This is about the D2R2 Ride in Western, MA. I saw it on bikereg back in the winter and thought it sounded like a ride for me. I like to race my bike and all, but I didn't just buy a bike one day and head off to the races. Like all of us, I fell in love with bikes many many years ago. The beauty of this blog is that I don't have to try to explain the soulful connection we have with our machines and the act of riding/suffering, and all things related.
This was gonna be different from a race, and yet not so much. I know what you're thinking......a bunch of us hooked up out there at the front of this thing and turned it into a race. Wrong. It was similar in that we all had to go very deep inside ourselves to summon the fortitude to keep turning the pedals over. That may sound corny, but I promise you it was that hard. I suggest any doubters show up next year and giver' a go.
A long, long time ago I did my first bike race. It was in Lynnefield, MA. I was 21 years old. It was called the CYCHO. It was a 24 hour, no drafting allowed road race. I had been doing quite a bit of riding back in those days including 225 mile treks (each way) out to see friends at the Yahoo fest (pre-internet) at North Adams State College, so I figured it was a good race for me. Actually the Sykes brothers had just bought the shop in Falmouth, MA and transformed it into the 2nd Corner Cycle shop. It was George that befriended me instantly and saw this race in one of the cycling publications we had to use back then to find races and register. Anyway after my "party rides" he decided I should do this race. So I said "Sure". He told me how I should probably stop riding 1000s of miles in running shoes, and maybe buy a floor pump instead of going to a gas station for air. He told me about bike shorts and jerseys, and water bottles and everything, but mostly he became my friend. He set me up with a bro deal on everything I needed and promised that if I won the race I could have anything I wanted from the shop.
I attacked from the gun and never looked back. I rode 423 miles around a 9 mile loop and won going away. It was hard and 15 hours into it, I had to go back to my running shoes, since my feet hurt from my new adidas Eddy Mercyx shoes. That hurt, but it was tolerable enough. I ended up taking a cool poster from him at the shop instead of some pricey thing, since he'd given me such a good deal on everything before the race. I have raced for him from that day since.....22 years!
I did Ironman races where you couldn't walk very well for 3 or 4 days after. That hurt, but it was different too. The D2R2 (which I had been calling the R2D2 all week) trumped them all!
Have a look around on this website to see more of the gorey details. Read some of the rider's testimonials.
On to the ride itself. It was going to be hot and we were hoping to get to the line for the early bird special at 6 am. You could start at any time between 6 and 7 am, or later if that's when you got there. Kevin and I drove out Friday afternoon after work and stayed at the luxurious Red Roof Inn. We got lost in the fog trying to find this place in the morning and we ended up a touch late, but no worries. We got all our stuff at check in including a 7 page cue sheet in a big Ziploc bag. A quick look around at the different bikes and we realized it was gonna be a friggen treasure hunt out there following cue sheets and not marked roads. The bikes had RIDICULOUS easels on them for their cue sheets and all sorts of silly handlebar arrangements. Kevin and I looked at each other and laughed. We took the cue sheets folded them up and tucked them into our jersey pockets.
We rolled at 6:30 am and we quickly hooked up with Jim Nash of ccb and a few others. We struggled with turn 1 and trying to find it and then turn 2 too. (not tutu) This was gonna SUCK I thought, but we pulled it together and started to get the distances down between cues and got better at navigating. An hour into it I felt like my entire group was pedaling too hard. It was still relatively cool and we were in the shade of the trees most of the time (an occurance that would continue all day thankfully). Some of the guys were breathing extremely hard and sweating profusely through puffy red faces. I even told them they were gonna die a slow and painful death. Kevin however looked effortless and has never cramped in his life. He was gonna make this hard for me. We eventually rode away from those guys on one of the MANY MANY MANY MANY MANY climbs.
We rode up steep pitches on loose dirt, up to 27%. The climbs were anywhere from 200 meters to 5 miles. It was just CRAZY. We didn't know the roads and never knew what laid around the corner. With that kind of climbing, there has to be some nutty descents. There were!!! Bombing down fully canopied dirt roads ripping around corners was Kevin's idea of fun. He was after all one of the best enduro riders in the world and is as comfortable with cornering a 2 wheeled machine around a loose dirt corner at 45 mph as anyone. Try following THAT! I was having fun too as I'm known as a bit of a descender, but he was outa my league and I decided that self preservation was a real good way to go. I let him ride in front of me by about 70-80 meters and that helped me with the lines quite a bit. We had no crashes all day, although I was close a couple times.
Right about now you're probably wondering what bikes we decided to ride. We had lots of options. We went with our Steven's Cross Bikes with clincher Challenge tires. (the pipistrello imitation tread) at 60 psi. It was an EXCELLENT equipment choice.
We managed to go off course twice which caused us to add some extra training miles to the ride. (just what we needed) We ended up adding about 10 miles to the ride before the lunch stop. We were sitting on a stone wall with some of the IF boys when we saw Solobreak at the lunch stop and this was our savior. Dave had been my main consultant before the ride since he'd done it 2 other times. He was about to split with his food in his pockets, because he said there's (another) huge climb just after the feed. He said he'd ride with us and we saddled up and said a few goodbyes and rolled. ahem err grinded up a 3 mile climb I should say.
Dave was awesome! He had a little scrolling gizmo that he concocted/fabricated out of paper towel cardboard and a couple of chopstick like dowels taped to his shifter and brake cables on the handlebars that kept him rolling along and not trying to ride no hands down a bumpy, dirt, hair raising descent while reading a foolish cue sheet. We need a Garmin! We gapped him on a climb or two, but he always scrapped back on the descents and I think there was 70 or 80 feet of flat out there too.
Dave only got stronger as the ride carried on and since he actually started at 7:19 and since we went the wrong way so much we were together. That was a good thing! At some point on one of the very late climbs (after the absolutely BRUTAL Patton Hill District climb) he looked down at his polar and decided he had a chance to crack 9 hours (the record is 8:15). He said "I really need to put the effort in now and try to crack 9". From that point on, it was our mission to get Dave under 9 hours. We drilled it even though we were fractions of the men that started this thing. We actually pacelined it in and were drilling it pretty damn hard. I gotta tell you the sight of the finish was something I was really ready for. We got Dave in at 8:51! Sa-Weeet!
Kevin and I had been pedaling our brains out for 9 hours and 45 minutes. I've done Ironman races in that time. Where the bike leg is the same length that we rode at R2D2, and oh ya.....first you have to swim 2.4 miles, and THEN do the ride of that distance.....and THEN run a freakin' MARATHON (26.2 miles). R2D2 took the same time.....think about that! We covered 116 miles which doesn't seem like much in that time, and climbed 17,000 feet. Yes 17,000!
This is the hardest bike ride I've ever done by FAR, and as I've said, I've done some big rides in my days. It's $50 entry fee and you get breakfast before the race, 6 supported aid stations, showers at the end as well as a full dinner and a cold beer. The money left over goes to a good cause.... The Franklin Land Trust. The aid stations were over the top helpful and the volunteers were way too kind to us. We covered much of MA and VT and as sore as I am today I think I'll be back next year!
Thats all for now, JB