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Bizarre Back Roads Century

Posted By Dwight Dougherty, Monday, September 22, 2014

First of all, I want to say that all of the dedication and support that the volunteers, ride organizers, and sponsors put into this year's Back Roads Century is very much appreciated.  The food, music, and cold water were great!  The folks at each rest stop were very friendly and cheerful.  It all shows how much work has gone into this effort – it’s truly become an exceptional event.  My only suggestions would have been more port-o-lets at the fairgrounds (a little line is fine but those were a bit much), and I really missed the shower at the end this year.

But I've come to the realization that the hosting community does not want this event, and I certainly don't want to ride where I'm not welcome.  It's not just the ticket that I got near the end of the day.  On this ride, I saw few smiles from residents, and even fewer return waves.  I will say that most drivers were considerate, with only one car passing me dangerously close and fast at the top of a hill (not bad for a typical ride).

I've been riding in traffic for over 40 years now.  I'm cautious but confident in the city and on open roads.  I try my best to obey road rules and to be respectful of car drivers.  It bugs the heck out of me when I see a cyclist run a red light, arrogantly hog the road, or do something stupid that reflects badly on the rest of us.  I was a volunteer fireman and first responder for ten years and know what it's like to deal with the public from that side of the line, when it's your responsibility to protect or save people - often without happy endings.  So I read the Clarke County zero-tolerance email thinking it's understandable that the police and sheriffs’ departments need to enforce road rules for everyone.

However, what I saw and experienced on this ride was bizarre.  It appeared to be a concerted effort to write as many citations for bicyclists as possible.  Looking back over my Gramin data, it's clear that I did roll through the stop sign - at 5.14 mph.  The officer said he cut cyclists slack if they put their foot down at the stop sign.  I don't know about anyone else, but I don't unclip at every stop (especially at the end of a long ride).

We stood out in the hot sun watching as cars rolled through the stop sign, while the officer wrote tickets in his air-conditioned car.  Come to think about it, for all of the cyclists I saw ticketed along the ride, I never saw a car driver pulled over.  It appeared that they were only interested in ticketing bicyclists.  I'd be curious to know how many tickets (and for what offenses) were issued to riders on Sunday, and if any were issued to car drivers.

When the officer came back with the tickets, I asked him if there had been any reports of shooting at cyclists this year.  The officer said that he never heard about any incidents with gunshots and riders, and that they do not tolerate that kind of criminal behavior.

My partner then surprised me by saying she had been waiting alongside the road for me to catch up, and a bit nervous about all of the gunshots, when something ricocheted off the fence next to her.  She got on her bike and left quickly.  I remember hearing a lot of gunshots along Red Gate Road but figured someone was just target shooting.

I then told the officer that I was part of a small group near the end of the Back Roads Century ride four years ago, when someone fired a shotgun blast over us from the side of the road.  Everyone was pretty freaked out with the shredded leaves falling all around us, but the shooter never showed his face and we didn't stick around to investigate.  We reported it to SAG, and they called it in.  But at that point, I just wanted to finish the last five miles of the ride and I had no interest in waiting to fill out a police report.

The officer reiterated that they do not tolerate that kind of criminal behavior, and said that we should have called 911 in both cases.  My partner said she just wanted to get out of there and didn't even think about calling 911.  I pointed out that the incident four years ago was reported.

But it got me thinking.  I figured that the shooter in my case was just trying to scare us (I don't know what happened in my partner's situation this Sunday).  Getting hit with buckshot would certainly hurt and would probably leave a mark.  However, getting run off the road or hit by a car is far more dangerous, and something every rider has to worry about.

I lived and rode in the rural Deep South for most of my life.  And I've lived in DC for over 10 years now, riding in traffic and back roads throughout MD and VA.  I've certainly had my share of intimidating and aggressive actions by car and truck drivers, but somehow I never considered calling 911 on an idiot driver.  I doubt that police would be able to respond if riders called in about every such incident.  And can you imagine the call center operator on the other end?  “You’re calling to tell me someone cut you off on the road???!!!”  Yeah, right.

After the ride, we were talking with someone else who was pulled over.  The officer told him that the ride organizers were not paying the Sherrff’s office to be out there supporting the riders, and they had to get their revenue somehow.

So regretfully, I get it.  Residents in the area do not want this event.  Berryville Police and Clark County Sheriffs departments see this as an unwelcome burden.  The message has been received loud and clear, and I certainly won’t be going back.

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CC 100 mile group

Posted By Jim HOUGHTON, Monday, September 22, 2014

I joined the CC 100 mile group led by Reggie Beard, Ed Hazlewood, and Lisa Oken. The leaders announced before we left that the amount of time spent at rest stops would be limited to 10 minutes. I was one of the last members of the group to reach the first rest stop, although my pace was easily in the 12-14 mph range, probably closer to 14 than 12. I had been there about 2 minutes and had just located the refreshment table when I heard Reggie say "CC group 3 minute warning", or words to that effect. After I had filled my bottle with Gatorade and grabbed a bagel I looked around and the group had gone.

After eating my snack and resuming the ride I encountered another cyclist on the road named Susan, who commented also on the leaders' behavior in driving the group along without regard to whether everyone was ready to go, or even trying to ascertain by counting heads whether everyone was still in the group. She also expressed displeasure that one of the leaders did not have a cue sheet, which caused a few members of the group to travel the wrong way for a short distance until some riders passing in the opposite direction mentioned that the turn had been missed. The fact was that there weren't enough cue sheets, as I had asked for one at the outset and been told there were none left. "Just follow your leader" I was told.

When I got back to the fairgrounds I saw Reggie, who had been detached from the group because of a bad wheel that required replacement by the S.A.G. team. While trying to help him attach a new wheel, I recounted the above experience, adding that I didn't think this was appropriate behavior by the leaders. His only comment was "but I announced we would be leaving in 3 minutes."

Proceeding to the park where refreshments were being served I encountered my friend Doug Lesar, who told me that the group had already left. He said he had been trying to keep up with them, but had given up. Apparently the 10 minute rule applied as well to the lunch break. Doug & I rode the remainder of the route together, which was fine, as I wasn't interested either at that point in catching up.

I would like to emphasize that I am not relating all of this to heap shame on these 3 particular leaders. Two of them (Reggie and Lisa) are in fact friends of mine whom I have ridden with many times, and I hope to continue to do so. (Ed I don't know as well.) What concerns me is that their attitude is so typical of the mentality of Potomac Pedalers group ride leaders. It makes a charade of the concept of "group ride." The emphasis was entirely on maintaining a fast pace, at the expense of any who fell behind for any reason.

Tags:  back roads century group ride 

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Post Your Back Roads Century Comments Here

Posted By Mark Alpert, Monday, September 23, 2013
Potomac Pedalers members who participated in the 2013 Back Roads Century are encouraged to post their comments here.  The public may not post to this blog however they can view it.

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more Ride Schedule

C * 24 (MF-MH) * VA * 9:00 AM * Fairfax Coffee to Coffee * Fairfax Square Commercial Center *

CC(H) * 33/39 * VA * 9:30 AM * Blossoms Inside the Beltway * Thomas Jefferson JHS (TJJ) * 95º/50%

Featured Members
Linda B. KolkoLinda is the C Ride Coordinator for MD & DC.
Matthew BirnbaumMatt was the Chair of the Club in 2015 and 2016.