This article was written after the inaugural event in 2013 and first published on willconkwright.com in 2014. Photography from the 2016 event courtesy of Ben Dunlap.
The OG crew at the 1st annual event.
Tom Petty, one of rock and rolls greats, said, “If you never slow down, you never grow old.”
That was our mantra for CHUCK FONDEAUX 2013, We recruited The Craven Kid, Josh Brown, to make sure it happened. What the elders lack in strength, is made up with strategy.
It was a chilly start with light winds and would be well after noon time before the temps began to rise, but as the temperature increased, so did the wind.
The relationship of temperature and wind was not a linear relationship. It was like one of those J shaped population curves that is used in high school to somehow frighten or enlighten you, to encourage you into believing that choosing to practice frivolous explorations of sexuality instead of abstinence, will alone contribute to overpopulation, deforestation, global warming, communism, and real estate bubbles.
By noon time the wind was brutal, just how I remembered high school, and it was up to the Craven Kid to sit on the front and pull, and pull, and pull, and…
Riding with Josh is great.
Primarily because he does all the work, at least all the hard work. Josh spent 75% of the ride up front. We also had the wind in our face for at least 75% of the ride. Coincidence? I think not.
In the spirit of the TTT (Team Time Trial) our group started with 7 and finished with 5. Tom “Mittens” Hewitt had prior obligations (campaigning) and departed when we reached HWY 55.
Tom was a trooper and contributed most of his time with us on the front pulling us to our limits just making sure that we would expend as much energy as possible before his early departure. The elders’ use of strategy over strength has been exemplified.
Tom left us gasping for air and wondering if we hydrated enough. There was no question I did, thanks for the longest mile of my life Chuck. The road turned north and directly into the wind, which was not too bad, unless you were Josh, which even still for him, did not seem too bad.
The brutality of a 10-20 mph headwind was experienced when the mortals, after sitting in Josh’s slipstream, got a dose of confidence and pedaled to the front. These turns on the front typically lasted minutes, let’s say…4 minutes, before falling back in line and being thankful our soon to be neo-pro was leading us according to plan.
Getting caught outside of the paceline in this kind of wind is suicide. To stay at the front, you need to be pushing 100 Watts more than you were in the paceline.
When the paceline is already moving near your threshold, well…suicide. Chuck Lee was the first victim of being caught out by the wind. Our midway stop was in Aurora.
Chuck’s sea legs reminded him that the Bermuda shores are better training grounds for binge drinking and babe watching (not that Chuck would do either) than training grounds for CHUCK FONDEAUX.
Forever the warrior, Chuck pedaled on solo, into the wind, vowing to share a coffee with us all back at the Bean.
The next 40 miles were blissful, except for the lung searing, eyeball popping sprint over the Hobucken Bridge. Except for that expenditure of youthful exuberance, we had the winds to our back and maintained a steady pace in the 23-26 mph range.
The change in direction relieved Josh of his leader of the pack duty. Nothing makes a cyclist feel studlier than a solid tail wind. Nearing mile 90 we turned towards the north and the winds were back in our face.
We all shared in the suffering, because Josh was tired of being on the front, and it was his turn to relish in our pain. We had played our cards well, stored our glycogen reserves properly, and unleashed Dakota Mike, the secret 24 hour weapon, aero bars at the ready, onto the front to slice through the wind.
Mike likes to ride for a real long time, an unnaturally long time, amounts of time that would call into question his sanity, the number of cards in his deck, not so much if the screws are loose, but are there any screws present?
Dakota was just getting warmed up, which was great for us and a reminder to me that the strategy over strength mantra kicks in no later than 32.
The end of our adventure is in sight and it was unanimously decided, that an out of towner cannot hold the Strava KOM on the ONC bridge.
That is our bridge, and we set the standard that others will aspire. With our plan formed we rode in a rotating paceline to get our sleepy neurons firing again. Chuck “Fondeaux” Forrest must lead us into town.
Oriental is Chuck’s town (Forrest for Mayor!), it was his birthday, and “Fondeaux” is pure power and wouldn’t last 30 seconds at the speeds we needed to smash the current KOM (28.1 mph).
