My friends and I just completed our second Rollfast Gran Fondo Sunday in Carmel, Indiana. Once again, the race organizers put on a well run, well supported event with even more fried chicken this year. A new feature this year was the opportunity to participate in a charity event the night before which featured the event special guest, professional cyclist and TV commentator, Bob Roll. The best part of the whole event, however, for me was the performance. If you would’ve told me a week ago that I would’ve averaged north of 19 mph for a century ride I would’ve asked you what you were smoking. However that’s exactly what happened. But as always, there’s a story behind it.
The event Saturday night was held at a local bike shop called Bike Line which is a very well appointed and well stocked Trek house in the City Center of Carmel, Indiana. A relatively small group of patrons were allowed the chance to enjoy cocktails with Bob Roll. It was a fairly casual and low-key event. The event hosts did a great job of making sure that Bob got face time with each and every attendee.
Steve and Bobke signing autographs
After making his rounds and visiting with individual guests, there was a very entertaining Q and A session. During this time Bob fielded questions from the group ranging from such pressing matters as who does the laundry for the team to doping. This was by far the best part of the evening. Bob is a seriously funny guy and definitely has a gift for gab. He spoke of what a great rapport that he and his co-anchors on NBC have and how much fun it is to work there. However, he’s not above razzing as partners a bit. He does great imitations of Phil Liggett and Jensie. Bob bragged that NBC provides the best coverage of the Tour de France in the entire WORLD. I don’t think this is just the company line, I think he truly believes this. And after his imitation of the German feed of the Tour de France, I hope I never have to watch the tour in Germany ever, ever, ever! At the end of the evening, event owner Matt Tanner presented Bob key with a custom made Silca floor pump. The proceeds from this event are to be donated to a local police charity.
Matt Tanner presents Bobke with a custom Silca floor pump
Race day started with fairly chilly temperatures at the start. I was in three different layers on top which I never really shed throughout the entire ride. Full fingered gloves and a skullcap completed the outfit. Still, I was pretty cold in those first few miles. We met up with some friends from last year. Our friend Brooke, undoubtedly the Queen Bee of the North Indy cycling scene, greeted us with enthusiasm. We also met up with our pal Oscar who rode with us last year. Between us and their collection entourage, we had a good group in the making. Brooke was going in a tandem this year with her boyfriend, Ed. We have never drafted off a tandem before. Cliff warned me this could get ugly. And it did.
In contradistinction to last year, the new venue and mass star went quite a bit more smoothly. The pace getting out of town was steady and the pool time seem to be able to negotiate the roundabouts with more is this year compared to last. We found ourselves in a fairly large group to start. We were towards the back which made for fairly effortless peddling. Just a few miles in we lost Oscar due to a mechanical. That was the only dark cloud of the day. By the time we reached the first rest stop at about mile 25, my average heart rate was barely in the 100s. After the first rest stop the large group began to splinter her a bit, and we found ourselves in a slightly smaller though still brisk group. We continued to average 19 to 20 mph.
At some point between the first and second rest stop, our friend Cliff fell off the back not to be seen again until the finish line. When we pulled in to the second rest stop I was still feeling pretty good but ready for some fried chicken. The event planners did not disappoint. There was more than enough fried chicken to go around and I certainly had my fill. Properly refueled on fried chicken, carrot cake and some fresh fruit we were ready to head out again for the second half.
The pace remain fairly brisk between the second and third rest stop. At one point at about mile 70, we missed a turn in a small town and the group splintered. I found myself having to sprint to catch up to the main group. When I finally caught up to the rear rider he apparently was suffering and before I knew it he dropped back several lengths from the main group. Now I had to play catch up again. This wasn’t going to happen. My friend Steve and I rode by ourselves for the next few miles until the 77 mile rest stop.
Heading out from the third and final rest stop, we vowed to keep the group together. Though with good intentions this wasn’t to be. I had spent a fair amount of time upfront pulling and my legs were starting to get tired. Some stronger roadies and triathletes in the group started pushing the pace to the 22–23 mile an hour range and I just didn’t have it in me. A small group of faster riders including our friend Brooke and her boyfriend on a TANDEM and my friend Steve pulled out in front not to be seen again until the finish line. There was a slower group behind me and I found myself more or less alone until a triathlete named Kathy appeared on my rear wheel.
As it turns out, Kathy was training for Ironman Louisville- a kindred spirit. We spent the last several miles riding together and talking about the race. This is to be her first Ironman so I was able to give her some of my perspective on the course in the race in general. She was telling me that in addition to adding another 10 miles to her ride upon completion of this century she was planning to do a brick run. I mediately had flashbacks to my Ironman training days and I began to feel nauseated. I wished her luck as we crossed the finish line together and she went on her way and I turned back to City Center.
Back at City Center, I rested my legs, ate some pizza, drank some great beer from Sun King Brewery and listened to live music. I was fortunate enough to win one of the great door prizes offered by the race. Steve and I hung out and waited for Cliff to cross the finish line.
All in all it was a great day. The weather, though a bit brisk at first, was really quite nice by mid morning. I was very pleased with my performance…other than getting dropped by a couple on a tandem. But I digress. We will be back next year. This is a great event and I would encourage all cyclists within a few hours drive of Indy to give this a try next year. I hear the special guest might be someone equally as special as Bobke!
From Left to Right: Cliff, Me and Steve