The BugMan Sunday ride started up again this past weekend. I first started this off-season training ride two years ago because other Sunday rides were either too fast or the terrain was too boring. I love racing, but by end-of-season the last thing I wanna do is paceline the flatlands – give me longish, moderately paced joy rides through splendid terrain with hills and trees and stuff! I’ve gradually settled on a 56-mile route on smooth, lightly traveled roads through spectacular west St. Louis County, starting in Frontenac and going west through Castlewood State Park and Rockwood Reservation and behind Babler State Park to rack up 3,000+ feet of climbing before looping back in through Town & Country. Later in the winter we add more miles and climbs. The distance and amount of climbing make it a difficult route, but I bill it as “no-drop” ride because we regroup regularly and keep a relatively tame pace in between the climbs. If somebody shows up and realizes they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, someone will make sure they don’t get left behind. It’s a great way for stronger riders to get a good workout without ditching the weaker riders.
We had a nice group of 10 for the first ride of this off-season, including Joe & PJ, the first appearance by Cat2 Matt, some regulars from last season, and a first-timer (whom I had met last year at our Team Time Trial) with two friends he had invited. I asked the first-timers if they were up for 56 miles – they said they were originally planning to do 100 miles, so I’m like, okay! The weather couldn’t have been more perfect – chilly starting out but sunny and warming nicely. We chatted and got acquainted on the rollers through Kirkwood and Valley Park before hitting the “warm up” climbs on Ries Road. I haven’t done much hill work during the past 3 months, so my climbing is rusty, and my recent 3-week off-the-bike stint didn’t help. So, I just spun easy on the first hill and kept check on riders behind me while others went ahead. At the top of the last climb before the big descent to Kiefer Creek, I noticed one of the first-timers lagging behind pretty far, so when I hit Kiefer Creek I sat up and soft pedaled to wait. Several minutes went by and she never showed, so I turned around to go back and get her. The further I went without seeing her the more concerned I got. I sat at the bottom of the Ries descent and saw no sign of her, so I started climbing and ended up going all the way back up to where I last saw her. Still no sign of her – I’m like, “What, did she ditch us?” What could I do, I just turned around, came back down the descent, and started time trialing to catch up with the group. I really didn’t want to go that hard, but I knew I had to ride a good pace since I had doubled back about a mile. It took me all the way to the top of the 2nd climb on St. Paul Road before I caught back up. The group was waiting for me on top, along with the lost rider – HUH!? I’m thinking, “How did I miss her?” Turns out she had turned left into Castlewood ’cause she didn’t know where to go, and while I was climbing back up Ries, PJ had come back and found her and brought her back up to the group. She seemed a little peeved, but I figured everything oughta be okay now, especially considering the effort we went through to find her and bring her back. We rolled along Ridge Road and then bombed the Old State Road descent to Hwy 109 – one of my favorite descents! The group stayed together fine until we got to the Melrose climbs – the girl dropped back again, but we soft pedaled on top while Matt went back and got her. More fine riding along Melrose, Ossenfort, and Wildhorse Creek, and then we hit the Doberman climb. Things really split up there, but we made a pit stop at the BP station and regrouped. On the final run in along Conway, all three of the first-timers started lagging – I waited up for them while the rest of the group rode ahead. When they caught up they told me to go ahead, but I said it’s really no problem and pulled them back up to the group. They got separated again a little later – this time PJ told me to go on with the group and she would go back and finish up with them. By this time I was toast and ready to finish, so I caught up with the first group and rolled in with them, while PJ’s group rolled in a few minutes later.
It was a great, fun ride by most peoples account. I wanted to talk to the girl to give her some encouragement, but she took off before I had the chance. Her friends told me the ride was too hard and said the girl wasn’t very happy about getting left behind. I’m thinking, “Well, you’re her friends, why didn’t you wait up for her?” I didn’t say it, of course – I’m the ride leader and it’s my responsibility to keep tabs on everyone. It just rubbed me the wrong way, after having climbed all the way back up Ries to look for her, time trialing the next 5 miles to catch back up, and then several of us really watching out for her afterwards. Oh well, you just can’t please everybody.