Hey Internet! Remember me? That guy that used to blog about races?
Well anyway, a rainy March, combined with the insecurity caused by every single cyclist I know bragging about how much they were riding, led to me pulling the plug on the nordic season a bit early this year, which was hell on the blog. Usually I get to smugly race all through March, while everyone else whines about how bad the weather is for their 22 hour training weeks in Boston. But not this year... the weather's been warm, so no one's complaining, they're just out training, and I'm just sitting here freaking out about how they're all gonna drop me once we put numbers on.
So I did a bunch of riding (panic-training, really), but no one wants to hear about that, so the blogfront was quiet. Thank god for Rosey stepping up and organizing a non-race race this past weekend, giving the New England blogosphere something to squawk about.
After most cyclists had gone 3 months without racing, the bar for "getting people excited" is pretty low, but Rosey knocked this one outta the park with a crazy 60-mile cross-specific loop around the greater Boston area. It's a "Rhonde," not a race, but we're on "teams" and have "staggered starts," so it's clearly not a group ride, either. I'm in.
Old man Parsons and Sweens took the bait instantly when I tried to get them on board. Turns out that any email containing the words "ride" and "beer" they'll respond favorably to. Unfortunately, Thom fell victim to "having a job" and bailed on us, but not before getting new IBC Elite MTB recruit Will to ride in his place. The only catch was that Will didn't have a cross bike, but it's all good because I have two bikes. Right?
The night before the event (is there any other time to check equipment?) I tested out my pit bike and it was good to go, except for a slightly loose headset. Went to tighten the top cap and... no resistance. Gee, that's weird, I think I'll loosen everything up and investigate (doh!). Turns out that the compression plug in my carbon fork had come unstuck, and just like that, no more rideable pit bike.
Like most bikers, my basement is a bike graveyard... so 2 hours later Linnea's old cross bike (PVB's original cross bike, I think) was up and running. Alas, during the build process I didn't notice that the chainkeeper had been cannibalized from it, so Will ended up dropping his chain roughly 15 times during the ride. Other than that, it rode great, which is far better than I was expecting!
We headed out pretty late in the start order, which gave us plenty of time to guzzle coffee. As IBC riders we're required to know the Cutler park region, and thus we had navigation dialed for the first hour, along with coffee legs. As a result, some extremely fierce tempo was ridden at the front, and we blitzed through a ton of teams in the first hour who were doing things like "reading directions," "fixing mechanicals," or "not going anaerobic." By the time we got to the end of the trail along I-95, we'd done an hour at race pace, caught the pro girls team (aka the "Vagiants") and were feelin' good.
Unfortately our local knowledge ended at that point, and 4 hours of navigational miscues began. The Vagiants picked up our draft while we stalled finding the right roads in Dover, and while you can't drop pro women by pulling at 25 mph on the road we sure did try.
We intently burned matches (even though it's not a race) all through Dover, culminating in Kevin taking an epic pull right past the turn onto the Wellesley cross-town trail. Five of us (we still hadn't dropped the girls) stopped and Kevin motored straight past, undeterred by us screaming his name. He finally turned around about a quarter mile later.
To make up for this time loss (60 seconds! omg!) we put the hammer down on the trail, only to get to the pavement and have no idea where to go. The girls caught up again. We got oriented, headed off the right way, and caught onto a big group (Minuteman girls, some Hup guys?) on the road. Obviously we needed to lay down some wattage, (obviously!) so we went smoking past just in time for everyone to slow down and turn onto the trails behind Wellesley College.
We fought our way back to the front (obviously!) in the woods and emerge on the college grounds totally confused. Three other groups patiently followed us around while we tried to find the exit. Eventually they realized we had no idea what we were doing and left us, and only then did Will get his bearings enough to find the exit.
This did give us a gap on the chasers, so we LAID DOWN THE WATTS (it's not a race) on Weston Rd to get away. It turns out that we were supposed to go left onto trails after 0.1 miles, but that didn't stop up from TTT'ing all the way to Route 9 before realizing we missed a turn. We pulled a U-ey/whipped a shitty/flipped a bitch and headed backwards just in time to pick up the 10-strong group we had just ditched and lead them all back to the trails.
I was beyond frustrated at our inability to ditchez-vous les bitches(?) by now so we obviously had to attack again on the trail. Kevin and I solo'ed away from everyone despite it not being a race, only to discover that Will had dropped his chain on the attack and gone all the way to the back of the group. Doh.
