Halfway up Oklahoma Road in Alleghany County, I was grateful I'd signed up for the 300K, not one of the two longer events, the 400K or the 600K, offered by Tony G on July 2. It was still dark when I began the five-mile climb, so I couldn't really see how steep this section of Oklahoma Road was. What I knew for certain was that some cyclists had selected walking -- what Spencer calls the 24 inch (2 feet) gear -- as the better choice for reaching the top.
That short painful stretch up Oklahoma Road would be the steepest pitch we'd see, but it was one of many hills to confront us and wear us down on the 190-mile course. What were the guys on the longer rides seeing?
Like many of the U.S. riders heading to PBP, I've opted for the nighttime or evening start, so Tony G's weekend of rides, with a full range of distances, was a good dress rehearsal. We struck out from Salisbury at midnight after a short speech by Tony about a few of the bigger climbs and descents we'd see. I chose the 300K distance as the long training ride I needed for PBP. If all went well, I'd still make it home for dinner on Saturday evening.
The usual suspects came out for the fun and games, including: Chris and Annette and Jimmy, who signed up for the 200K; Branson, Lynn, Joel, Jerry, Steve, John O and  John P on the 300; Geof, Tim and Bryan on the 400K; and Vance, Woody G and Phil C on the 600K. I also spent a good deal of the night riding with Taylor from Ohio.
At the top of Oklahoma we joined Highway 21 for 12 mile run to a control on the far side of Sparta. The control had a cafe and we refueled with coffee and eggs and bacon. The sun was up now, and so were our spirits. We knew we'd have some rollers before dropping out of the steep stuff and into the more forgiving foothills.
I rode much of the ride with Steve and Joel and finished with Lynn and the amazing Branson on fixed gear. Our crew separated through the hilly sections but regrouped in Jonesville at the Southern Belle's Restaurant for a delicious lunch. Joel may have been slightly delirious at this point for he insisted I take a picture of the men's room for the blog. Joel, this one's for you.
We finished in mid afternoon and showered off using a garden house at the Windsong Bike Shop.
After a day of rest on Sunday, Lynn and I tackled Black Creek on July 4, giving me a 500K weekend. My PBP training over the few remaining weekends will likely include back-to-back 200Ks.
On the bike front, lots of new equipment has been installed, and all is good except for the rear wheel I built, which is a little creaky under load in the lowest gears. I'm going to stress the spokes a bit on the drive side and grease them a bit to see if that cures it.
Another great day, or 2, on the bikes.
A few more pix below...