2013 BBC Century ride

I got my first chance to complete a road century this past weekend with the roughly 100-mile course that was part of this year’s BBC (Birmingham Bicycle Club) Century.  Before I get into the report, I need to say that the BBC folks did a great job of marking the course, which isn’t exactly easy considering the vast distance covered on a bunch of back roads.  They also had some darn good food on hand for us riders to enjoy.

As part of my riding crew, I hooked up with Alan Dobbins, Brad Gowing, Chad Etheridge, Josh Reidinger, Johnny Garlington, and Jonathan LeDuc.  All but Jonathan rode with me on a training ride a few weeks prior.  Once again we had a great time, even with hot (upper 80’s and low 90’s) weather with little cloud cover.  The ride started at 8am on Saturday at the Ashville High School.  There appeared to be perhaps 200 to 250 people riding this day, though many opted for the shorter 27-mile and 62-mile routes.  As a good side note, Josh had a total brain fart and put his foot down while still clipped in upon rolling up to the start….made for a comical fall for the rest of us, but actually a fairly painful knee gash/rash for Josh.

Upon leaving the school, which is on Alabama Hwy 25, we took a quick left on county Hwy 26, and then another left onto Hwy 33.  By the time we hit 33, the herd had been split enough to allow our group to form a casual paceline.  I took to the front for the first few miles, followed by Jonathan, who pulled us for a ridiculous 5 or 6 miles.  Turns out that Jonathan would spend quite a lot of time in the front of our paceline this day, which seemed to be completely fine with the rest of us.  Before we knew it, we were at the turn-off for the first aid station, which we decided to bypass considering we still had plenty of water in our bottles.  It was around this time though that a few of us noticed that the paceline we had been pulling for 12 miles had probably another 8 to 10 moochers sitting in our draft not wanting to do any work.

Pretty soon we found ourselves riding along the Coosa River (where it becomes the Neely Henry Lake) near some boathouses and boat slips.  It was actually quite a nice little view in some places and a pleasant reprieve from the endless pavement scenery.  After a short distance we hit the first real climb of the day, the Lister Ferry climb.  It really was not bad at all compared to the Cat 3 and Cat 4 climbs I am used to riding near my house at Mt Laurel.  But it nonetheless required some effort to grind it out, and it reminded me that I was on a CX bike and not a road bike and hence was paying a weight penalty of several pounds.  Pavement quality up to this point had been great, but quickly deteriorated once we turned onto Township Road halfway down the backside descent of Lister Ferry Road….I started to wish I would have kept my knobby tires on rather than the road slicks I installed.  Luckily the poor pavement would once again revert to the good stuff after a few miles.

Before we could hardly blink we arrived at Steele United Methodist Church, which was the next rest stop.  We took a break to refill our bottles and down some PB&J sandwiches.  I could smell some bacon cooking in the kitchen, which was making me way too hungry.  But, we still had 67 more miles to ride so we had to get going.

The next part of the ride had some great scenery, but this 27-mile stretch definitely seemed to take much longer than the previous 32 miles.  We got to ride near such great destinations as Sumatanga Lake and Horse Pens 40, which provided a wonderful backdrop.  It’s easy to forget how pretty so many parts of our state can be when you take the time to actually look around and enjoy it.  It was also on this stretch that we got to climb Chandler Mountain, which would take us to the highest point of the day (near Horse Pens 40).  The climb turned out to be more long than steep and really wasn’t a problem for anybody.  However, Chad and Josh ended up getting split from the group at the bottom of the descent and decided to be good samaritans and help out an older guy who was cramping really badly with no water left.  They stayed with him for a good while before meeting the rest of us back at Steele UMC for the next scheduled rest stop.  Johnny and I also got split off together on the twisty hills of Rocky Hollow Road and would end up riding back to the church with a very well-built lady that must have been a triathlete based on her physique.  I don’t recall Johnny complaining any about riding with her.

Back at the church, the volunteers had some BLTs flowing.  My stomach was feeling a little upset so I reluctantly passed on a BLT.  That might be my biggest regret for all of 2013.  Man, they smelled so good and looked so good.  Once we started riding again my stomach was fine, so I was mentally kicking my own butt for not partaking in the goodness that is fresh cooked bacon.  Alan, meanwhile, was looking like he was about to explode from gut rot so I think he probably made a wise choice to not enjoy a BLT of his own.

The next +/- 23 miles was relatively flat and posed no worries as we made our way to the final rest stop at St. Clair Baptist Church.  The only thing we had going against us at this point was that we were all running low on drinks and the sun had begun to pound away at us.  As with the previous rest stop, I drank an entire bottle of Gatorade while at the stop, in addition to making sure my bottles were filled up prior to hitting the road again.  I was also making sure to take at least one Succeed S-cap with every bottle that I drank in order to ward off my usual signature cramps.  They worked like a charm, as I never once felt crampy.  This is a big deal for me considering how many long races I’ve had ruined by severe cramping.

We were warned by another rider that the last 17 or so miles would suck and would feature a couple of killer climbs…one long sustained climb and one shorter but steep climb.  I can’t say that there was much to complain about though.  We had what I would almost call a long false flat that I supposed qualified as the long sustained climb.  Then we had two descent climbs.  The first was up St. Clair County Hwy 22, beginning at Pop’s convenience store.  As we ascended into the tree-covered roadway, the air got suddenly cooler…as in probably 10 degrees cooler.  It was a little odd, but felt great.  As we crested the hill, Josh started cramping up.  Johnny, Brad, and Jonathan didn’t realize that Josh was cramping and kept forging ahead.  Meanwhile, me, Alan, and Chad hung back to make sure the cramps would subside before riding again in earnest.  At one point Josh told me that his back was cramping…WTH, I didn’t know backs could cramp.  But it was, and then his calf started locking up.  I pulled out my trusty S-caps and gave 3 or 4 to Josh and within no time he was back to riding strong.  Our next hill would be our last, which came at around mile 95.  Like the other climbs, it came and went pretty quickly and we were left with a good downhill and then a smooth flat ride back to the school.

Overall it was a great ride, and certainly a good route to use for someone’s first century.  I only wish there was a little more climbing involved, considering Strava only has me down for around 3200 feet of climbing on the day.  I think in actuality it was closer to what the BBC reported as a little more than 4000 feet, but compared to some of my favorite mountain bike races like Big Frog 65 (more than 7500′) or Skyway Epic (6000′ feet) it didn’t feel like we climbed that much.  But the route itself was great, as were the volunteers.  There are three more century rides this year as part of the Alabama Backroads Century Series and I would love to be able to find some time to do one more this year.

foggy morning driving in.

foggy morning driving in.

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johnny and brad

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johnny, brad, alan, josh

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chad and jonathan

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chandler mountain in the distance

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johnny hamming it up

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