Rapha sent out a tweet late Friday night giving some hints as to what the Rapha NE Gentleman's race was going to be all about. Attached was this pic. The text basically said the above header. This was going to be brutal. 116 mi, 40% gravel 15 teams from NYC, BOS, Philly & Penn. It is a 6-person TT format. Leave with 6 riders, 2 check points on the road. All six have to sign it at both check points and ALL six have to come back to the start finish together! No easy task. Obviously the biggest freak out at dinner was the 40% gravel business. Was it gravel or dirt? Couldn't be gravel? Gravel is like rocks right? Dirt is dirt. Battenkill doesn't really have gravel perse...just dirt road. And certainly not 40%. I did Battenkill two years ago and that was a walk in the park compared to this.We all met up at Mohawk Ski resort in CT. It was so amazing seeing all the Boston cool cats rolling in. The Seven van, the IF van, Geekhouse, Pedros/Svelte, on and on. Rapha really outdid themselves. It was so well organized and the route was so thought out. Hats off and a huge Hup thank you to Carey, Jeremy Dunn, Slate, and the whole crew on the ground and who made this happen. The checkpoints were spot on, the rolling support crew were fantastic and the post race bbq was so awesome! But on to the day. My brain is fried and I don't really do "race" reports but I will try as this was something special.
So we cued up to staging with 5 minutes to go from our 9:45 time slot. We got lots of compliments for our Blanco. The team was Scott ie Rosey, Mark, Mike, Sara, Murat and me. We had 4 riders in Hup blue and Sara and I were in Blanco. Blanco gives me wings so for me it was the perfect choice! We staged up in a covered wood bridge and rolled out! We took a hard right onto tarmac leaving the staging area and then started climbing, and climbing, and climbing...dear god they weren't kidding about this being tough. My body was hating me. No sleep, 3 hrs in a car, not enough food and asking my flatlander body to climb the Galibier? Body was not liking it. We dug deep and just motored. We got caught by a team pretty early on. I forget the name but they were from NYC.
We let them get a gap and let it build thinking our legs would wake up and we'd get them up the road in no time. Not to be a jerk but they just didn't look dangerous. They kind of pedaled in triangles, didn't seem overly Type A. But we were so wrong. It wouldn't have made a difference. No one caught them They rode an amazing race. From out of the gate all the way back they road strong and won it with panache!
After that team spun away from us we hit a dirt road and started catching people. We caught IF, Seven and Bilenky. It was all I could do to not slow down and talk with Graham and Jeff at length. I did sit up a bit and chit chat a bit as I love those guys and they are a big part of Hup they just were riding different colors on that day. Next we caught IF and we said hi to Leigh and the crew. We are sooo lucky in Boston. There are so many amazing and cool riders. I could go on and on about how amazing and classy each and everyone of these riders are. We were on a roll keeping it real tight when we had our first flat of the day. It was a long change maybe 7 minutes. And the three teams caught and passed us back.
We got out on the road and started making good time again. We passed the tree teams that caught us and got into a groove. This area of CT, NY and touch of western Mass are sooo beautiful. I didn't even know places like this existed in NE. It felt like being back in Norcal with big wooded alpine descents and massive grinding climbs. We hit so many dirt sectors. At first they were sooo much fun. Really nice smooth dirt. Then we hit some beasts! The worst was at about mile 60 or so. We got caught by Cort and David Chiu and the Pedros/Svelte squadra. Man it was sooo nice to see them. Dave and Cort both gave me a nice smack on the ass. It stung a bit but in a good way. We were almost all road kill as we were tearing down this tarmac road at about 25 all in a group when we had to take a hard right onto a real gravel road! Thankfully this is not a cat 4 road race. People are PROfessional. The ones who could make the turn did and the ones who couldn't just held their line and over shot it a bit. We all regrouped and started climbing a NASTY gravel road.
