On the Friday before last I left work about twenty minutes. I met Xue outside and we attached a bike rack to the rental car. A backpack full of clothes and water bottles went in the backseat and my bike went on the back of the car.
We took 91 North and ran into some heavy rain and lightning just about half an hour South of our destination. Never really hear much thunder. By the time we got to the bed & breakfast the rain had been soothed. Tristan & Marianna met up with us soon after and we went out to dinner.
The next morning I woke at 4:40, then 4:45, and climbed out of bed. X slept in while M & T & I piled into a van with our bikes in the back and drove down the road through an un-defogged windshield. A man in a reflective vest waved his flashlight as we pulled onto the grass and parked at the end of the row. Cars were filling the field and bikes were pulled out of an off of them.
For breakfast I had a bagel, some OJ, a poorly peeled hardboiled egg and a cup of coffee. I regretted the coffee soon after. Tristan and I put wheels back into our bikes and applied RFID timing stickers to our helmets. We rolled through the gates a few minutes before 6:30 in order to have our rides timed, but waited until seven for our party to assemble. When we finally left there were four of us together among a field of 800+ registered riders.
We set out on the 180km route. I don’t remember much of the next twelve and a half hours, but a few things stuck with me.
The cue sheet said the first stage was just a warm up, and that riders should pace them selves accordingly. But we were feeling young and caffeinated and maybe a little sure of our legs. 36 miles and 6000’ of climbing later we met with the first rest/snack/water stop and refilled our pockets and bottles.
The second stage was “three long, steep hills, a 27% wall, and almost no flat road until three miles from the checkpoint”. Muscles started cramping and overly-concentrated gatorade has never tasted sweeter.
Then we stopped for lunch, where my GPS says we sat for an hour. Ted and Tristan suggested we switch from the 180k route to the 100k and ride home with Marianna and Erin. Riding along the river with girlfriends had its appeal, but Xue had been working the 3rd checkpoint that morning and was at the moment likely enjoying the local butterfly conservatory.
I wasn’t feeling too bad physically, but I didn’t really know how well I’d be able to handle the final two stages if I stuck to the 180k route. I had come to D2R2 with the idea that it could prepare me for longer (though flatter and more paved) rides in the New England Randonneur series. So I decided to stick to the 180k and drew a literal line in the sand.
It had little effect though and I had no success trying to talk Tristan or Ted into continuing on with me. To be fair, they had both given very impressive efforts over the past 64 miles and had climbed over 9500’ of gravel-strewn unimproved carriage roads. I filled my bottles and accepted extra salty snacks from the boys as we prepared to part.
Just before leaving I met Eric and Milica of Team Stampede! They planned to ride out from the lunch checkpoint on a portion of the flatter and shorter 100k route before jumping back onto the 180k for the final stage. That sounded great to me as an alternative to the “four hard climbs and then a monster” offered up by the cue sheet. The river road was relatively smooth and we slowly but surely descended downstream.
Eventually the three of us split though, with Milica continuing along the river in the company of a local cyclist toward the promise of a BBQ dinner and free beer. Eric and I took a sharp turn from the river and back up into the hills. It didn’t take us long to find company. We caught up with a small group including Geekhouse Marty and another Stampede! rider. The five of us ground out the menacing Patten HILL Road, a handful of rollers and the finally “long gnarly downhill to the finish”.
By the time we were on the final flat stretch to the finish we had amassed a few more riders and were moving as a fast tight group. Those last paved roads were the cherry atop a rocky road sundae.