We snuck away again in the confusion after Rt 9, when the Minuteman girls flatted and the Vagiants became inexplicably lax about drafting us. Sensing an opportunity we drilled it for the millionth time of the day and rode away, only to take a wrong turn near School Street (nice "directions," Rosey!) and then another wrong turn off the railroad bed where we crossed Conant St. By the time we rectified the Conant St mistake the pro girls were right back with us, but we screamed obscenities instead of giving them directions and disappeared back down to the railroad tracks.
This gave us a small gap, so we decided to switch things up and hammer randomly. The gap grew to "out of sight" status, and we started discussing whether or not we were possibly leading the non-race at the point. Our hubris was repaid by Will flatting, and Kevin's 2-minute flat fix getting ruined by ripping off the valve stem when he went to C02 it. By the time we got Will back rolling again, 3 or 4 teams had gone past, and as soon as we hit the road it was clear that the tire bead had popped off the rim as well, so yet another deflate/inflate cycle was required. We'd gone from almost-leading to almost-losing in all of 15 minutes.
The only solution was to hammer randomly. Luckily we were fresh from not hammering for the first two hours, so this went well on the long road stretch up Concord. We came across the Pete/Dave/Scott group (aka "real watts") right as they were finishing a flat fix and got our dirty mountain biker wheelsuck on, while the real roadies pulled us up to Concord at 20+ mph.
Here we met the pro women yet again and apparently passed the Minuteman girls making a bathroom stop. Will announced that he was out of water, so we shamed him into not stopping and gave him half a bottle, and chased the girls and "real watts" up to the next rail trail.
I was stoked to see dirt so I decided it was time to hammer randomly. Some non-racers (civilians?!) scurried for cover as nine insane Rhonders bore down on the mudhole they were daintily navigating. The adrenaline of scaring people on hybrids stayed with me for the next ten minutes, and we gapped the Vagiants yet again.
We got to the end of the trail and the group was only five riders. It took me disturbingly long to figure out who was missing, but when I finally got it down I realized Will was gone. Not just "back a bit" but "wait, when was the last time you saw him?" back.
Turns out he dropped the map, dropped his chain, and started a massive bonk that would debilitate him for the next half hour. We let "real watts" go, cursed the Vagiants as the passed us, and set about getting enough food into Will that we could get back to hammering randomly.
Somehow we managed to make up time through Beford/LPR, despite an extended foray into a swamp that was erroneously marked with a big yellow "R." My semi-local knowledge of the area was enough to lead us into bushwhacking in the right direction and eventually popping out on Turning Mill Rd, where we picked up the course at the powerlines.
We soon found a massive group of Hup riders, who were quite displeased to see us. I started regaling Chip with our tales of misfortune (and resisting the urge to hammer randomly) and after five minutes I asked him if he knew where he was going. Since he laid out half the route I assumed the answer was yes -- but of course, it was not, and we had just missed Willard Woods.
Since the 4 hour mark was approaching, we rerouted to the next known landmark (the bike path after Willard Woods) and picked up from there. Once again there was no random hammering, although one of the Hup guys sure did get hammered by the wooden bridge he fell off.
At the exit of these woods, my team was pretty bonked (Will still hadn't eaten much), so we headed off to Dunkin Donuts in Lexington while team Hup headed off to "victory." Our competitive spirit was temporarily put aside to drink chocolate milk and other, even less PRO foods.
Back on the bike we hit all the turns for Great Meadow (score) and exited just in time to find "real watts" coming down the bike path, which was definitely not on the course. Cheaters! But we were happy to have some help in dragging ourselves back to the finish line... in fact... it might be time to hammer randomly once more!
My legs hurt really badly, whether I pedaled hard or easy, so I figured I might as well pedal hard. I thought I was driving us at a pretty good clip through Arlington, but then Pete announced that he was "sick of this shit and wanted to drink beer," so he went to the front to put out some real watts.
By the time crossed the Charles we were approaching five hours in the saddle and the cupcakes at the finish line were close enough to taste. The uphill run into Washington Square gave us the chance to raise the pace from "hammering randomly" to "attacking randomly." Somewhere along the line I ended up drafting a car down Washington St, pedaling as hard as I could in the 46x11, wondering "why the hell I was doing this?"
Then I went flying into Washington Square, stopped at the tavern, high-fived Rosey, claimed a very questionable 2nd place, and went inside to drink beer and swap war stories at the top of my lungs for another 3 hours.
Incredibly painful day, but the most fun I've had on the road/trails in a long time. Thanks to Rosey for organizing, Washington Square Tavern for hosting us, Pedros/Broadway Bikes/Pepsi/? for sponsoring it, and thank you, blog-reader, for making it to the end of this mammoth post.
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