Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, May 14, 2012

So many rides, so little time to blog!

When I started this blog a few months back, I wondered if I would find enough interesting things to write about in the winter to keep a blog going. Well I managed to come up with enough to write about for a few months and had enough time to keep it pretty current. But ironically, as the riding season has kicked into full gear, I am finding that there just aren't enough hours in the day to blog about all the rides!

Regular readers know I kept myself busy with some climbing in March and April. 

Here's some of the other stuff I've been up to.

Just after we returned from our all too brief vacation in California, we had the Ride Studio Cafe Brevet Season kickoff party and 100km ride.  Despite a dire forecast, we had a big crowd on the ride out to Lost Lake. Rob and Patria even took time away from the Studio to join us for the ride!

We had an even bigger crowd for the party, bike show and presentations by Melinda Lyon and Matt Roy. It was really a great evening, and lots of experienced randonneurs mingled and shared their passion with lots of interested new-comers. I think we have a few RSC folks interested in brevets and a few brevet riders now aware of great coffee near the start of the rides! RUSA founder, Jennifer Wise and Pierce Gafgen traveled up from Rhode Island for the festivities. It was great to see and chat with them, along with our friends, Rob Johnston and Janika Eckert, who traveled down from Maine, as well as everyone else who came out for the day. 

The next weekend was the Old Saybrooke 300km, but 4AM starts are still not appealing to me, and John had some work conflicts, so instead, we took the tandem up to Westminster, MA to finally do the Grace and Redemption ride that we'd had to bail on in December. Much of what we rode will be part of the new NER 300km this year. This is going to be an amazing and tough ride. Jake Kassen had asked about using our Fleche route from the previous two years as a basis for a new 300km. My initial reaction was that it was too hard! It also had a lot of dirt, which I love and is perfectly rideable on skinny tired road bikes, but I knew how some folks would complain. I modified the route to get the distance right, eliminate some dirt, and start at Hanscom. I jokingly said he should not use my name, since I didn't want to be blamed for the sadistic hills. Jake has worked really hard, driving the route twice, creating the very detailed cue sheet, and getting the route approved. So far, I've seen a bit of positive reaction on the email list. Hopefully folks will enjoy the actual ride. Despite the 4AM start, I will do the ride, and hope to see a few friends out there. It is June 2.

This bridge is not on the 300km!

The next weekend was the NER 100km. We took the tandem out for this ride as well, and managed to avoid any coffee shops on route, making for a very fast ride. But no fear, I will be back to my usual leisurely coffee shop stops on all future brevets.

I've been working hard with Dena to flesh out this year's Fleche. We have plotted a very different route from Provincetown to Portland. I have joked that Norm and Dena tied me up in a corner and forced me to plot out a much flatter ride for this year. We are all looking forward to it. In anticipation, we chose to do the Shelburne Falls 200km out of Westfield, for our second team ride of the year. Don Podolski continues to put on spectacular events, and seems to be encouraging my style of riding, by including vouchers for coffee shops! We had two great stops at Mocha Maya's and McCusker's Store in Shelburne Falls. In between that, we also had a lovely ride up into Vermont!

Next up was the NER 200km fiasco. 18 years ago, John and I plotted out a route that would become the Boston 200km. Over the years, some of the roads have become quite busy and a few years back, I came up with a much quieter, more scenic alternative. The first and last legs remained mostly the same, but the middle section between New Boston and Brookline, had significant changes. I had mapped out the full route on RideWithGPS, with a fully annotated the cue sheet, adding lots of extra details and such, using my notes from riding the course numerous times.

I offered it up to Bruce several times over recent years, and finally this year, he agreed to submit it to RUSA for approval. There seems to be all sorts of concern that RUSA will go over each route with a fine tooth comb and find every possible shortcut and insist on loads of extra controls. So there is some hesitance to submit new routes. Ironically, the existing route has a glaring 30-40 mile shortcut, due to lack of control on that segment. But because the old route is grandfathered, this is allowed. 

So the route got approved, and was all set to be run. However, Bruce had insisted that the route be arrowed. I don't arrow. The last time I did, the Milford, NH police, alerted by a local merchant, who seemingly didn't like the arrow I had put down in front of his business suggesting cyclists could buy food there, followed our arrows and found us near the top of Federal Hill Road. He took our details and said that what we were doing was illegal, but he'd let the town council decide if we would face any penalties. That was the last time we arrowed. I've never been a fan of arrowing. I learned to ride with maps and cue sheets, and it is amazing to me that local folks have such a tough time with the idea of using a cue sheet.

Anyway, Bruce had found someone willing to arrow. But when I was out riding part of the route two weeks before the event, I discovered the arrows that weren't quite up to standard practice. There was just one arrow at each turn, no warning or confirming arrows. They were precisely at each turn, even for left hand turns part way down a high speed descent. I thought back to PBP in 1999, when we were flying along in a pack of tandems, when I spotted a left turn arrow as we were passing the turn. I called out, so folks could slow and U-turn, but one team took the turn abruptly, taking out the team beside them.  There was a lot of road rash and bruising. Amazingly the team that hit the ground so hard was able to finish the ride. The team that took the abrupt turn was not at all apologetic.

While on that pre-ride, I also realized that I was uncomfortable with an angled RR track crossing and came up with a short deviation around this section. I sent a note off to Bruce. In some twisted sense of logic, Bruce said there was no time to change the short section and have the arrower go back and add warning and confirming arrows, but there was time to completely re-do the cue sheets for the old route and completely re-arrow the old route, so he was reverting to the old route. He also suggested that my efforts didn't count as volunteering and my feedback wasn't valid. So after vowing several years ago to never ride Rt 31 in NH again, I chose to do a different ride on the day and Dena and I got in 200km by riding out to Wachusett Mountain instead.

Which brings us to this past weekend and the Bash Bish 300km out of Westfield. Again Don does a spectacular job with his brevets. It's a shame he can't get the weather to co-operate a little more.  It was quite chilly at the start, and Becket is always about 15 F colder, making it below freezing at the first control, part way down a long, long descent. I never seem to learn, and while I felt reasonably well prepared, I still had numb hands and feet when we took a thaw break in Great Barrington. Fortunately it warmed up soon after and the day turned into one of the best I have ever had on this ride. We had glorious sunshine and crystal clear blue skies, and great company too as Ted Lapinski hung out with us for most of the day.

The Fleche is next weekend, and then DROVES and then the NER 300km. We get a break and then Green Mountain Double, followed hopefully by the Gent's race.  I will try to be better about staying current!

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