Chuck will lead the group to 25 mph. When we hit the Food Emporium, “Special” Greg Chuffo would unleash the fury of his linebacker sized thighs and up the ante to 27 mph. Then Dakota Mike will lead me to the base of the bridge.
I will hit the bottom at no less than 28 mph, digging deep into my 1 min power reserves, riding Josh to the top, cresting the bridge at over 28 mph. All Josh has to do is unleash his 1000+ Watt 10 second sprint down the other side and see a NC boy back on top of the ONC segment.
This plan was executed to near perfection…emphasis on near.
Chuck performed his role with style and grace, well, at least style. After casually rolling past the “pick up the freaking pace point” of the USPS at 18 mph, a few heckling taunts were directed to Fondeaux from the rear of the train.
This spurred the old man into action. When we reached the Emporium water bottles was being tossed into yards in an effort to lighten the load. I was laughing too hard to tell, but I am sure children were clamoring after the discarded souvenirs.
Despite this injection of near catastrophic humor, Special Greg grabbed the reins and unleashed his acceleration. Greg opened up a can of nitro that kicked the up the pace to a blistering 33 MPH.
His legs pulled back on the reins and he exited stage left as planned, making way for Dakota Mike. Experience taught me that Mike can throw down some serious wattage from the aero bars, a time trialist by design, with penchant for suffering, Mike plowed forward and maintained our speed at 32 mph.
A quick glance at the Garmin confirmed my heart rate was nearing its peak and I had yet to pull into the wind and onto the opening ramp of the bridge. I dropped down two gears from the 53-11 and was launched onto the bridge at 32 mph. The incline increased and I dug deep into the reserves, turning the pedals as fast and hard as I could from my seated position.
At 190 bpm my vision narrows and sounds become muffled. I heard Mike hollering in the back ground “GO! GO!” All I could think was, “how the hell does he have any breath left?” I crossed the top at 27.5 mph, awaiting the Craven Kid to blast past me. The initial strategy over strength had worked too well. Josh was nowhere to be seen.
He is forgiven this time.
Sitting on the front cranking out 300 Watts for over 4 hours, Josh enabled our reclaim the KOM scheme. Had it not been for Josh, it would have probably been too dark to sprint for the finish anyway. Next time neo-pro, thou shout rue the day.
We took a couple of FB photos atop the bridge to confirm to all those who do or do not care this ride had actually happened. After such a great day it was hard to imagine the best was yet to come.
Julia Tingle is a legend in the ONC cycling community. When we departed this morning she assured us that she would be there to greet us upon our return.
Sure enough, 5 hours and 15 minutes later, and a 30 minute wait for her, we returned to The Bean and were met with congratulatory exuberance from Julia and friends. The sprint finish left me breathless. The welcome home left me speechless.
We retired inside for coffee, bagels, cookies, tall tales, and admiration of Josh’s strength. Looking back, the ride was euphoric because all had come together as planned.
I have heard good things happen in threes. I don’t believe it and have never experienced it, but I recognize when you have momentum and are riding that momentous wave like a champ, you have to stay on and ride it to the end. Super Trooper Chuck Lee did this with legendary style.
Chuck saunters into the Bean 30 minutes after our arrival having completed all 105+ miles. Had I been dropped and left to battle the wind, no way in hell would I have tacked on the extra loop around Orchard Creek Rd.
I doubt I would have turned north on Florence road, back into the wind, but for Chuck, the Jedi master, there was no question about his route of choice.
This was the essence of CHUCK FONDEAUX, a statement of strength, integrity, passion, and commitment. The Bean patrons’ facial expressions indicated our ride captured many other essences too.
We played to our individual strengths, organized our collective resources, and brought out the best in each other. Memories that were lost in a neuromuscular haze are documented on Facebook. All the others will be embellished to myth like status.
Our decadent indulgence needed no icing, but no one turns down icing. The ONC Bridge South has a new KOM, a local boy, as it should be.
The5th Annual Chuck FONDEAUX! Cycling Epic will take place on Sunday December 3rd. Rollout at 0830 from the Bean in downtown Oriental, NC. For more information check out the event’s Facebook page.