The Culpeper Century
4 October 2008
“Ready to go?” Patrice asked. “We don’t want the “A Team” to get too far ahead.”
“I’m ready,” I answered and headed for my bike parked along the Salem Fire House. We were at the second rest stop of the day. Patrice had joined me after the first rest stop at Mitchells Presbyterian Church. I biked the first 23 miles with a group of four and we ate up the flat roads; Blackjack Road, Algonquin Trail, Zachary Taylor Highway (US 522) which had high speed traffic, and Mitchells Road which took us to the first rest stop. The speed worried me a little since I signed up for the Century and did not want to burn myself out during the first half of the ride. But I took my pulls at the front and at times reached 27 MPH on the flat sometimes slightly downhill sections. It brought back good memories of young legs and the fun of riding in a pace line.
Patrice was a steady cyclist. She had ridden a century many years ago and wanted to accomplish the feat again. Her family urged her to bike and even sent her to France on a biking trip as a present for her 50th birthday. She told me about climbing Mount Ventoux and the famous Alpe d’Huez.
I did not see Cathy when we passed our house on Merrimac. It was 9:47 and we were 31 miles into the ride. I told Cathy to look for cyclists between 10 and 10:30.
At the start a chilly wind hit my face as I flew down Chandler Street. To the left and right was the National Cemetery, the resting place for good folks who served the nation in uniform. I was a mile into the inaugural Culpeper Century and looking for a pace line to join. I knew Patrice was riding but did not see her at the riders meeting. I met Patrice a few weeks ago on my regular loop around the countryside near my home.
I was surprised at the small number of cyclists who signed up for the ride. I expected 200 or so and it appeared we were less than 100. And I did not win one of the door prizes! Great prizes they were: A Cannondale frame, a jersey, a tool kit, and dinner for two at It’s About Thyme (one of the best restaurants in town).
Much of the route would be new to me. I did not know the total elevation gained or how many of the energy sapping rollers I would encounter. For that reason I decided to take a wait and see approach as to whether I would ride the full Century or go for the Metric Century. It depended upon how my body felt. And I had reduced the miles since cycling the Rappahannock Rough Ride in ugly conditions.
“We turn left here. Ahead is one of the best views in Culpeper,” Patrice added. The roads were well marked with arrows indicating turns before a turn, at the turn, and after the turn. It was one of the best marked routes I had ever biked.
“Duncan Trail,” I said more to myself than to Patrice when we turned off Reva Road. A sharp little climb tested the legs, but we soon reached a level road and spun toward Oakland Road. After a bend Old Ragg Mountain with its huge stone formations, outlined in the morning light, stood before us. To the left and right the Blue Ridge Mountains stretched in waves of blue and purple. Closer to us the still green fields surrounded large farms. A brick fireplace dominated a side of a green-roofed white farm house. A walled cemetery, most likely a family plot, was nearby. Fat Angus cows grazed, the crops were in for the most part, and rolls of hay dotted the rolling pastures.
“How do you feel?” Patrice asked.
“Good so far.” I had informed her that I would decide near the second rest stop whether to bike the 101 miles or go for the Metric Century.
Patrice knew the cyclists in the ”A Team” and wanted to catch them or at least keep it close. I had biked with some of them during the RRR including Michelle (see blog post on the RRR) who was riding her first Century. The section of roads between the second and third rest stop was rolling with short steep climbs as we biked to the northeast. We passed Eggsbornville Road, Drogheda Mountain Road, and other roads that led us to cross Route 229. After another tough steep hill I flew down the next descent and saw the sign for the third rest stop at Mount Zion Church. Good, the “A Team” looked like they had just arrived.
Applause filled the air as I coasted up. I bowed from the waist and turned to look for Patrice. More clapping welcomed her. I looked at my computer: 62.4 miles into the ride. I grabbed a hand full of cookies, ate two orange slices, refilled my bottles – both empty. I was taking extra effort to hydrate properly. I filled one with water and one with Gatorade Rain. Then I paid my water bill – always a sign of adequate hydration.
The “A Team” left and we followed shortly. “They were shocked. Did you see their faces?” Patrice laughed.
“Well, we are just biking at a steady pace and making good time,” I answered. “They know your age, but wait till they learn my age,” I chuckled.
“Maybe we can catch them before Kelly’s Ford,” Patrice joked. “Wouldn’t that surprise them!”
We spun a few miles in silence. “Look, someone has a flat,” I said. Sure enough one of the “A Team” was working on a tire change and the others, about 10-12 riders were waiting.
We were caught just before Lakota Road by the pace line. The route turned east and pointed to Remington, the village near the Rappahannock River. At the traffic signal on US 29 we caught Marcel, Patrice’s Dutch friend who was cramping severely. We carefully crossed the RR tracks and took Summerduck Road through flat farm land on a silky road.
The last rest stop at Kelly’s Ford greeted us. More praise from the “A Team” greeted us when we appeared with Marcel. It was my first time at Kelly’s Ford and I was impressed with the large Inn next door. The parking lot was packed with vehicles.
“Almost home,” one of the “A Team” told us. “From here we have the climb after the narrow bridge, a few rollers, and flat or downhill all the way to Culpeper.” We were 82 miles into the ride and if the total was 101 miles as advertised, we were almost home free.
“Whoa. That is a narrow bridge,” I exclaimed after slowing and navigating the tricky approach to the bridge. “Wow, this must have been built for one team of mules pulling a narrow wagon.” I checked across the bridge before starting across. No way did I want to meet a speedster coming the opposite way on this thing!
The pace line caught us before we reached Route 3 in Lignum. ‘Now I know where I am,” I told Patrice. The roads were indeed flat or slightly down hill and we made good time. We caught and passed Marcel who was suffering with cramps again.
“They travel all over the world cycling, Marcel and his wife,” Patrice informed me. ”No kids, so a few years ago they quit work for two years and biked. What a life.”
I love to bike, but I don’t know that I want to spend all my time cycling. If I were younger, perhaps.
Marcel waved to us from the SAG on Batna Road. “Poor Marcel. He was really having a tough day,” Patrice remarked.
“Hello,” a person from a passing car waved and called to us.
“That’s Marcel’s wife. She must be looking for him.”
We inched closer to Culpeper crossing Route 3 again in Stevensburg. We turned left on Greens Corner Road and I knew we were headed for the intersection with US 29 where Eastern View High School just opened this fall. It was the second high school in the county.
I still felt good and I attributed that to eating and drinking during the ride. ”I drank 10 bottles,” I told Patrice.
“What?” she asked. “I only drank 3 bottles. That must be why I cramped.”
Wouldn’t you know it? In Culpeper the longest train in the world blocked the road. We were less than one half mile from the finish and a freight train delayed us. Oh, well. Trains do have their schedules.
At the Bike Stop, Rick, Patrice’s husband greeted her and snapped a photo of us. Patrice thanked me again, for the uumpteenth time for riding with her.
“My pleasure. It was fun and a really good ride. Thank you.”
I checked my Garmin 705:
6,035 calories burned.
4670 feet elevation gain.
17.0 MPH average
Average Hr 123
Max Hr 148.
John Dwight Brown
6 October 2008