So, Monday dawned bright and fair, with temperatures aiming for the 90s. My brother took off early to cycle the whole way--I drove into downtown Greenville and met him and his friends there. Then we set off for Paris Mountain...
Yes, I did.
As climbs go, it's no Alpe d'Huez, but it is 2.7 (4.345 km) miles of uphill slog, with gradients up to 15% in places. There were a couple of stretches--one in the open sun, and the last, hardest kick--where it got pretty rough, but my stomach was full of anger after last year (when I had to walk up most of the way), so I just put my head down and kept turning the pedals. Felt damn good to finish.
Sadly, I didn't see ant1 and his beer, but soon the race sped by. I suck at photographing races--I'm too busy trying to identify riders and figure out what's going on. But I did get this shot:
The group was pretty much together at that point, with some minor splits caused by the climb and a few guys already well off the back. George Hincapie, in the large front group, zoomed by on my side of the road, passing so close I could have reached out and tickled him. Not that I would, of course, but I was able to note his number so that I could keep track of him later.
After all the riders had disappeared down the other side of the mountain, we hopped back on our bikes and headed down, too, to watch the next lap from this corner, which is right on a screaming descent:
There were other people hanging there, both another group of cyclists and some spectators with chairs. Friendly folk--we chatted with them while we waited for the next lap. One thing you should know about my brother: he's a much better cyclist than I am, and clocks something like 5000-6000 miles a year. He also did the Assault on Mount Mitchell a few weeks back, so something like Paris Mt. is candy to him. But in a moment of (his) inattention on one of the little uphills coming down the back side of the mountain, I was able to smoke him and his fancy-schmancy Pinarello. He let me brag about it to the other spectators without even cuffing me upside the head, as he might have back in the '70s if I pulled something like that. Maturity: it does come with age. Okay, for him it does.
Anyway, back to the race. First the cars and motos, then the helicopter, then more cars and motos signaled the arrival of the next lap. This time, there was a break. Four riders rocketed past, and we started counting the gap. Almost 3 minutes at that point.
This, of course, is not the break. I was too busy trying to see who was in it to take a picture. There was a Liquigas kit, so I knew it was either Ted King or Timmy Duggan--some time later, I found out it was Duggan, but the funny part about being live at a race is that if you're not near an info source, you don't have any info. But it sure is fun to watch anyway.
Once the broomwagon passed, we finished the descent--I'm a scaredy-cat descender, and even I went over 36 mph/58 kph--and stopped at a convenience store at the bottom to refuel and fill up our water bottles. Then we biked back to the parking garage, and with the help of a modesty towel, changed into street clothes. For me, that meant swapping my PdC jersey for my PdC t-shirt. Also stashed in my car was a cooler of beer. You can imagine what happened to it.
From there we walked downtown and found a good corner near a Qwikee Mart to watch the rest of the race. The Qwikee Mart guy told us that we were absolutely not to drink the beer we bought there on the street, or even open it. Hey, convenience store manager--your employee did his job admirably, and any failure to take his advice is totally our fault.
I was no better at taking pictures downtown than I was on the mountain, but unless I'm mistaken I did manage a shot of the winning break, consisting of Busche, Van Garderen, Hincapie, and the King of Style himself:
At this point, we did have a source of information: Mr. Majope, who was texting us updates from England, where he was following the race via the crappy and intermittent live feed and on Twitter. Modern technology is a marvel. We were arguing about the Liqui in the break--since by now I had found out that it had been Duggan before, I was convinced it still was, while the tweeters split between King and Duggan. But I did know the BMC guy was George, since I'd seen his number on the mountain.
Shortly after the race passed by on the last lap, Mr. Majope told us that Matt Busche had won in a photo finish over George Hincapie. We were out of beer again, so my brother and his friends headed for a wings place around the corner while I went down the street to watch the podium ceremony. Because how could I not get podium shots for Podium Cafe?
On the way down, two cyclists passed me. I didn't have my camera out when Taylor Phinney went by, or I might have tried for a picture. But I'm glad I didn't get a shot of Tejay Van Garderen. The fourth guy in a four-man break; the only one who didn't get a step on the podium. We aren't talking deliriouslyhappyface here.
I was thrilled to have it confirmed that the 3rd place finisher was indeed Ted King:
Who had some fans in the crowd:
2nd place finisher George Hincapie--homeboy got some big cheers from the crowd:
Matt Busche gets the Stars and Stripes:
and wears it proudly on the podium
The entire podium:
I was standing next to some nice folks in the crowd...who turned out to be the absolutely glowing parents of Matt Busche. They let me take their picture, too.
The ceremony ended, and I wandered back up the street in search of chicken and beer. But there were still a couple of photo ops, like this one of George Hincapie riding up the street:
What do you say to a guy who's just lost the Stars n' Stripes in a photo finish? "Hey, George--great race!" No points for originality, but he was nice enough to nod at me.
Then Ted King also came up the street, and stopped to talk to teammate Tim Duggan:
And then it was time for more beer, and a lot of food.
Last thoughts: why was it possible for me to beat Paris Mountain less than a year after being so foully defeated? Part of the credit might go to losing weight. Part might go to increased leg strength from all the running I did this spring. But between you and me, I am utterly confident that the real reason I got the bike up the hill this year was because I was riding with...
a chamois full of Bliss.