03 June 2009

Disproving Survival of the Fittest: Field Testing the Validity of Social and Evolutionary Darwinism (or Cole and Justin's Rapha Ride) PARTE UNA

Despite its routine beginning, the fourth Friday of May quickly earned a place in the annals of blogging history. Some of you may be wondering, "Wow, the title for this entry is so perplexing and the first sentence so captivating; I can't wait to read about this epic day! Hold on a minute though, the fourth Friday of May was nearly three ago! If this day truly was so memorable, why the delay?" Well, in response to these very insightful points I would likely begin by drawing attention to the hypothetical overuse of exclamation marks. Quickly thereafter, I would be sure to segue into a long winded apology for my poor blogging etiquette (being sure to mention my week long marathon of a move as well as my dedication to successful and timely completion of work projects; all the while reiterating my heartfelt appreciation for the all my readers) and then be sure to offer some sort of witticism about the claw-like shape of my hand due to the intensity of the Rapha Ride and subsequent inability to use a keyboard with any proficiency. Diverging readerly attention almost entirely from these initial feelings of disappointment and defusing a potentially volatile social encounter, please allow us to begin, in earnest, the retelling of this epic tale.
Riding through Appalachia on a bicycle is without exception a fascinating experience. If for some reason the beautiful mountain scenery fails to captivate a rider, recurring encounters with various locals (particularly those who zoom past in their pickup truck, spewing tobacco-scented obscenities, brushing our shoulders with their extended sideview mirrors, and, of course, being sure to veil their license plate numbers and cab-mounted gun racks in a thick gray-brown cloud of exhaust) of are sure to provide numerous post-ride anecdotes. So, it is from the safety of my favorite coffee establishment that I retell the harrowing adventures of two extremely lanky men clad in spandex.In the spirit of true gentlemen cyclists from bygone eras (Anquetil, Coppi, Merckx, and of course Champion), Cole and I planned, scouted, and subsequently revised our 100 mile ambitions. Hoping to simultaneous showcase our cycling grit and refined European sense of style (both of which are subject to questioning), we outlined a route full of rainwashed gravel, daunting mountain climbs, ravenous farm dogs, and caffeinating rural cafés. Initially spurred on by the two-wheel adventures of the Rapha Continental team and an invitation to join these pedaling minstrels for a day of coffee, pastries, cycling, pizza, and libations in NOVA, Cole and I decided to inaugurate a series of montly century rides worthy of our own road journal. After months of topographic [map] reconnaissance, the day began with una taza de café fuerte, irish oats with fresh mango and honey from Southern Slopes Apiary (thank you Ryan and Chelsey), half of a whole wheat bagel, and dog desperate for outdoor adventure (i.e. distance running with frequent high tempo intervals of squirrel chasing).Properly fueled, the time had finally arrived to test our mettle (as well as our carbon) on the rough, meandering, and undulating roads of Southwestern Virginia and Southeastern West Virginia.Complete with some very Rapha-esque cue sheets, we swiftly rolled out of Hethwood and onto the mid-morning buzz of Prices Fork Road (for a complete review of the route, be sure to check out the interactive map [and the impressive elevation profile] at the end of this posting courtesy of MapMyRide.com). Allowing our legs to warm up alongside coffee-sipping, mobile phone-chatting, make-up applying, vehicle-"driving" commuters required some defense maneuvering, but we would not encounter any obscenity-spewing drivers until about the 50 kilometer mark. Keeping in line with the Rapha-esque impetus and Euro-ness of the ride, we of course recalibrated our cycling computers to display the oh-so-sophisticated kilometers. Which ultimately led to some much needed false confidence throughout the ride. No matter the level of lactic burn one feels at kilometer 89 or the lung-busting intensity of steep mountain climb (complete with two old men reliving their glory days in a convertible Volvo and desperate [so desperate in fact that they waited for us (in the sun and without any offer of water or a food-loaded musette) at the summit of a grueling climb] for a little chat about the upcoming Mountains of Misery, the apparent ease of "climbing" the area peaks from the comfort of their leather seats, and the beauty of their "ZR" and "Titanium" bi-cycles), if one sees an average speed of 24.6 when taking a delerious glance at a sweat smeared computer, the boost in confidence is practically beyond measure.cycling saga to be continued...