By Roy Burnham
Little did Flèche Side Story East and West realize that the thunderstorm at the beginning of Flesh' 06 was, in fact, a warning of things to come. Things settled down nice enough by the time we left Dublin, both teams riding the first few miles together out of town. Soon, night came and us East Siders starting seeing the fireworks to the west and south of us. With some heavy rain starting to hit us, Steve went to the bathroom and we looked at Donna's handy phone with radar. The radar images proved to be less upbeat than we had hoped so we did what any self respecting randonneur would do, pressed on.
By 9 p.m., we were battling gusts of wind, intense lighting and stinging sarcasm. At one point, we had stopped right outside someone's home in Chillicothe to water their lawn (so to speak) in the pouring rain when a local pulled up and asked if we needed a ride. That's when we heard about that tornado thing. Steve went to the bathroom again and we did what any self respecting randonneur would do, pressed on.
Little improved over the next few hours as most of us layered up in an attempt to stay dry and warm. Our friends at the Speedway in Chillicothe took pity on us and gave us free coffee and hot chocolate. Most of us dined el fresco on a fine selection of week-old, shrink-wrapped sandwiches, and a beautiful 2006 vintage Gatorade (a good year for that particular sports drink). The rain, falling faster, continued with little sign of stopping. We all went to the bathroom and did what any self respecting randonneur would do, pressed on.
Most of us knew the upcoming sections of the route from years of TOSRV rides. The complete lack of visibility was only an issue to the cars that were not expecting to see five cyclists enjoying a 1 a.m. ride in a county with a tornado warning. At one point lighting struck about 100 yards from the road and made us wonder how much safer the bike trail the western folks had was……not! Later we came to realize the West Siders had an unfortunate accident with a tree that did not look both ways before crossing the bike path. Thankfully, Frank's resultant affliction of Rapid Deceleration Syndrome did not keep him from the rest of the ride. We all collected out thoughts in Waverly, Steve went to the bathroom and did what any self respecting randonneur would do, pressed on.
The skies seemed to dry up as we approached Portsmouth. It was around 4:30 a.m. as we started out of Chez Super Quik in route to Maysville, Kentucky. As we crossed the Ohio River, the faint outline of Portsmouth could be made out in the early twilight. The beauty of Kentucky became apparent as dark gave way to light, riding down the Ohio Valley. We decided to mix things up a bit and have a few flat tires. Steve went to the bathroom and we made it to Maysville. Being absolutely wonderful out, we did what any self respecting randonneur would do, pressed on.
Now is the time in the ride when we wondered openly about David Buzzee's 23 miles of unrelenting hills. The ride had been fairly flat to this point with a mere 4000 feet of climbing. Survivors of Bob Waddell's Winter Century series mocked this total wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. When the shoe did drop, it wasn't a Michael Jordon size 15 but more a whole Payless Shoestore full of toddler and young adult shoes dropped one after another. Best as I could tell, Kentucky was actually a lot longer many years ago but age has taken its toll. Over 40 miles of rollers left us wondering if the Millersburg control would be located on some yet to be discovered flat portion of Kentucky. While we pondered this thought, Steve went to the bathroom and we did what any self respecting randonneur would do, pressed on.
Millersburg came with the last part of Flèche Side Story - East straggling in just under the 4 p.m. wire. Many of us had concocted elaborate plans on Buzzee's life but later came to the realization that it was a) illegal and b) we need his draft in future brevets. We left as a tired, surly group, hoping the cue sheet overstated the mileage BUT did what any self respecting randonneur would do, pressed on.
The last section proved not to be the undiscovered high prairie of Kentucky but more of the same hill and dale. We broke apart as a group mainly based on strength, bladder capacity and sheer exhaustion. Donna had one hell of a day in the saddle and made it to mile 241 before her body could take no more. Her courage and camaraderie throughout the ride is every much a part to the team's success as the remaining four riders' finishes. Thankfully the ride counted for ALL since our distance completed in Millersburg qualified us as a success. Despite a cue sheet, map and GPS, I managed to miss Johnny's house twice and finished with 247.
Many thanks to the cast and crew of Flèche 2006. Special thanks to Dave Miller and Dave Roderick for driving car-loads of cranky sleep- deprived cyclists throughout Ohio and Kentucky. Thanks to David Buzzee for his organization of routes and teams. Most of all, thanks to all my teammates, both East and West. This was my first 24-hour event and it would not have been a success without you all.