Our fearless and peerless leader and finder of water Rosey
This is where things started to unravel for me a bit. I was pretty nervous going into this. I am not an endurance rider. I am a cross racer. I am trying to become a mtn biker. I did do some endurance work in anticipation for this but still it was the unknown. I have never ridden 120 miles in my life. Ever. So the legs started telling me bad things. Cramps started firing off all over the place. In some very uncomfortable places. I didn't panic just pedaled. This is why its a team event and why our team kicked ass. Murat could tell something was up and just told me to be calm and relax. Rosey came back to see what was up and handed me a pill...haha I am not kidding. I think I said something like will this get me down the rabbit hole? It was a salt pill obviously. But wether those things really work or it was a placebo effect I shook off the cramps and was able to get my groove back on. I took a bunch of those Hammer salt pills and they really do work.
We popped out of the gravel and partook of some of the most thrilling yet equally horrifying descending in my life. We probably were going about 45 miles an hour down some insane switch backs. At one point Rosey had to do an outrigger to not totally overcook a corner. Markie Mark at one point totally was screaming in my ear...."Chipper holy shit do you know how close that car was to killing you!" Yes Mark I did. I felt the sidepanel on my sweaty thighs but it was not my day my brother! We had some moments as the last sentence would elude to. The incident in question was complete BS. We were flying off a mountain like an avalanche. Again we were probably topping 45. The speed limit was 25. Why would a car choose to pass 6 bikers with a double yellow in a blind corner at 50 mph when the sign says 25? Asshole. What happened? Well of course as he gets half way down the paceline motherfucker sees a car coming at him and comes back in right next to me. What are you gonna do? I just had to keep my shit together not freak and touch my brakes and we lived to ride another 40 miles.
Vitamin G rest break! ie waiting for my cracked apart soul
The few incidents that occurred were a small price to pay for the mind blowing day on the bike with great friends and teammates. We rode so well together. Everyone brought so much to the day. After descending for what seemed an eternity we had to pay it back. Each and every time. It hurt but it was so worth it. I love descending like that. Sara was hands down a rocket on the descents. There were times where I just had to let the other five go as bad thoughts would creep into my mind and I'd have to chill a bit.
We hit the two check points and refueled all the time. Rosey was just amazing. At one point we were totally out of water in the middle of nowhere. He all of a sudden splits off and rolls up someone's driveway. In the best impression of a Southern Gentleman he busts out in the best southern drawl possible "pardon me Mam I hate to bother you but could we possibly get some water from you even out of the hose in your garden?" She bit hook line and sinker. She was soo nice. 6 dirt bag bikers roll up as she is gardening and she topped our bottles off bid us good day and we were back in the game. This is how you survive these things. Operate like a seal team. Live off the land. Be resourceful.
I received one hilarious Karmic bitch slap at one point. We were on gravel again this time sort of on a roller coaster. Drop down, quick riser up. Super fast but it had big chunks of rock/gravel. One of the NY teams was crushing us. They'd fly past us. Then they'd flat. Rinse and repeat. They must have done this three times. The third time I saw them by the side of the road I kind of chuckled and made a comment. Not that they could hear me I am not a dick. But Sara heard it and said don't be laughing you'll jinx us. She was right no less than 100 yards later..pffttt. Front flat. I did a quick cross dismount. Badabing bada boom. 2 minute change and we were back in the game. Thank god for co2-- pumps are for suckers.
All in we had two flats, two dropped chains, and no major problems. Just a hard, incredible day on the bike. In a huge twist or fate or what not, the last climb was called Everest street. No lie and it was brutal. I was weaving like a drunk sailor to make it up it. We crested the rise and saw the Mowahk resort! We just started yelling and pedaling like we hadn't just been on the bike for 8 hrs! We zipped up our jerseys and rolled in 2 tight rows! We came in 3rd place out of 15 teams! We went right to a fantastic bbq hugged our friends and just reflected on an incredible day! Thank you Rapha and everyone involved! I am going to have dreams of flying for weeks after that incredible descending. But today I can't even get off the couch I am in sooo much pain. The worst of it is the arms...All that vitamin G took its toll!