This was my first foray into the hills. As a matter of fact, I climbed more in the first 20 miles than I have this year, and more in the first 50 than my lifetime totals! I had done my training though (big gears against the wind) and it paid off. The ride challenged me, but didn't beat me.
The organization was well done and professional, check in was easy, the rest stops were well stocked and clean, the sag support was visible, the route was well marked and the volunteers were friendly and helpful. The BCP even got me a great rate on a Center City Suite! The pizza at the end was a nice touch.
I spent most of the ride not knowing where I was, but enjoying it like crazy. The wet roads early caused some problems on the downhill portions of the course, I saw a crash at a "switchback" after Manayunk, but seemed to be caused by panic over the sudden change in direction. (perhaps a sign at the top of the hill rather than a flagger at the bottom would have been better) Other than that, the day went smooth and as the nice weather settled in, everyone's spirits rose.
A rider I was chatting with and myself followed a group of what appeared to be Germans between rest stops 1 and 2. Their leader was incredible- he led the pace line the entire leg, did track stands at lights and stop signs, and I noticed at some point he was doing the whole thing with a rubbing brake!
After the second rest stop, people had to make decisions about which route to finish, the weather convinced a lot of people to do the whole century. This was the 'hilly' leg of the ride and being a flatlander, I was on edge most of the time. At the third rest stop, the guy I had paired up with accused me of 'riding like an animal' on that portion. I explained that my inexperience with hills left me with only one way to ride them- gogogo! I dropped my group during the climbs, but was usually caught during the descents- I was a little nervous and had no idea where we were, so groups were good. The third rest stop was at a church that had a carpeted basketball court, you don't see that everyday.
I hooked onto a couple of guys doing my pace during the next leg. One guy led the flats (the wind was starting to blow) and one guy led the climbs. I didn't do much work, but they didn't seem to mind and pulled me through some truly beautiful country. I lost them behind me at a stoplight and had to work alone for a few miles until the crowds started to reform in Valley Forge. I need to go back to that park, what little I saw of it was terrific.
The BCP provided alternate routes to the finish from the VF rest stop. I chose the (longer) road route, cause I came to do 100 miles and that was what was going to happen! Not long after starting the route, I found myself questioning my decision. We went through the VF park past the monument and then into the 'burbs'. This was a very lonely leg! I passed maybe five riders, but that was all the contact I had for twenty miles. I wasn't even sure I was following the route until I got to Conshahocken! riders again started to coalesce from there into Manayunk.(which was like a festival town and packed with cars and pedestrians and outdoor bands...)
From there we crossed the Schuylkill again and eventually got on a road closed to traffic (with a big gate that cause confusion) I asked a rider behind me if I was going the right way, he said "uh huh" and we set off toward the city. I pulled him for a mile or so and he asked if I wanted him to pull me at a stoplight, sure. I eventually took back over as we were getting into the city and I asked him how we were supposed to get to the art museum (ending)- seeing the confusion on his face made me realize he wasn't on the century and he realized he was being pulled by a guy who had just done 100+ miles!
The scene at the finish was relaxed and well stocked with pizza and refreshments.
I just want to thank the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia for just about the best time I've ever had on a bike! I'm never missing this ride again if I can help it!
CLICK HERE for a slide show of cell phone pictures I took during the day. (Apologies to anyone I may have sketched out while taking them)