Sunday afternoon before watching Paris-Roubaix Eric organized a gathering of cyclists to ride out on our road bikes and onto several sections of dirt roads in honor of this great 1 day classic.
This ride was going to be a no drop, regroup ride open to all riders. So, we got a group of mainly experienced riders with a few people that were uneasy riding a road bike in the gravel, and someone that had never done 70 miles before…. heck of a way to get in your 2 firsts – 1st 70 mile ride and 1st time riding a road bike over gravel. But because the group knew it was going to be low key, regrouping it turned out superb! Heck, we even had a follow car that re-fueled us with water when we came to any stops!!
On the sections of gravel, with out a word being said, several riders alternated making sure everyone was ok, flat tires got fixed, and kept moving forward. Because of the experienced riders up front on the road sections, the group mainly road 2 abreast (unless there was any traffic). The riders upfront were able to maintain a steady tempo that was suitable for everyone, and allowed us to tick off the road mileage.
Some of the most fun was going down the gravel sections and causing shenanigans amongst each other. At 1 point, just before a gravel climb, I was slapping Tim’s rear wheel – he immediately said ‘Uh Oh, I think I got a flat’ – it happened so fast I thought he knew someone was messing with him – he slowed and kept looking down at the rear wheel as we passed, now standing to get up this climb…. laughing. He finally got to the top where we were soft pedaling still checking out the tire when we told what had happened.
After about 6 sections of gravel road and 2 store stops the day was getting long, and the peeps were anxious to head back in time to watch the true Paris-Roubaix. The Captain started to lay down the power, and the group split as they headed back home. Now the fella’s that still had energy were torquing the cranks & sucking into the draft of those at the front – race pace. We hammered it all the way back to the cars & the waiting drafts of Ale.
What a fabulous ride in so many ways – new riders got much improved handling skills, gained instruction on technique, got over their fears of riding over gravel. Introductions were made over friendly conversations as people meet other people they didn’t know. Riders were able to push the pace over the gravel when they wanted, yet everyone made sure we stayed together at the end of each section. Once we made it to the Pub, more laughter and tales of the days miles were talked about as we watched in awe of the cyclist that race Paris-Roubaix.