Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jelly Beans!

I love jelly beans. In fact, jelly beans are my favorite post ride snack. I am especially partial to the cinnamon flavored ones! So it's no wonder that I am a fan of Jelly Belly, who not only make the best jelly beans, but also sponsor a bicycle racing team.

In addition to a bazillion flavors of regular jelly beans, Jelly Belly also make Sport Beans. These are electrolytes, vitamins, and calories in a nice tasty jelly bean shaped package! Some even have caffeine! My friend Cristine got me hooked on the caffeinated ones while we were climbing Monte Grappa a few years ago.

So naturally when I saw that Jeremy Powers,  a member of the Jelly Belly road race team, was putting on a fun dirt road event in one of my favorite places, I had to check it out, knowing that there would be jelly beans on offer. As a US cyclocross national champion, he'd also include some great dirt roads, along with lots of climbing, which of course would bring us up to lovely scenic vistas, followed by some screaming descents.

The JAM Fundo Grand Fundo/Hundo ride takes in some amazing beautiful, quiet, steep dirt (and a few paved) roads in the Berkshire foothills, starting in Southampton, MA. This was the third running of the event. We missed the prior two, because we were away, but this year, the timing was perfect. Earlier in the year I'd bought tickets to the Green River Festival, mainly to see Richard Thompson perform on Sunday. The ride and festival were on the same weekend, and in close proximity, so we decided to combine some riding with some music.

We decided to take the tandem because we've just been having so much fun bombing around dirt roads with it. We also figured we've been doing enough long hard dirt road rides this year that we'd just go for the full Hundo experience.

We booked a room at a fabulous solar-powered B&B, the Starlight Llama, not too far from the start. We'd stayed here a while back and had a wonderful time. John and Dee are fabulous hosts and are quite happy to share a wealth of information about solar power. The llamas, goats, peacocks and other assorted farm animals are cool too.

After a great breakfast, we headed down to the ride start, about 5 miles away and started bumping into loads of friends, and what seemed like everyone in NECX. I haven't seen official numbers, but it appeared there were several hundred riders. I saw that they made over $30K to help out some lucky, hard working young local cyclists, which is very cool.

It was a brutally hot day and while we planned to do the long route, we also planned to take it easy in the heat. So we started at the back, and got to enjoy the sight of cyclists strung out on the road for a long ways ahead of us!

The route is a little lumpy and has quite a bit of dirt. We flew through the first section past lots of ejected water bottles and folks pulled off to the side repairing punctures.

We were feeling pretty chuffed with out fat tires as we rolled along, that is until we hit pavement again and noticed the rear tire was going a bit soft! We had just caught up with Gary, who I'd ridden with on Green Mountain Double, and he stayed with us while we stopped to put in a new tube. We couldn't find anything obvious in the tire, but did discover that our brand new pump was either defective, or that maybe we needed to have a pump designed for high volume, low pressure. It took forever to get air back in, and even loads of pumping, we still had fairly low pressure. We'll have to look closer at the pump before the next big ride.

Anyway, shortly after getting back on the road, Jeremy Powers came riding by and taking note of the tandem, slowed to chat a bit and warn us about the upcoming climb on King's Highway. We had a great climb but managed to lose Gary on the descent. I knew we had a jelly bean, uh, I mean rest stop ahead, and figured we'd regroup there. 

We arrived at the stop and I filled my pockets with more Sport Beans and had a 1/2 banana. We also tried to locate a pump to top off the tire. There were two SRAM neutral support vehicles on the course, but they were still behind helping all the other folks who'd had punctures. Fortunately they rolled in shortly after we did and we were able to get the pressure back up to a comfortable 75 psi (Grand Bois 650BX42 Hetre tires).

While this was going on, Gary slipped past us. We managed to catch back up to him before the famous ice cream truck stop, where he also found one of his teammates.  Cooled a bit by some frozen treats, we headed out for more climbing.

The scenery continued to astound. The sun continued to bear down. Before the ride, Matt and David had talked about stopping at swimming holes, but try as we might, we didn't see any! They would have been littered with hot cyclists!

We continued along, enjoying quite a few new roads, with loads of dirt, mostly smooth and fast, until we hit one section where the organizers had painstakingly put orange paint on the various large rocks poking up. We were bombing along this section when we noticed the rear tire seemed soft again. This time we were able to find a small piece of flint. Hopefully we would not have any more issues. We had now used both our tubes, although we could patch if necessary. John again struggled to get proper air from the pump. But we again managed to top it off at the next rest stop, thanks to the SRAM support. 

After doing the extra Hundo loop, we rejoined the Fundo course at the final rest stop. While chatting away about tandems with the lovely ladies handing out jelly beans and cold drinks, John commented how it would be awesome and fun-scary to ride a tandem with Jeremy Powers captaining, especially on the screaming descents. It was at this point that they told us they were Jeremy's mom, aunt and nieces! They joked about having t-shirts made up with these labels next year.

We arrived back at the start hot, thirsty and hungry. It was around the time that I was inhaling the bar-b-q that I realized I'd not had much to eat for 82 miles other that Sport Beans! I think I was supposed to supplement with them, and actually eat some other stuff, but it's good to know that I can survive on them. We made it back in time for the raffle, but sadly did not win Jeremy's cool bike from last season or the Rapha shoes. We did have a great time chatting with lots of folks and talking up tandems.

We were pretty hot and tired and ending up passing on the music festival that evening. And just to give an idea of how hot it was on Sunday, I plotted a nice easy ride up and down the shaded Green River Road, getting us back to Greenfield in plenty of time to see RT!

Richard is awesome live, and did not disappoint.

It was another fabulous weekend. No rest for the weary. We are off to race up Mt Ascutney next weekend before heading out to the Finger Lakes for Quadzilla!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shifting Gears

We've been doing lots of long distance rides this year - between various brevets, the fleche, Green Mountain Double and Rapha Gentlemen's Race. But last weekend, it was time to switch gears and do a short intense hill-climb race. Due to various conflicts, our first hill-climb event of the season was a biggie,  Newton's Revenge race up Mt Washington! We had penciled in the race up Okemo for the weekend before Newton's, to at least get one pure hill-climb race in before climbing Mt Washington, but as the weekend drew near, we finally had to admit that we were pooped from all the travelling! So we decided to save some energy by not loading up the car and driving to some far-away event for once, meaning Newton's would be the first hill-climb of the year - way to ease oneself into these things, eh?

Fortunately, I did a little hill climb training in the early spring, but truth be told, neither of us has really done any specific training for pure hill-climbs this year.  Since the long events have been coming at us fast and furious every weekend since April, we can barely think about any event beyond whatever is happening in the next few days. So there we were last week, suddenly faced with a Date with the Rock Pile.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Twenty Years

I was reminded recently that it's been twenty years. A lot of things have changed in that 20 years. A lot of things haven't. I'm happy to see some of the changes, sad to see others. I'm disappointed in some of the things that haven't changed or haven't changed enough. And I'm happy to see that some other things haven't changed at all.

I have many before and after moments in my life, some significant point that becomes a dividing line for me. Collectively we share some dates of significance, where we know exactly where we were and what we were doing. Sadly many of them mark deaths - the assassination of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, John Lennon,  and the events of September 11. We can talk about our innocence or naivety before the event, and how different things were after.  We all have stories of how these events changed us personally.