. Great company to be in, but I didn't have a prayer of keeping up on the climbs. As we left Seagrove it was obvious that I couldn't maintain their pace uphill, so I intentionally let them go and settled into my own rhythm again. I pretty much resigned myself to the idea that the entire 2nd half of the brevet would be solo. As I was on the return I saw other riders coming in for about the first 10 miles. After that I was alone with the road, the bike, and the occasional car. I got back to Siler City and saw riders leaving the control as I got stopped by the light. Joel was volunteering and had set up in the parking lot with drinks and snacks, and Tim was there eating a sandwich at the back of Joel's truck. I didn't even get off the bike, just rolled up, got my card signed, grabbed a Rice Krispy treat, and continued on my way.
Still solo all the way back to Snow Camp, but when I arrived at the control there was Geof, Mike, and John. I took a little time here, replenished the fluids and ate a snack. We all left together, but once again I was having trouble finding my rhythm in the group. It seemed like I'd always have to brake on the downhills to keep from running into the wheels in front of me, but they'd get a gap on me on the uphill. Having done that before I knew it would only take a couple of those before I'd burn myself out trying to close those gaps after the uphill. I just started riding for myself, keeping a steady effort and maintaining my cadence. I got ahead of the others for awhile, but they would close the gap some on the uphills because they were putting out more effort than I was. Then on the flats they would soft pedal and downhills they would coast, while I maintained my steady effort and I'd pull further ahead. This went on for awhile until Geof caught up with me and passed on a hill. I didn't change anything- chasing him would blow me up, so I just kept going.
Mike came up to me and said hey were stopping for a nature break and asked if I wanted to wait and ride in with them. I hope he didn't think I was being anti-social, I just needed to keep my own rhythm going and not try to keep up with someone else's. They stopped and I kept going. A little while later they caught me and passed, and soon they were out of sight. I was passing Frosty's so I didn't have too far to go, but the pollen was really starting to bother me. I got that can't-breathe feeling and had to ease up even more. I decided that I'd stop at Andrews Store, and there were Mike and John also taking a break.
Once again they offered to ride in together and I tried to talk them out of it. Not only did I not want to slow them down, but I didn't want them to speed me up! I finally relented to the peer pressure to ride with the group, and they waited while I took a much needed break before we left together. Quite a few times in those last miles I was gapped off on a little incline, but they kept easing off and waiting for me. Nice folks. I would've understood if they'd gone on without me. We rolled into Alan's place at 7:52, just one minute after sunset! I did turn on my light, but just for safety so cars could see me. I was still wearing sunglasses. Alan had sodas and pizza for us, and a birthday cake for John. This year's time of 12:52 is 2 hours and 26 minutes faster than my time on this same course last year! Almost all of that time was made up at the controls!