This year I opted to take the C&O and GAP tour offered by Adventure Cycling Association that started on 20 September in Arlington, Virginia, and ended in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 26 September. It was a fully supported ride and I enjoyed it very much. This was the first time that I used ACA and I found the staff and tour director knowledgeable and experienced. I rode this route from Pittsburgh to Georgetown last year self-supported, but I still found the sights and attractions interesting and picturesque and discovered some new ones. During the first six days from Arlington to Connellsville I took the time to stop and enjoy many of those things.
When I rolled out of the camp in Connellsville at 8 AM I realized that there isn’t much to see on the final 55 mile leg into Pittsburgh. Still, I stopped to take a picture a few miles into the ride and George, one of the staff, caught up with me. We rode together and chatted until we arrived at the first water stop.
We snacked at the water stop and refilled our water bottles. The stop was run by two of the ACA staff, Chris and Karen. Suddenly Chris said, “Hey! It’s Don.” He was surprised to see Don so soon.
Don was the “sweep”, the person on staff who was riding last to make sure that nobody was left behind. That made me the last rider. I didn’t think that would be possible. I thought that there were some bikes still in camp when I left there.
I rode hard to the second and last water stop. Along the way I passed Paul. “Great!” I thought, “Now he will be last.”
When I arrived at the second water stop, there were eight to ten riders there. They left while I was eating lunch and snacking. Paul rolled in, followed by another rider, Peter. The appearance of Peter was a surprise: he must have been behind Don at the previous water stop and I just missed him. I left while Paul and Peter were eating.
When I got to McKeesport I saw someone catching up with me from behind. I thought, “It couldn’t be one of the two riders that I left behind at the water stop. They are not strong riders. Or could it be that one of them decided to put on a sprint?”
For a moment I put that out of my mind and pedaled a little harder. Suddenly I was surprised when someone pulled up next to me and said, “Hi, Ed.” It was Don! I was going to be the last rider to finish. Don told me that the two other guys at the water stop decided to take a truck ride into Pittsburgh.
Don and I rode into Pittsburgh at a good pace. When we got within two miles of the end he told me that we were zipping along at 16-17 miles per hour and that was the fastest he ever rode sweep into Pittsburgh. It was then that he also told me that a bunch of people decided not to ride at all that day and were trucked from Connellsville to Pittsburgh.
At about that time we spotted Dave, another of our riders, in front of us. Dave was one of the slower riders. Don suggested I ride ahead since he needed to stay rearward with Dave.
I rode ahead until I saw a great shot of the Pittsburgh skyline. As a stopped to take the picture Dave and Don rode past me. Dave got to the end of the ride before me. I blew my last chance to avoid being last.