Monday, April 15, 2013

All Along The Watchtowers

The title of this easily could have been With a Little Help From my Friends. But that is a bit long and I actually had a LOT of help from my friends with this years Ronde. The Ronde de Rosey is in its 4th year. It is one of those events in the #NECX that take on a life of its own. The concept was always to put together an adventure ride on cross bikes that hit all the crazy trails that surround our City. We ride our cx bikes everywhere. Rosey takes that to a whole other level. His average commute to work is half dirt half urban roads. He always put together an amazing route and put on a great party. Gerry from the Tavern deserves so much credit and love for being 100% supportive of the ride. Every year we have started and stopped at the Washington Square Tavern in Brookline. This years ride promised to be a doozy. Scott kept it to himself this year. I stalked his strava and his instagram to get clues. I had a general idea of what he was doing I just didn't know what he'd found. Wow. This was the best Ronde route ever. So much trail riding! So much gnar. I thought he was joking when he said the best bike for this one would be a geared 29er. He was spot on.

But back to my friends. My friends rule. I am not shy about this. But its on a whole other level right now. I have some really great friends at Seven. Seven is where HUP was born. A ton of HUP still work at Seven. When Rob asked me about doing a batch of HUP Honey bikes I jumped at the idea. I obviously wanted one instantly. And put in my order at the party when we launched the bikes. But I figured I would get it around cx season. He called me about a week before the Ronde and asked me some questions about my fit and what I wanted. I basically said a cross racing killing machine. Stiff, light, solid, but still able to be smooth and handle like a dream. Yeah dream bike status. Its been a while since I have been on a steel bike. I miss it frankly. Nothing against the other materials but if you ride your cross bike like we do you need something to take the edge off the woods. We basically ride our cx bikes everywhere. That was the concept behind the Ronde. Cross bikes make excellent do everything bikes.

Rob told me he was about 90% sure my Honey cx bike would be ready for the Ronde. Now typically this would be a crazy idea. The Ronde is brutal. You are smashing through roots and rocks, dropping down the back side of sketchy Water Tower fires roads or riding on trails that are basically no better than a goat path. You don't want to do this on a bike you have never ridden before. The Ronde destroys equipment and bodies. Its a fact. Its sort of the Evil love child of Three Peaks and IronCross. Not for the weak of heart. But this is why I say my friends rule. Rob is a master. What he has done with Seven is incredible. What he is doing with Honey will blow people's minds. He took my numbers, and my old bike and all my feedback and voila the Ronde Slayer was born. Well that isn't its official name. I suspect it will get a nicer name than that it just hasn't come to me yet. My great friend Mike Salvatore built the bike in about a day. Staci worked round the clock to paint it. Matt O'Keefe prep'd the parts and Rob personally built the bike up for me at the Ride Studio Cafe while putting on a Brevet event. You see why I say my friends rock. I owe them all big time. Its an honor to be able to call them my friends.

I was obviously really equal parts nervous and excited to see the bike and have its first ride be the Ronde. When I picked up Roger I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was. The paint is amazing. But to be honest the bike rides better than it looks and that is saying something. So Roger and I drive over to Washington Square Tavern all stoked to see everyone and have an amazing day on the cx bikes. I love getting over to the Tavern early right as all the riders roll up for the Ronde. Its so cool. Its so quite at first. Then the teams start rolling in. Some ride to the ride. Others drive. The Ronde has always been a team event. The spirit of the Ronde is not unlike a Gentleman's race. You start with 5 you finish with 5. Work together, take care of each other, share the resources etc. This years team was almost coined Team Honey p/b Jameson's Whiskey. But I think we were secretly named the 5 Horsemen of the Hupocalypse. Our team was made up of Roger, Joel, David, and Abel. Rosey capped this year's Ronde at 120 riders. Pretty smart considering how much can go wrong on a ride like this. 

The Ronde has always been a benefit for Bikes Not Bombs. All the proceeds from the entry fees to the raffle ticket sales goes right to BnB. This year, Rosey had an even better idea, to have each team bring some nice parts to donate. Collecting bikes and bike parts donations is a big part of Bikes Not Bombs mission and it was a great way to help out. The parts pile by the end of the day was very impressive to say the least! The Ronde goes off in waves. Slowest teams go first, fastest teams go last. First team back "wins". It never was intended to be a race but you get a bunch of highly competitive bike racers together and yeah you know how that is going to go. Our team had a mid-pack staging. At 8:45 we rolled out. Team ENGVT rolled out with us looking PRO. ENGVT is my friend Jerry Chabots team. ENGVT is his engineering business in VT. He has always been a big supporter of cx and bike racing but this last year he has taken it to a whole other level. It was so awesome to see their new kit. I can't think of a better team launch event for a team in the #NECX than the Ronde.

