As we rolled out of town, the roads were flat to minor rolling with little traffic, a perfect place to perfect our pacelining. After a few days of practice, we rode in such a tight and rolling echelon, that visions of guest riding in the Tour de France danced in our heads. Does a French vineyard sponsor a team? Rolling by many barnyard animals, we warmed up, picked up our pace and readied for the first climb.
The first climb was a bit painful since our legs were a little sleepy…The data: 25% max gradient and one mile long. While the hill is steep in parts, it has places for recovery. Sonja and Dana battled for first up the mountain followed closely by Jess, who showed her sprinter’s strength up the short pitches on the hill.
After some time for recovery and more rolling hills, we hit the second climb…along a busy road that gave views of the Huntsville skyline below. A nice open shoulder and southern hospitality from passing cars made for another great hill experience.
One more hill remained. On the way to that hill, we had fun attacking and chasing on the flats (well, some of us did….) After a brief water stop and group foto op at a convenience store, where the clerk who took our photo seemed surprised that we were headed up Keal Mountain on our bikes, we turned onto a quiet residential street.
There are many risks in cycling, such as flats while descending, cars failing to yield, and dogs. While there is no good place on the road to meet a loose dog with big teeth and an attitude, at the beginning of a climb is definitely not at the top of the list. As we approached the turn onto the last hill, Sonja warned us of a pitbull (think he will know that one of our sponsors rescues pitbulls?) that had amazing plyometric ability and a good sprint. As we headed down the road, BamaFido warmed up, running along side us contained in his fence. With the ease and grace of a stocky ballet dancer, he leaped over the fence and headed to the road, teeth ready for biting. As he contemplated which of us he should bite, Dana shouted “No” and, for once in her life, a male listened to her and we were free from harm.
When we were finally at the top, Sonja presented two options for the final part of the journey home….the words, “sketchy descent” coming from someone with her downhill skills made us opt for the road more traveled. Since refueling is an important part of cycling, Sonja decided to try a food experiment….what happens when one eats canned herring in olive oil after a tough climb? Before a long descent? With one more short climb to go? Research paper coming soon….
Our path along the ridge line showed us an interesting part of Alabama….before turning right and down we went. The way down was far steeper than the climb up, with switchbacks that are Alp-esque.
Ten more miles of pacelining and a final sprint, consisting of an amazing lead-out by Goat and won by Jess, we headed for a cool-down under 25W loop around the lake on the sidewalk….then home to our Team Sticky Paws representative, Driver.