I volunteered to be Lanterne Rouge for the team's first ride in the Gaps, which was this past Saturday. That meant I had the joy and pleasure of riding with Miss L, with whom I had ridden only one other time this season (and promptly got her (and two others) lost, inviting an extra 5 miles and long climbs in only the 4th ride of the season for the all-sport GTS). I vowed not to add any extra hills or miles this weekend, and we took off.
We had an early technical problem, in that she couldn't get out of the big ring in front. Although the route called for a short, 3-mile out and back for warmup, there were still enough hills from the get-go for this to be an issue. Knowing there were several thousand feet of climbing ahead of us, this had to be fixed. Fortunately, it was fixed fairly easily via a simple adjustment of the barrel (the difficulty coming from frozen fingers), and we rode back to the base of Neel's Gap and started the climb. We stopped only once, about an hour into the ride, so she could drink and refuel, but let it be noted that this was pretty close to the top of the climb itself (about 2.5 mi out). We quickly drank and refueled before taking a cautious descent past Vogel State Park onto Wolfpen Gap Road, which is the base of Wolfpen Gap. We stopped a couple times due to the steepness, but made it up in less than an hour (the second stop was a few hundred yards from the summit), and with another technical problem: she was having a harder and harder time unclipping, causing a fall trying to get going after the second stop. We got back on and kept going, however, because L is a trooper and it was a great day.
At the SAG at the top of Wolfpen, we spent less than 10 minutes, having just rehydrated and refueled (though I dug into the Pringles quite happily), and then started off, taking another cautious ride down the more technical descent that is Wolfpen. We hit the rolling terrain out to Suches strongly, at which point I told her that if I looked back and saw her coasting, she would be fined $1 for each infraction. I quickly made $6 (she's so honest!), and then we hit a long, slow (though not too steep) climb out of the woods into the farm country, a couple miles out from Suches itself. And that's when the mechanicals really came into play. First, nearly the crest of the climb, L couldn't shift out of the big ring again. She powered up as far as she could go, also having problems unclipping. We got to a more level area, got her off the bike, and fixed the shifting issue.
Two times we tried to get going, and two times we had a fall because of the tightness of the pedal. Frustrated, but not out, we walked the short distance to the top, got on again, and rode about 5 feet before she announced two things: her saddle had been knocked askew in on of the falls, and she couldn't get out of the pedals to stop. In dramatic fashion, I ditched my bike, ran up and caught her bike so she could get out. I called up to the coaches (on Woody for the second time at that point) to ask how to loosen her type of pedal, and another rider came by with an appropriate-sized allen wrench. Saddle and pedal now adjusted, after a half-hour of discouragement, we rode down to the gas station at Suches. I asked if she wanted to stop to get some pop for the sugar and caffeine, and she declined. That's when we saw J, who had ridden back down to meet us, so we stopped quickly anyway. We started up Woody, which L just powered through, took some pictures at the top, and rode off. I told her to go in front of me and to keep pedalling, even if she wasn't pushing. She BOMBED down that hill, where I was working in points to keep up with her. She masterfully worked through 7 miles of winding descent, and then booked it the final 5 miles back to the start.
We had an AMAZING day, talking about everything from her training, her reason for doing TNT in the first place, what made her decide to cycle instead of run this season, and my nonsense (Her: how long have you been riding? Me: Seven years. Her: Oh my goodness! Me: Well, it hasn't been constant. I do sleep) and cheering her on (which she really didn't need). I love this ride, I was so grateful to share it with her, as descending and riding at speed is a major fear for her, and she NAILED it. Seriously, I can't say enough how awesome the day and ride were.
Maximum speed: 32.1 mph
Average speed: 9.4 mph
Distance: 38.01 mi
Details and map here.