This is a wonderfully supported ride! I did it for the first time last year and loved it! In 2012 I had a great group of friends with me and we had fun watching over a guy named Mike who was doing 100 miles for the first time. This year we had two guys with us who were both exceeding their self imposed limits, Alex Fuentes and Randy Hemphill.
Now to be fair I don't think Randy had too much of a problem because the weekend before this he won the first triathlon he's ever entered. He smiled and seemed happy the whole morning. I've raced with Randy and I've seen what he's capable of so I wasn't worried about him. Alex on the other hand just started cycling this year on a hand me down Litespeed from his father in law. A very nice bike for a starter. Beats my first bike a Cannondale R400 aluminum frame of pain.
Registration was a breeze and I was back at the car getting ready when Stephen Sisk rode up grinning. It struck me then how asleep I still was and how infectious a smile can be. When I smiled back there was instant excitement in the air. I jumped out of the morning funk and into the day I'd been trying all week to make it in to. The brevet! But it's really not a brevet?! It's a century ride, people! Marketing genius though! And I was about to have another great story to tell about something other than pain and suffering! So who cares... it's a Jackson County Brevet!
The list of shiny happy people at the start with me are as follows: Stephen Sisk, Mike Withrow, David Latty, David Shabat, Kim Turpin, Alex Fuentes, Brad Donaldson, Tim Evans, Gene Whitmire, and Randy Hemphill.
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle hung out and acted like he was with us. But he wasn't. He rode with the dignitary's in the lead out group for approximately 2 miles and then bid us farewell. I'm sure he had more important things to do that day but it was 65 degrees and the promise of partly cloudy?! If your cycling heart doesn't ache to be with us on a day like that then I say you're not really a cyclist. You may just play one on TV. But I know Casey, he's a friend, and if he could have joined us he would have.
|The dignitaries prepare to lead us out.|
They start the riders in sections. If your average ride is 20+ mph you go in the first group. 2nd group is 16-19 mph average. 3rd group is below 16. They gap you by about a minute or two. We had police at every major intersection for the first 30 miles and some volunteer motorcycle gangs were babysitting us the entire ride.
The ride out of Braselton felt more like a parade as we slowly made our way into the country. Once on the open road Stephen and I hammered out a pretty fast pace to get us off the front and to set a good tempo. It worked! But soon I started looking for some relief. When we looked ready to take a break there was David Latty and Mike Withrow to take our place and push the pace. We worked like that all morning with David Shabat and Randy taking monster pulls as well.
I constantly checked on Alex who was in full survival mode from the start. He did the few things I had been telling him were imperative at your first century; EAT, DRINK, and STAY IN THE DRAFT. He found himself on the front a few times and kept the pace nice and high. He only spoke when spoken to. He was very focused.
My second favorite SAG stop was the Wizard of OZ one. They played music from the movie and were all dressed up like Lions and Tigers and Bears... Go ahead... you can say it.
I enjoyed the mini Cliff Bars the most. The cookies went down so fast I didn't taste them. The red Poweraid was the best drink. And yes I was kidding about the doobies. I only mention it because I just recently found out why they call themselves the Doobie Brothers.
I fail miserably at trivial persuit.
So we hammered away with fresh food and a smile. Well some of us were smiling. The miles were flying by but I knew the dreaded 80 mile bonk point was looming.
I'd told Alex about it. I told him the best defense is a caffeine gel. I carry two caffeine gels for the last 20 miles of any century I do. No caffeine until then. When I dropped back to check on Alex he had actually listened to me! He really took my advice! A novel concept in today's society. I firmly believe that he made it to the finish, without a single push, because he focused and took advice. And he trained hard. Which helps tremendously.
Our high pace finally broke Kim and others who decided to ease on back. But we were averaging over 19 mph and that simply must be maintained. Unless one of our newbies cried uncle. Which never happened. Alex hung on and finished with us without so much as a whimper.
And then out of nowhere we rode up on Craig Tinsley and Taylor Graham. They had started with the 20+ group and for over 50 miles pushed a ridiculous 23 mph pace. It didn't take long for them to realize... that's no fun! Believe me, I've done it and I choose to enjoy the "ride" and save my suffering for a "race". When we caught up to them they looked beat and awfully glad to see us. At first I couldn't understand how we could have caught them since we took time with Kim's flat. But then Craig told me that they had taken a wrong turn and went off course. Yikes!
With less than 20 miles to go we all shut up and just pedaled. I'm telling you the last 20 miles are the hardest no matter what pace you kept. You just want to be done. You just want to be sitting at the table with some spaghetti and a coke. You just want off that saddle!
The post ride meal was great! You could go with some pizza or spaghetti or both. There were rolls and salad and drinks. We sat and listened to Robert make announcements and give away stuff. It's all kind of foggy but I think both David and Randy got a door prize. Stephen has done every JCB since it started and deserved a door prize. I am writing this blog so I deserved a second helping of spaghetti.
It was another great ride with friends! And we even broke a lot of guys own records by finishing the 100 miles in 5 hours 12 minutes and averaging 19.8 mph. I'm very proud of Alex Fuentes who proved to be up for the challenge and probably hasn't yet fully understood what he did. Nor has his taint.
The Tuesday before the Jackson Brevet I participated in a Memorial Ride for Mike Walker a fellow cyclist who passed away peacefully the Friday before. I didn't know Mike very well. I only had a few casual conversations with him over the years. I only knew him as the older guy who leaves early from the Tuesday Night Throwdown. We catch him somewhere during the ride and as the group passes you can hear each rider saying "Hey Mike! - Hey Mike! - Hey Mike!"
He was a veteran. I didn't know that. He was 66 years old. Didn't know that either. But what took my breath away and what says the most about people of Mike's generation... he was the recipient of 2 Purple Hearts. Let that sink in for a minute and you'll understand why sometimes I could smack myself in the head for not taking more time to get to know people. He was a cool guy and I missed out.
Here are some quotes about Mike from some people who didn't miss out:
As cyclists we're an interesting bunch. We whine about getting dropped, brag sometimes about dropping others and complain about not having people to ride with. I'm humbled by Mike Walker. He showed up every Tuesday and left early because he knew he wasn't fast enough to hang. He NEVER once complained about this. I would often come up on him out on rides because he rode a lot. I'd always make it a point to slow down and chat with him because he was just a cool guy to talk to. He always was in a good mood and just loved being on his bike. I think we should all strive to be like Mike. Tuesday a few of us are planning on riding the upper short loop at a no drop regardless of who's there pace in honor of Mike. See you there!
- Dustin Mealor
Mikey didn't have children, but he had us -- nieces, nephews, family, lots of friends and a wife who was his partner in life, business, and without a doubt his best friend. No one will miss him more than her.
1947 - 2013
- Kris (Mike's Niece)
Thanks for reading! Stay safe!