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Photo by Jason DeVarennes

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quadzilla - Day 1

Early in the season, when we looked at various events on the calendar, Quadzilla-Staged was to be one of the target rides for the Ride Studio Cafe Endurance Team. In previous years, Quadzilla was run as a 400 mile, 28,000 foot ride around all 11 Finger Lakes with a 40 hour time limit. The new staged format added 100 miles, another 10,000 feet of climbing, and expanded to four days with 200km routes each day. This would allow for proper meals and full nights sleep in comfy motels each night.  It would also mean all the scenery could be enjoyed in daylight! Maybe I'm just no longer a proper randonneur, but for some reason this format appealed to me. The initial plan had been for QZ-staged ride to also serve as a team photo shoot, so we would bring both the tandem and single bikes, since we'd have the photo car to carry the extra bikes. But at some point, the expense of a full week on the road caused the other team members some concern, and they decided to conserve resources. I'd already registered and booked all the accommodation and to be honest, I was fairly stoked about doing the ride. Now without the photo car to carry the extra bikes, we decided to just bring the tandem. Mark Frank, organizer extraordinaire, told me that Crista Borras and Chuck Wood would also be on their tandem, so this was even more incentive to bring the tandem. That and the route profiles... Woohoo, look at those downhills!

Day 1

Day 2


Day 3

Day 4


So this became our summer vacation. We started off the trip heading up to Vermont to do the race up Mt Ascutney on Saturday, then enjoyed a few days of dirt roads around Ascutney and then Bennington, Vermont, before driving the rest of the way out to Ithaca on Tuesday. I think it was when we got off the highway and hit a smaller road on our way to Ithaca that I started to realize just how hard this ride was going to be. My poor car struggled on these hills.

Prior to going out, we had look at the statistics... 200km days, 10,000ish feet per day. No problem, we thought. We do 10,000 foot days on dirt roads in Vermont all the time.  But those numbers don't tell the whole story. It's the fact that every road is straight up or straight down with a bleepin' stop sign at the bottom. It seems that the folks who designed the roads in the Finger Lakes never learned about switchbacks or curves, or following contours. They just laid out a grid or roads, which crisscrossed the ridges left by the glaciers. As we winched ourselves up yet another climb and crested, we'd be faced with the demoralizing sight of an equally steep downhill, with the inevitable stop sign at the bottom, and we could see the pain that awaited us in the form of yet another vertical wall to climb...again and again and again... 

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

We arrived in Ithaca and checked into our motel, then found Mark to collect our brevet cards and maps and such. Then we headed back downtown to get coffee at Itahca Coffee and dinner at a great tapas place near the common. There was a Wegman's across the street from our motel, so we walked over to pick up some breakfast supplies, and then got everything ready for our 7AM start. 

First thing the next morning, we moved the car over to Wegman's, met up with the other riders, and after a brief talk from Mark, rolled out of town. Mark had made some noise about taking it easy, but he set a blistering pace leaving town! The road out of town was a bit busy and we stayed single file, trying to hang onto Mark's wheel. After about 5km, we turned onto a much smaller road and began the first climb. Again, Mark set a blistering pace. Soon we had all spread out, as everyone had to climb at a comfortable pace. We rounded a corner before a turn and Mark was pointing to the dirt surface and suggested folks could go straight. We live for dirt. We took the turn. Soon, we reached the top and began a long descent with great views. 

Crista had graciously created ridewithgps routes from the cue sheets Mark had sent out a few weeks in advance. Things had been so hectic that I hadn't had any time to study them at all. As we approached Watkins Glen, I looked down at the GPS and saw a dogleg, that would add a few kms and likely a climb. The morning had started chilly, but it was starting to warm up, so we stopped briefly to remove warmers and such. A short while later we saw a detour sign and mention of a closed bridge a mile away. We decided to risk staying on-route and were rewarded with a brand new bridge and no traffic. Soon after we spied Seneca Lake, which was soon followed by the first control. Most controls were at stores, where we'd buy something, and get the clerk to sign our cards. Breakfast sandwiches and drinks hit the spot. The rest of the group rolled in not too long afterwards. It was a small crowd - surprising, given the easier nature of the staged version as compared to the one shot ride. Mark said the ads hadn't appeared in the ultra and randonneurring magazines, and maybe the need to take a full week had some impact. In total, there would be 14 riders doing all or part of the ride, plus the fabulous Marcia Swan providing support and baggage transport. Some of these riders had done the original ride, and my hat is off to them. Bill Schwartz is one who had done the hard-core version before, along with loads of other super long distance events. Seemingly needing more of a challenge, this year, he was riding a hand-cycle. Bill is the most amazing athlete and to get himself up and down all those brutal hills on that hand-cycle was inspirational.


We left the control with Chuck and Crista, and chatted away for a while about their recent tour in Vermont. We somehow lost them on a descent, but knew we'd see them again soon enough. We did a mountainous tour with them about 10 years ago, and they are amazingly strong. We love having another strong tandem for company.  


After another good climb, we found Marcia waiting for us at a nice spot overlooking Lamoka and Waneta Lakes. This was a secret control and lunch stop. Marcia made us each a fabulous turkey sandwich and we had some great icy cold drinks. The rest of the gang rolled in and we gathered for a group photo, before plummeting down the hill to the lake. Then it was on to Keuka Lake and the charming town of Hammondsport.  Mark made a comment about not hitting the ride organizer for any reason. Whatever could he mean?

Mark and John

Lamoka Lake

The real fun was about to begin. I saw Bully Hill on the cue sheet. I remember climbing up Bully Hill when we were touring out here in 2005. I knew what awaited, but some folks were caught off guard by the steepness. Ah this was why Mark made that comment about assaulting him!

Mark also made a comment about 3 big climbs in the last 30 or 40 miles. We were all trying to gauge what counted as a climb in his books. It soon became obvious though. Those little painful rollers didn't count. It had to be 1000 feet of vertical.  The final one was called Stid Hill. We called it B'Stid Hill. We called Mark a stid. Actually stid even became a verb after a while!

One final control saw us seeking out Popsicles as it was getting hot! Duly refreshed, we rolled the final kilometers down to Lake Canandaigua  and into the town of Canandaigua to our motel, which conveniently was just across the street from a Wegman's. Hmm, does Mark own Wegman's stock?

We all gathered for dinner at a Mexican restaurant a block away, and then retired for a well earned night of sleep before the brutal ride to follow on Day 2...

Approaching Bully Hill Winery
admiring the view

Yet another lake

Vida Greer


Marybeth Chawan

Chuck and Crista

Not actually hitting Mark for his devilish route design

Happy tandeming

A little diversion to check out a barrel door!



Yet another hilltop vista

Irish Settlement
Stay tuned for Day 2...


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