Monday, February 26, 2018

Omloop van Blackstone

Our idea of what a "road" ride is has certainly changed over the years. Gravel is King make no mistake. Most all of the rides I personally do are on a CX bike with 40s and in the woods. The paved road is merely a conduit to my next dirt sector or park. But there are times when riding the "road" makes the most sense. Early season when the trails are either too muddy to ride or closed, when you need to shake of the winter rust and get the legs going again, or when a good friend sends out an invite to a best worst ride idea ever. I never say no to an idiot ride. Greg is one of those friends who just puts the best rides together. Honestly I know a lot of trail wizards. He is hands down the best. From his route planning to pre-ride emails. He always gets me stoked. Getting me stoked for a "road" ride is some type of mid-winter miracle trust me. This winter in New England has been bizarre. One day it is 70 degrees out. The next it is 30 and we get 6 inches of snow. The trails have been perfect one day and then a quagmire of a mud pit the next. The road really is the only option right now. So when Greg sent out his Omloop van Blackstone email I was all in. 

The OVB was an homage to Omloop Het Nieuswblad which went down this past Saturday. We all assembled in a parking lot next to the post office and namesake of Greg's cycling club MPO. I honestly had no idea what to think. There were three route options: 33 miles-Short but Sweet and Gnarly; 55 miles-The Goldilocks and 70 miles-Fellow Idiots, Lets Do this. I have been pretty much sitting on a couch all winter so opted for Short, Sweet and Gnarly. Which is pretty much what I am all about anyway. I typically go big with my rubber choices but this was a "road" ride. And I needed all the help I could get so dug out my favorite "road" tire the Roubaix. It is called a 28/30. Not sure what that means. Set up tubeless on a HED Belgian plus rim it measures a fat and fast 33. It is pretty much bomb proof. Doesn't ride like a garden hose and somehow offers up pretty good grip off road. Tubeless set up can be a bit of a dark art. I have had good luck but road tires can be a bit of a challenge. This was my first opportunity to use a flash charger pump and I will say it worked great. I was a bit nervous taking a brand new set up on a group ride without having ridden it before but I was confident in both the Specialized tires and the HED rims. They are solid as a tubeless set up as you can get.

Greg kept texting me alluring photos of random dirt roads and telling me to do the 55. I was actually worried about completing the 33. I am in that bad of shape right now. When I rolled into the parking lot I saw 20-30 riders. Really cool crew. A mix of Greg's MPO teammates, HUP and some Apex Velo dudes. From HUP we had Greg, Guthrie, Michele, Eric, Theo, and myself. It felt a lot like the old HUP group road rides we used to do. Just a fun crew looking for some adventure in Winter. I have mentioned this weird Winter we are having in New England right? All the snow was gone. I have already found 9 ticks on my dog. Dressing for this ride was a challenge in and of itself. We rolled out as a big group and headed out toward Medfield State. I tucked in behind Guthrie and Greg. My good friend Rich was next to me on his full suspension mtn bike. I appreciate Rich opting for the mtb on this ride. It certainly wasn't going to slow him down but it at least made the rest of us mere mortals able to at least attempt to stay in contact with him.

The first dirt climb about killed me. Again, I cannot overstate how little riding I have done this winter. It is what it is. I have been focusing more on my family and doing stuff with them. Most of my weekends are spent in a hockey rink. At first I was like "oh this is ok" which quickly gave way to "oh fuck no..." I got off mid-way and hike a biked to the top. We wove through some amazing backroads. Got chased by a few dogs, might have ridden a section that was closed* and had some angry local call the cops on us, but those are mere color to our idiot ride. Everyone kept it together. Honestly I love riding with a crew like this. No egos, no testosterone fueled watts fest. Just a fun conversational pace. This is what all winter rides should be like. At the split for the 33 route we said our goodbyes and formed a new crew of about 10 of us. The only person I knew on this new crew was my friend Dave. Solid guy. We caught up. Talked shop. Exchanged notes on all the upcoming cool gravel rides we are thinking of doing. And then things got as you say "real" *Most of you know I am a dirtbag. I obey the rules in general but bend some certainly within reason. I probably obey more rules than the average driver on the road. The person who called the cops on 30 of us riding a multi use trail was on the same section of "closed" trail himself so should have called the cops on himself. The section that was closed was being repaired and was 100% safe to ride at that moment. The sign technically said "Road Closed Pass at Own Risk" Which we did. 

Greg does not play around. He found some sectors that would give any gravel rider pause. We hit a power line section that had multiple stream crossings that built into full on river crossings. Some were rideable others were definitely hike a bikes. We rode through Vietnam. On our road bikes. Vietnam is a legit mtb tech zone of a park. It is owned by NEMBA and draws the full face helmet crowd. I had heard of the place but never ridden there as that type of riding is not really my jam. Hilarious that my first ride there would be on a CX bike on road tires. We somehow only had two flats on the whole ride. We did a great job of not losing anyone. Which says a lot for a crew that really didn't know each other before embarking on this adventure together. This to me is what this new type of cycling is about. Leave your ego behind. Explore. Look out for each other. Be cool. So rad. HUGE thanks to Greg for making this ride happen and getting a bunch of us like-minded idiots out for a rad winter ride. I hope this turns into a series of rides. It really was a blast.