We didn't see them for long as they were all on carbon cx bikes, with deep section rims and grifo XS tires. And Nick and Curtis are animals. So it was pretty much "Hi, bye, see you at the Tavern in 5 hours (little did I know it would be 7?!) The roll out from the Tavern was uneventful until we were about a mile out. The Tavern is in Brookline which is an urban environment. Riding cx bikes in a group through the City is no big deal but requires attention etc. At about a mile we got to our first rotary. As we are exiting it I see a big group of HUP on the side of the road. Not sure what is going on at first but someone relay's word to us that Mike Golay has crashed. Ooof. Apparently wheels touched and boom. His Ronde ended way too soon. Shredded front wheel and body smashed. Luckily nothing was broken or damaged too bad but that is a tough crash. I felt horrible for him and his team. He got back to the Tavern and everyone continued on. We regrouped and pacelined through the City. Along the way GPM merged with our team. This is one of my favorite parts of the Ronde. You end up riding, battling, helping, heckling, communing with so many different teams during the ride. More on that later

Some of the notes on the cue sheet were hilarious. "Go through the Shaw's parking lot and find the trail" This reminded me so much of the Diverged Ride. Doing them back to back weekends really was awesome. As we come through the parking lot there is a huge group of riders. So we hit the first trail sector with about 20-30 riders. Now this obviously makes for some hijinks. Kurt is yelling something in my ear but my heart is about to explode out of my chest so I can't really hear him. Ryan White is cackling like a madman about something or another. And Jeff Zeigler is off in the woods shredding gnar while the rest of us slug it out on some rock strewn fire road. Jeff is obviously smarter than us.

We all get to the top and then drop down into Rocky Meadow. 90% of the riders go one way and we go another way. We meet at the exact same trail. Classic. This will be a recurring theme. Our GPS was fantastic. Roger was our navigator and kept us on track at all times. We did the entire route plus some. Again I can't say enough about the route. Rosey found some trails I have never seen in my life. We were able to ride pretty much all on trails from Belmont to Prospect hill. We would ride with ECV, Team Awesome, Team Awesomer, Broadway etc. The Ride Studio Endurance team came FLYING by right before the climb up Prospect Hill. Patrick from ECV tried to hop on that train and Chris had to disabuse him of that insanity. Speaking of insanity. The Ronde is brutal. I think we did it in under 7 hours. Ride time was about 5:45 give or take. Everyone won. Just doing any of it was winning. But Chris from ECV did with only one foot clipped into a pedal. He brought shoes without cleats. Someone had one cleat. He put that on one shoe. So he basically did a 60 mile, 7 hour one legged pedal drill. He may need a chiropractor. And is now a legend in my mind.

We never got "lost" but we did have some interesting moments. Bombs were going off all around us but somehow all our bikes were surviving. Did I mention I was riding a bike that had been painted less than 24 hours before the ride? And I had never ridden it before? The Honey was incredible. So smooth. Everything I could have asked for and more. I was on an aluminum frame before, and while I loved it, on a ride like this it tends to beat you up. The Honey was not only super smooth and stable it was a great climber. It felt at home. Perfect baptism by fire. Broadway's bikes were exploding all around us. We stopped to give Gregor a masterlink as his chain snapped. Why help another team? Cause that is what the Ronde is all about. Sure at times it felt like the first lap at Gloucester in the Killer Bs (Cat 3) dudes would seemingly lose their minds and ride totally insane lines or just race pace. But looking back that is probably exactly what was happening. You tend to unravel fast on this type of ride. Its so brutal that at some point your brain shuts down and you revert to one or two survival behaviors. The normal survival instinct is to slow down and soft pedal. But most bike racers are not normal. I tend to go full metal jacket. My teammates were using another word but I can't share that word with you here. This is a family friendly blog. I think I got it from Rosey. I tend to just put my brain aside and ride harder. So we would sort of shatter groups in the woods and then regroup. We spent a lot of time battling with Ryan's Team Awesome and Charlie's Broadway team. I hate to use that word but its true. It was like being punched in the face for 6 hours.

I did manage two spectacular crashes. The first one was really funny and slightly embarrassing. Like I alluded to before Broadway and HUP were fighting it out a bit. We came to a mudbog with a funky raised bridge. I thought oh look how cool I am, I have skills! I hop up on the bridge and what a shocker when mud covered tire meets wet wood it gets slippery! My rear wheel totally skids I go flying off the bridge but somehow land on my feet. I have no idea how I was able to clip out and hop off my bike mid-air. The second crash was perhaps less funny. But upon reflection sort of funny. We were railing through Cutler chasing Ryan and Scott from Team Awesome. I passed one of their riders and was about to lock onto their wheels when they STOPPED. We had just come around a berm where the trail opens up and I assumed it was going to be full paceline. They just pulled left and got off their bikes. My brain was TOAST at this point. My brain tried to tell my now frozen claws of hands to grab the brakes but the signal didn't even stand a chance. I avoid Scott, thank god cause he's GeWilli size and I would have been in a body cast, and rear end that little Leprechaun. My leg smashes into his saddle or rear triangle. Basically like hitting your quad with a baseball bat. I thought I was going to literally die. 

We got detangled and kept rolling. The pull of the Tavern was way too strong to let pain get in the way. We bee-lined it home. With the siren song of cold beer and a burger driving us faster than we had ridden all day. The boys rode like ten men. So proud of them. When we got back to the Tavern we did a body check. Deitch looked like he had been mauled by a bear. His whole front of his jersey was ripped open from some argy bargy coming through Wellesley. But he is one tough hombre. 

What an amazing day. I am missing so much from the day. I am sure more will come later. For now HUGE thanks to Rosey, Gerry, Rob, Mike S, Matt O'Keefe, Staci, Roger, David, Joel, Abel and everyone who came out and rode and supported Bikes Not Bombs!!!

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