Saturday, May 6, I rode the metric option of the Litespeed Bicycles 3 State 3 Mountains Challenge in and around Chattanooga, Tenn. This ride was worth the drive and expense. Everything about the ride was welcoming and professional. I met some really nice people on the ride and before. A group of Christian Cyclists from Indiana chatted with me at breakfast and then I tagged along with their group to the start. The start/finish at Finley Stadium meant no lines for facilities and lots of room to park and roll around on bikes before the start. On the road, there were police at critical intersections and during the roll out of town on high-traffic streets. The inconvenienced motorists were courteous whenever I saw them. The course itself was beautiful — scenery, pavement, marking, it all worked. The rest stops were nicely spaced and well-stocked with both volunteers and refreshments. I rode near the back of the group the whole time, where socializing is more important than speed.
After a ten-mile roll out, I started up Suck Creek Mountain, which had become Everest in my fears and lack of training. I surprised myself with how easily I got to the top. Not fast, not stylish, but not struggling, either. Given my lack of training this spring, I was happy. I rode for quite a while with James Sumner (I hope I have the last name right) and his friend Ray. James is a huge fan of track bikes, and had started racing in 1963. Coming back from a bad bicycle crash, this was his first big ride in a couple of years. His conversation and cheerful attitude helped me over the mountain and subsequent hills.
A lot of the other riders treated this as a social event, too, despite the timing chips and the Litespeed bike frames as prized for the fastest climbers.
I finished at the other end of the spectrum, last or nearly so. That was OK. My custom Litespeed bike felt great, and I was really good about riding within myself and not blowing up anywhere along the route. In the past, I have worked to ride with somebody a little fitter than me, only to end up exhausted a few miles short of the finish. I was glad I did not let this happen this time.